How to Develop Mindfulness During Times of Uncertainty
What is Mindfulness?
Being mindful is an active process that can take place anytime anywhere. It is a state of awareness, focus, and openness. It is a process of observing, noticing, and having direct experiences with the present world around with no judgment. It was developed by Eastern religions and cultures and has recently found its way to the West. However being mindful is not limited to Yoga, Meditation, Thai Chi, etc and can be achieved by allowing yourself to be present and open to your current experiences. For example, you can be mindful brushing you teeth, making dinner, drinking coffee, etc. Its a process of slowing things down and really noticing your senses, thoughts, and feelings so that you can be present with your current situation.
The Physical, Mental, and Emotional Benefits of Becoming Mindful
Being mindful provides physical, mental, and emotional benefits, which ultimately allows you to live a more rich and meaningful life. Practicing mindfulness promotes a more relaxed and calm physical state and lowers distress. It help keeping your body in the “digest and rest” state, which allows your body to function at is greatest potential. This leads to physical benefits that include lowers blood pressure, reduces chronic pain, & improves sleep. By being mindful you are shifting the relationship you have with your mind and emotions. By using awareness, opening up, and notching your thoughts and feelings you start to take the power and impact away. You begin to see these thought, feelings, images and sensation not as a problem that needs to be avoided or gotten rid of. Instead you begin to see thoughts and feelings as symbols, sounds and sensations that we choose to give meaning to. This awareness strengths your ability to regulation emotion a and a decrease in depression, decrease in stress and improves general health. At the end of the day being mindful allows you to be more responsive vs reactive.
Five Steps to Develop Mindfulness and Serenity During Uncertain Times
Connect with your Breathe
No matter how bad a situation gets, no matter how much you are suffering try your best to start off by taking a few deep breathes. If you are breathing then you know that you are alive. Ans as long as you are alive there is hope. Taking a few breaths in the midst of a crisis give you valuable time to get present, to notice what is happening and how you are responding, and to think about what effective action you can take. Sometimes there is no immediate action to that is okay because being present and making room for your feelings is the most effective action.
Practice Expansion Exercise
As a means to effectively deal with the anxiety during this pandemic practicing the mindfulness techniques of practicing expansive can be very effective. It allows you to experience any emotions without trying to avoid or get rid of them. By doing this it allows your feelings of anxiety to come and go as they please and have less impact on you. So let’s look at an example, You start to think "Am I going to get Coronavirus and Die" and begin to feel anxious.
First thank your mind for doing its job trying to protect me.
Then start to observe and scan the sensations in your body. Start from your head and move down to your toes and picking an area of discomfort to observe curiously. This for me tends to show up as a tight chest. Observing it curiously, Try and notice how it feels, what it looks like, is it warm or cold...etc. Your mind like most will try to pull you away with thoughts a lot during this exercise. Gently acknowledge what i’ts trying to tell you and return your attention to your breathe.
Then breathe into and around your sensation. Taking long and deep breathes.
Then try and create space and open up around that feeling and sensation.
Lastly, allow the sensation to be. As much as you may want to get rid of or avoid it, simply try and let it be. Acknowledge this urge and continue to breathe into the sensation, create space and observe it.
Grounding is an exercise that you can practice anywhere to help bring you back to the present.
Start by taking a deep slow breath
Notice any though, feeling and sensations you are experiencing. Say out loud, “I am noticing that I am having the thought…feeling….sensation that____________________” Observer any feelings or sensations with curiosity.
Start to get into your body. Push you feet into the floor, move your arms, stretch. Notice how you are in control of your body and choose what you want to do with it.
Next notice five things you can see around you
Pick something up around you and notice how it feels in your hand. Is it rough, smooth, textured, heavy, light, warm, cold…
Notice three things you can hear right now
Smell something (i can be helpful to have a candle near by or something you enjoy smelling)
Check in with yourself? Do you feel more present? Do you feel more grounded? Do you feel like your anxiety, fear, holiness has less impact over you?
Create a Resiliency Plan
A resiliency plan is a tool that help you when you are having a difficult time. It helps you take mindful steps to doing what matters, even if you aren’t feeling up to it. It also guides you on what to do when you may had a difficult time thinking of it. Make sure to write these down and put it somewhere its easy to see and access.
First identify who you want to connect with that uplifts you
Write their names and the best way to contact them
Its important to have more than one in case they can not be reached
2. Identify strategies that are helpful you (Some that are helpful for me are….)
Taking a shower
Doing an online yoga class
Reading a book
Watching something funny
Going for a walk
Petting an animal
3. Have and repeat a mantra. (Some that help me are…)
I am allowed to feel anxious
I am human and this a natural response to my current situation
This too shall pass
I'm doing my best and that's good enough
Feeling the way I do does not mean that I am defective. It means I am a human being that cares.
4. Implement Solutions. (Some that help me….)
Practice grounding exercise
Practice deep breathing
Ask for a hug
Ask for help
Fully Connect to a Daily Activity
Pick an activity that is part of your daily routine, such as brushing you teeth, taking a shower, doing the dishes, etc. Totally focus on what you are doing using all five senses. For example, doing the the dishes, notice the various sounds the water make when it it hit the sink or dish. Notice the sensation of the water hitting your skin. Notice the fresh sent of the dish soup. Notice the steam ticking your nose. Notice the weight of the plates in you face. Completely get immersed in your daily actively. When you notice your mind trying to pull you away with stories, gently acknowledge your mind and say thank you. Then return to the activity at hand.
How Can You Help Someone Else Who is Struggling?
Show compassion. Even if you feel and think that they may be overreacting, understand that the person you are trying to help is suffering. Telling them to calm down is the worst thing you can possible do. Acknowledge their pain by simply saying, “I can see you are suffering from anxiety right now.”
Ask them how you can help them? Most people will have an answer to give you of what works for them. Listen and act accordingly to their needs. What might work for you may not for them and that is why its important to discover their coping tool. If they struggle with telling you what to do try the next step!
Develop a plan before head that can be used when some is struggling with anxiety. As mentioned before, turn to an individuals resiliency plan to identity specific solutions and techniques to use when an individual is suffering for anxiety.
Just be with them, you don’t have to have the right word but my simply being with some you are helping create a safe space for them to process and move through their anxiety.
Ask if you can guide them through a grounding or expansion exercise? They may be feeling completely lost in their feelings and so helping them come back to the present could be helpful for them. Guided them through the exercise I listed above. Or maybe find a mediation that works best for them and have in on hand to help them in their times of need.
Ready to start practicing mindfulness? Check out my resources for video and audio mediations that can help you develop mindfulness! Begin your journey today!
Sarit Fassazadeh is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker based in Los Angeles, CA. She is an ACT therapist who specializes in childhood anxiety disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. She hopes everyone stay safe and healthy during these trying times. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments please feel free contact her at Healingwithpurposetherapy.com