By Rutvi Kapadia, PsyD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Grand View Health
For many people, the New Year started out like most others, with goals to work towards and experiences to anticipate. None of us expected we would be in the midst of a global pandemic that would turn the world upside down.
Now, most of us are focused on trying to maintain our workloads, homeschool our children, social distance from our extended support networks and be vigilant about potential COVID-19 exposure. Time for ourselves has become a luxury that many of us cannot afford because we are to remain at home with our immediate families. Did I mention there is no end in sight? Enter fear, disappointment, resentment, sadness, anger, and of course, a loss of control.
Now, take a deep breath.
With the unpredictable nature of this pandemic, anxiety can be provoked at any moment. However, you can manage the multitude of emotions that COVID-19 has elicited. Mindfulness is a way to recognize where you are in a given moment, how you are feeling, and how to refocus yourself. It places significant value on our senses, our thoughts and our emotions so we appreciate all the important information we take in, and we don’t ignore or disregard our feelings.
Mindfulness is essential during this time of heighted uncertainty, because being present in the moment provides the opportunity to recharge. Developing a familiarity with our own internal processes allows us to gauge not only how we are really feeling, but also what we do with those feelings. How we choose to react is one of the few things we can consistently control. Mindfulness is about validating our own emotions and experiences without dismissing them or judging ourselves for how we feel. Once we acknowledge our feelings, we can refocus our energy.
Mindfulness might seem daunting, yet we all have a natural ability to be mindful. It just takes some practice to incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives. In fact, my hunch is that many of you are already being mindful without realizing it. In simple terms, mindfulness can be anything that allows you to slow down, stay present, recognize your feelings and create inner peace.
Being mindful requires your full attention. This can be challenging in our world of multitasking. But being intentional about creating space for yourself matters. Right now, our fears can run rampant, and our anxieties can cause us to imagine worst-case scenarios and frightening possibilities. Mindfulness allows us to understand that while we can’t change the course of our current circumstances, we can learn ways to tolerate the unpredictability and cope in healthier ways.
Struggling to get started? Try these five easy ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine:
- Listen to music. Pay attention to the singers’ voice or listen for certain instruments.
- Focus on your breath. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath.
- Squeeze your muscles. Starting with your feet, squeeze your toes tight, count to five and release. Pay attention to how your body changes and slowly make your way up your body, repeating this exercise.
- Eat mindfully. During a meal, pay attention to the smells, textures, tastes and look of your food.
- Breathe through your belly. Take deep breaths, allowing your belly to fill like a balloon, and slowly breathe out. It helps if you place one hand on your stomach.
- Practice grounding. Take a moment to identify your surroundings, take in smells and identify objects around you.