Mission of Healing 2021: The August Theme is Stress and Good Sleep

Quick review:  the pandemic forced us to cancel the annual Mission of Healing family wellness fairs, which we usually hold each February in coordination with the Salvadoran Lutheran Church.  We came up with a plan to produce a year-long series of educational videos with accompanying print materials for small groups to use in local churches or families to use at home. 

In late 2020, we never imagined that the pandemic would last well into 2021, nor that it would continue to critically impact so much of what we think of as "normal life" so many months after vaccines were developed and available.  In July, along with the curriculum for studying the respiratory system, we included more resources about COVID-19 and how to diminish its transmission. We will do this again in October.

So, what is the COVID-19 situation in El Salvador?  The government continues to vaccinate people at a good rate (about 77,000 per day) and the percentage of the total population which has received at least one dose stands at 57%.  It's hard to find data about hospitalizations or deaths.  People still speak about loved ones getting sick and dying.  Masks are the norm, and required almost everywhere.  Large group gatherings are prohibited (except for sporting events, apparently), and the historic center of San Salvador has restricted entry.  Schools offer classes in shifts either 2 days a week for young kids, or 3 days for older kids.  Students still need to download assignments and submit homework online, and many students are falling behind.

When we planned out the curriculum for 2021, we knew we wanted to include a unit on stress reduction and good sleep.  Over the years, we have touched on these topics in our charlas, and we did anticipate an increase in stress due to the pandemic.  Well, we were not wrong.  The economic toll which the pandemic has taken on family incomes is at a crisis level, in addition to illness, fear of illness, kids at home, kids failing in school, limiting activities outside of the home, programs/activities closed down, among the usual challenges for families and communities.

One of the gifts of the Lutheran Church in El Salvador is its commitment to making a safe space to talk about stuff that is uncomfortable, outside the cultural norms, or even considered taboo.  The church hosts discussions and trainings on topics like HIV, sex education, menstruation, machismo, gender, oppression, and climate change. The idea for the August theme was to create a safe space where participants (children, youth and adults) could talk about emotions, personal stress, family stress, insomnia, mental health and share ideas with one another.  

These monthly workshops are designed to open doors, so that those who might have serious concerns about any aspect of their health and wellness, as a person or as a family, can make connections and seek out a plan for care.

The first resource we created for August is a video.  It features Nola, our team yoga teacher, who shares a very calm and simple set of tips for falling asleep.  I received a video of a group, gathered around a cell phone and watching Nola's video.  Even the kids were mesmerized and breathing. 



To accompany Nola's video, we made a little handout with a reminder of the process:  lie down, smile, breathe, relax, close your eyes, pray, breathe, sleep.


We found this video about sleep and mental health, and also a video with a collection of songs to help children fall asleep. A few of the church leaders said they were excited to use the songs with young children in their work settings.

In past workshops, we have talked a little bit about how bottling up our emotions causes stress.  We wanted to open a conversation about emotions and feelings, and for young children (well, even the adults), we decided to use faces with suggestions and open faces for drawing.  Several of the handouts we made offer tips on reducing stress (with the idea that participants could talk about what is helpful for them). Other handouts focus on conversations about sleep, including some herbal suggestions for provoking sleep (such as chamomile and lavender) and information about things that can negatively impact sleep (such as caffeine, eating late and cell phone light).  Here are a few images from the handouts:

Faces with some ideas about feelings

Why is it imprtant for me to undertand and experess my emotions?
How do our emotions affect us as a community?
Observe and listen to one another as you draw on this page.

A conversation about sleeping.
If you have trouble sleeping, is there someone you can talk with?

How many of us fall asleep while we are praying?
This is the prayer card for August.

Some tips for fighting stress - including taking our time, smiling, getting organized, sleeping more...

Did you know there is a World Day of Sleep?
We shared a little information about how sleep helps our bodies, 
and how much sleep is typically needed throughout the stages of our lives.




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