Calmer Choice, non-profit organization in Barnstable, Massachusetts Calmer Choice, non-profit organization in Barnstable, Massachusetts

Mindfulness and COVID-19: 5 Practical Tips

We have been asked at Calmer Choice by numerous organizations to provide resources and guidance for managing the new reality we are all facing. Our response has been to develop online content, mentioned in our first blog post, and a new resource page on our website with a myriad of links to things that can help in a crisis such as this.

We also want to touch in with what’s happening in our bodies and minds when we are faced with difficulty. Current home situations are vastly different for everyone. Some may be working from home, while others are not able to, or have lost jobs. Many are navigating online learning for our children while juggling working remotely. Those infected are experiencing something most of us never will, and others may be suffering health issues unrelated to coronavirus, but not able to get the healthcare they need. The struggle is real.

The uncertainty of the situation can weigh heavily on us with the barrage of news focused on the global response to this imminent problem. You may find yourself drawn to the updates and find yourself constantly checking your phone and newsfeed. I want to offer you 5 practical tips you can use to bring mindfulness to your life during this stressful time. These things have worked for me and are offered merely as suggestions for managing this time.

1. Notice Your Response

It is hard to ignore the proverbial, “elephant in the room” with it plastered all over the media. So, notice how you are taking in this information. When reading or watching the news, what feelings, emotions, sensations are arising? Is engaging with the news cycle exacerbating feelings of overwhelm, or calming them? This will inevitably be different for everyone.

Once you are aware of what’s happening in your mind and body, you can be with the feelings as they are. One thing we know about emotions is that they come and they go. Instead of pushing away the fear, worry, frustration- allow it to be for a moment. We have the power to choose a response, even when life feels overwhelming. I found this video from Mindful Schools very helpful in noticing my response to a difficult time.

2. Set an Intention

One mindfulness concept that has helped me tremendously was this idea of setting an intention. I have used this as an intention for the day, but you could broaden or narrow it as needed. For instance, if you are noticing that you have a “short fuse” when interacting with certain individuals (ie a child or spouse), you may want to set an intention for your interactions with them for the day (or for a 30 min time period). Setting the intention helps me to be more readily aware when my frustration begins- then I can take a breath and choose a response. You can set an intention for just about anything. And, it’s important to remember when your intention doesn’t go as planned, to be kind and gentle with yourself. It will be a point to work from for next time.

Every morning I write down my intention in my gratitude journal (more on that in a future post). With the current situation, my intentions have focused on taking the day as it comes and being open to the possibilities. Awareness of our intentions is a practice in itself.

3. Create a New Routine

The new “normal” offers us an opportunity to reinvent our lives in a way. Perhaps you can develop a new routine for your day that supports well-being? What was working or not working in your old routine? What do you want to cultivate more of in your life? My current household situation includes many personality types, a variety of ages, a multitude of opinions, and fur! This can all make for a challenge when we have to be in close contact with each other for an extended period of time.

I know many others out there who may be weathering this storm in solitude, which poses it’s own challenges. My personality type desires order and routine, while some of my family members prefer a more “organic” day. Awareness of other’s perspectives are crucial right now in our home.

One thing that has worked for us is to go in with an attitude of: let’s try this for a few days and then see how it works. At first, I noticed my stress increasing by trying to fit our current situation into our old patterns of life. Once I became aware that there were no rules, we could open up to other possibilities (I might point out that this was much easier for other people in my house).

At dinner time we talk about what worked for everyone that day and what didn’t. We even have a list on a whiteboard with two things that everyone needs to happen to help them have a good day. These range from a 30 min walk with the dog to playing dolls. Speaking of whiteboards, we also have one with a schedule (that’s for me😉) with an hourly plan of what everyone is doing throughout the day. We have worked in long breaks for those who need it.

My children are still young and need this sort of guidance, I imagine with teens and more independent individuals you may not need this sort of specific schedule. This schedule really has helped the people in my life who are more on the laissez-faire side as well.

4. Stay Connected

One of the biggest ways for us to survive this, I believe, is to stay connected not only with those who we can not see in person, but also those we live with, and ourselves. The multitude of technical options we have right now to connect is astounding! So many businesses and organizations are being extremely generous to be offering so much for FREE so we can stay connected, even if through a screen.

The other connection we may fail to recognize are the people we are able to see every day. Are we connecting with them? Checking in on how they are doing, acknowledging the difficulty and uncertainty, and physically connecting with a hug. As much as I want our regular lives and routine back, I am leaning in every day toward being with the ones I love in a new way. This also includes how I am leaning into myself. All of these suggestions are ways of checking in with how you are doing, noticing what’s coming up for you in this time is a way to stay grounded; even if what’s coming up is not pleasant.

4. Start a Mindfulness Practice

If you’ve found this blog, chances are you have some type of connection with mindfulness. And, if not, now may be the opportunity you’ve been looking for to investigate what it might have to offer you. If you have a practice- maybe now is the time to deepen it further, finally read that book you’ve had on your bedside table for the last year, or connect with others who use this practice in their lives. Stay tuned for future posts on how to begin a formal practice.

Take care. Practice patience. Embrace radical compassion for all. This is temporary.