Pastor’s Column
April 26th, 2020
Self-Care during the Pandemic
Jesus Christ: Yesterday, Today, and Forever.
This past week, the priests of Southwest Washington were treated to an on-line presentation from Emily De La Torre; a nationally board certified, licensed Catholic mental health counselor, who specializes in marriage and family therapy.  She owns and operates Pax Family Counseling, a group counseling practice in downtown Vancouver.  You can contact Emily’s team at  
Emily’s presentation was on how the pandemic is affecting mental and emotional health at home and abroad.  It was a fantastic presentation for both raising awareness of the problem, and in giving advice on how to deal with it.  I found myself learning much and realizing some things about myself.  It is my hope that by sharing this information with you, that you too may become more aware of your brothers and sisters in need, and how you can either help them, or help yourself.
In the Risen Christ,
Fr. Joseph Vu, SDD., STL.
I. Marital stress
Problem: Systemic marital issues are being uprooted in wake of the pandemic. Couples are being forced to reconcile with long term hurts and underlying issues as well as the current stressors of the coronavirus.
A. 50% rise in divorce proceedings in NY (NY Post) – still developing numbers in remaining states (Bloomberg) – increase of filings in China, Turkey.
Focus Areas for Helping Couples
1. Plan on adjusting/changing to new roles – make a plan, division of labor
2. Prioritize time alone away from others (bathtub, bedroom, garage, back yard, etc.)
3. Video call married couple friends (sense of community)
4. Offer grace and be your best self; forgive, accept, be patient, etc.
5.   Growth activities (read book, create intentional ways to connect, self-improvement plan).  Good book: “Hold Me Tight” – Dr. Sue Johnson
6. Every couple has a fighting cycle, understand yours and know your triggers
7. Current or past affairs
8. Avoidance of issues
9. Irreconcilable difference
10. Overall disconnect
11. Communication issues that cannot be worked through together
12. Seek professional help when necessary (telehealth couples counseling is a possibility). Professional help reduces distress in 75% of couples, while 90% of couples will experience lasting relationship improvement.
II. Family Stress
Problem: Families, from parents to the smallest child are completely out of their routine (children home from school, parents home from work). This upheaval in our family life is creating uncertainty, anxiety, behavioral outbursts and less than ideal home environments.
Focus Areas for Helping Families
1. Prioritize routine (sleep, eating, work, play, schooling, etc.)
2. Exercise/bicycling/walking (bi-lateral stimulation) – family can do this together
3. Validate each others pain and grief
4. Make plans – something to look forward to (bbq, game night, movie night, bicycle ride, hike, etc.)
5. Let go of perfection  
6. Implement and maintain age appropriate responsibilities
III. Family and School at Home
Problem: Children are being placed in a new learning environment (home), with a new way of learning (video/worksheets), new teacher, without their classmates, routine, and typical outlets.
Focus Areas for School at Home
1. Adjust expectations 
2. Expect meltdowns and chaos
3. Value relationship over product 
4. Forgo comparison: every family will have different expectations
5. Time blocking – intermittent routine of play/screen/school.  Class time has to be broken up.
IV. Facing Anxiety and Stress
Problem: We are all experiencing a collective trauma. There is so much unknown economically, socially, health wise that people are overwhelmed with stress and anxiety. We are either more anxiety prone or depressive prone.
A. 45% increase in calls to NAMI helpline (National Alliance of Mental Illness), 20% reported being anxiety related
B. Calls for threats or attempts of suicide are up 23% from the 10 days prior to the state of emergency in Portland (KATU)
Focus Areas of Support for Anxiety
1. Excessive worries more days than not, consistent insomnia, intrusive fears, ongoing feelings on impending doom, occurrence of panic attacks, consistently keyed up or agitated, recurrent thoughts of death.
2. Access social support (contact your people everyday)
3. Limit intake of news media (once a day or week for same scheduled time) – wasted time, major distraction/focus, and anxiety
4. Create a “protect your peace plan” (example: nap, bath, comforting book, poems, peaceful music, bake, disengage from social media)
5. Increase self-care activities
6. Exercise: super helpful
7. Implement a healthy sleep routine (effects adrenaline in body): lights out same time every night, out of bed same time every morning
8. Seek professional help when necessary (Counselor/Doctor)
V. Facing Domestic Violence (DV)
Problem: Victims are stuck with their abusers with no outlets. Scary time for people who have DV partners and those who have been on the brink of violence. Further development of “latent violent tendencies.”
A. Domestic Violence – Emotional and Physical (3x more DV reports in China (Bloomberg news), 21% increase in Seattle (Columbian)
Focus Areas of Support for DV Victims:
1. Get people connected to an experienced team
2. YWCA (National and local group)
▪ Phone advocacy – catered support, protective orders, referrals)
3. The National Domestic Violence Hotline | Get Help Today | 1-800-799-7233
4. Text line: LOVEIS to 22522
5. Practice self-care 
6. Create a safety plan
7. Plan a safe place to stay (family, friends, staying in motels, or sleeping in your vehicle).
VI. Healthcare Professionals and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Problem: Secondary trauma is a side effect of being exposed to the coronavirus, especially when facing it consistently through a work environment.
A. Typical symptoms of secondary trauma:
▪ Physical (fatigue, illness)
▪ Mental (fear, guilt, anxiety, withdrawal/isolation, overwhelm)
Focus Areas of Support for Supporting Healthcare Workers & PTSD:
1. Acknowledge that secondary traumatic stress is valid and real
2. Develop and implement “protect your peace plan”
3. Implement a Physical Transition Plan  (exercise, showers, etc.) – mentally/emotionally separate from the stress  
4. Allow time for you and your family to recover from responding to the pandemic
5. Exercise what is in my control vs. out of my control thinking daily
6. Take a break from media coverage of COVID-19
7. Seek professional help if the experience is impacting one’s ability to adequately care for self or family, if the responses are taking over day to day life.

Dear Parishioners,

As you know Governor Inslee recently established an order to “Shelter in Place,” which will greatly restrict most activities in King County. Archbishop Etienne wrote a letter to faithful concerning our unprecedented times which you can find here:

It is so important that we communicate right now and I want to ask you to be proactive in receiving communication from us. We are trying to use as many ways of communicating as possible in this moment and we know that not everyone is able to communicate with us through every single means of communication.

Currently, our staff is in the process of calling all of our registered parishioners to see how they are doing. This is obviously very time consuming, but we are working as fast as we can. Do not wait for us to call everyone, it could be days before we finish this. If you are worried about a parishioner, call them. During those phone calls we will be trying to confirm email addresses with all of our parishioners, because email will probably be our easiest way to catch up with you.

In addition to email, we will also be posting regularly on the Our Lady of Lourdes Facebook page, as well as Our Lady of Lourdes Website ( Please do not wait for updates to appear in your newsfeed, because Facebook will not show you everything we post. Actively check these pages throughout the day to see if we have updates. Please visit this site to see our parish blog:

I am also live-streams such as:

     –  Sunday mass at 8:30am (English with Archbishop Etienne); 10:30am (Vietnamese with the pastor)

     –  Saturday Gospels Reflection at 5:00pm (Vietnamese)

     –  Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3:00pm and recitation of the Holy Rosary at 7:00pm every day on Facebook in Vietnamese language. (Monday to Saturday)

     –  I will links some English version in our Facebook as well. So please stay tuned.

I also want to make a few things clear, the first being that it is important for us to listen to leadership right now, not just in the Church, but in the country and state. President Trump, Governor Inslee, and our own bishops are urging us to stay inside and to limit our communication. It is important that we follow their instructions as best as we can.

This is not about us being fearful. This is about us loving our community. I am staying indoors, but not because I am afraid of the Corona Virus. I am not in a demographic considered vulnerable to this virus and I am not worried about it for my own health. But, I am still visiting vulnerable populations for anointings (in grave circumstances) and do not want to spread this to them. So please do your part and stay in.

God bless you all. You are all on my mind and in my prayers, and I can’t wait to see you all soon.

In Christ,

Fr. Joseph Vu, SDD., STL


*****   Fr. Joseph Vu’s Facebook Livestream. Don’t forget to click “like” and follow link:

*****   Daily Mass with Archibishop Etienne. Click this link:



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