Disclaimer: I am not a physician, a psychologist or any other category of medical professional. I am simply passionate about mindfulness and sharing it’s benefits in aiding mental health concerns. While these tips may assist in managing daily stressors and feelings of anxiety resulting from Covid-19, they should not and do not represent or replace the diagnosis or treatment provided by that of a medical professional.
Coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic has primarily focused on the ever-increasing number of cases, as well as promoting steps to prevent the spread of the virus and further sickness. I can’t help but wonder, though, if due diligence is being done to report the ripple effect the cases are having on people’s mental health? Those infected themselves, those with loved ones infected and those bystanders/hoarders of toilet paper (i’m not kidding – is a “fend for yourself” or “hoarder” mentality really the healthiest mindset in times like these? Of course it’s not, but people are scared and often misinformed) – What is the state of the world doing to your head? What is the overwhelming amount of negative news coverage doing to your head? Are you taking care of it? Are you seeking/receiving support? Are you checking in with yourself and others?
From my nook of the internet, here are 7 mindfulness tips to help quiet the mind and body from stress and anxiety during this trying time with the Coronavirus. A few of these tips may seem obvious, but sometimes a simple reminder is all that’s needed to re-engage with the present, no matter the circumstances. Mindfulness is simply about bringing the mind back from wandering wherever it’s drifted off to, and re-focusing on the present moment.
These tips can be used any time, and are not restricted for the purpose of aiding Coronavirus stressors.
1. Be Present
At it’s core, mindfulness is about being present. If you find your mind is running wild from stress and anxiety, take a moment to close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and begin to focus your attention on your surroundings and your senses.
What do you hear – birds chirping, a computer keyboard clacking away, construction being completed on a nearby apartment building, your own breathing?
What do you smell – somebody’s morning coffee, fresh cut flowers, the restaurant next door to your workplace (that is, if you are still at work, and not working from home), the pages of a book you’ve been reading (I personally love the smell of books)?
What do you see – a woman walking her dog, your coworker using the copy machine, people playing tennis in the park?
What do you taste – tasty leftovers from take-out the night before, your daily afternoon cup of herbal tea?
What do you touch – how do your clothes feel against your skin, is your scarf annoying you because it’s itching your neck, the wetness from stepping in a puddle because there’s a hole in your favorite pair of sneakers?
Survey all of these things, come up with 2 or 3 for each sense, if possible. By doing so, you deny your mind the space and/or time to wander to the past (what scenarios have transpired so far, which you can not control) or to the future (what scenarios may or may not occur, which you can not control). By being present, you allow yourself to really sit in the moment and reconnect with the here and now.
2. Take a Mindfully, Balanced Approach to Social Media
Social media is a fantastic way to connect and check-in with people, but I believe there’s a fine balance between when it’s healthy and when it’s too much. Recently, i’ve found myself feeling down from the constant stream on social media about the state of the world.
So check in with yourself – if you’ve found yourself recently thinking you need to take a step back from it all, it’s totally okay to unplug. Log-out, you may even want to turn off your phone and switch to something you enjoy doing – read a book, complete a paint by number, meditate (yaaaaas), write your thoughts in a journal, go for a walk (test yourself – try a walk around the block without your phone, leave it at home. If the phone separation anxiety is too strong, bring your phone with you, but leave it turned off), knit your cat a sweater, follow a Bob Ross tutorial (okay you’d have to reconnect online for that but he’s so chill yet so joyful!), try cooking a new recipe, phone, not text, a friend (also requires usage of your phone, but social interaction is hella important, too, no matter the format).
3. Get a Handle on your Woogling (Worry Googling)
I really need to eat my own words with this one, because I am a Googling fiend when I am worried about something. I think a lot of people do, actually – turn to Google to seek out solutions to our worried minds. In my experience, though, most times when I’ve researched something I’ve wanted to stop from happening, it ended up coming my way anyways (my plants dying – might just be because I have a terrible green thumb though, ruining my relationship with an ex because of overthinking, how to stop nerves from overtaking my mind and body when I audition for a solo part in my choir).
Don’t get me wrong – I believe Googling your concerns can be good …. within reason. I also believe that continually focusing your energy on researching ways to stop worrying, whether it be stop worry about the coronavirus, about the state of the world, about getting sick, will only bring yourself more worry (Law of Attraction, boys, girls, and non-binary folk alike – you attract the energy you put out into the universe. You put out worry, whatyagonnaget?). The more you push something away because you do not want it, the more you will attract that very thing which you do not want.
A great way to stop the madness of continuously jumping down the Google search bar rabbit hole, as mentioned above, is to put down your phone, unplug for a short while, and re-engage with activities you enjoy. Try learning a new skill or hobby – papier mache, tinfoil boats, model cars, origami, singing in the shower, scrapbooking, knitting a hat for your cat.
While you’re at it stop woogling your symptoms of possible Coronavirus. As I said already, the more you fixate on something you do not want to come true or do not want to take place, the more you will manifest and attract what you do not want.
But Lindsay, are you suggesting I have manifested coronavirus and it’s symptoms on myself? All I did was Google possible symptoms! I was keeping myself and others safe! Yes, you were keeping yourself and others safe, and that’s fantastic. What I’m hoping is that you will take this as an opportunity to recognize your thought pattern and flip your thinking – instead of manifesting stress and sickness through your continued worry googling, attract great physical and mental health, attract and believe in the positive well-being of you, your family, friends, strangers on the street, the front-line healthcare workers who are inundated with sick people as is, and who are literal superheroes.
And if you truly believe you are sick, continue to self-isolate, keep yourself productive while in self-isolation if you’re the type of person who goes stir-crazy when cooped up for too long (as I am) and go get tested when/if you have the opportunity/resource. Ease your mind once and for all.
4. Practice strategies to recognize what you can & can not control in the moment
One strategy which I attempt to put into practice when I overthink is to start by asking myself the following questions – A.) What is at the root of my overthinking/fear? B.) Do I have evidence to support what it is I am overthinking/afraid of/stressing about? and C.) Can I control it or not?
Typically journaling as I work my way through these questions helps the most because I can see my thoughts and words in front of me. While every person is different as to what works for them, I’d say try journaling it out:
- First, identify your fears/what is causing you concern. In the instance of the Coronavirus, is it the fear of the unknown? Fear of the world becoming a literal version of the movie ‘Contagion’? Or thoughts such as I am going to get sick. My family and loved ones are going to get sick.
- Based off of what you have identified as your root fears/thoughts/concerns, now address whether you have the proof to back them up – I am going to get sick – what proof do you have? How old are you? Are you susceptible to illness? Or are you a relatively healthy person? In my case, a former manager asked if I was a machine once, because I never took a sick day.
- Once you’ve gathered your proof, or lack therof, then you address each one of these thoughts/fears with the following question – Can I or can I not control what is causing me concern? Can you, a single human being, control taking preventative measures to ensure you don’t get sick and you don’t make your loved ones sick? Yes. Can you, a single human being, control that this is a global pandemic? No.
- If you can control whatever is causing concern, then take action to make yourself feel better and more prepared. If you can’t control it, then why worry about it? Stressing about it unfortunately will do you more harm than good.
- Now, I know what you’re thinking (because I have been there too, yay overthinking) – being unable to control it doesn’t mean I will stop worrying about it/being unable to control it makes me even more worried! What do I do? Well, let’s get your body and your mind busy with —
Go for a walk, go for a run, go for a hike, put on your favorite artist and boogie in your home. Exercise gets you up and moving, and out of your head. Recent reports are suggesting people perhaps skip the gym for risk of transmission of the virus, so try working out at home or get out into good ol’ Mother Nature and boost your heart-rate up that way!
6. Fact-check with accurate sources for peace of mind
This isn’t so much a mindfulness tip but I still think it’s important to people’s overall mental health and well-being. With social media, comes information – information we can’t always be sure of where it came from. It can be a roller-coaster of facts and fiction and trying to decipher what is accurate and what is exaggerated, can be a stressor. Eliminate the stress and guesswork out of deciphering fake news from real news, and just go where you know for sure you’ll find the most accurate information – the World Health Organization for one, or if you’re Canadian like me, Health Canada.
7. Talk with a Mental Health Professional
Talking with a therapist (whether it be a psychologist, a counselor, a psychotherapist), can help individuals to work through trauma, negative thoughts, anxiety and depression. It can be a wonderfully eye-opening experience to spill your guts to a trained professional who can work with you to identify and overcome negative thought patterns and assist in finding solutions that work (another tip that I need to eat my own words on). The first step would be to talk with your doctor, who can help to set the process in motion by providing practitioner recommendations. You can also do your own research to find out which practitioners are in your area and are accepting new patients. Don’t be afraid to schedule appointments with a few different ones – it may take a couple of tries before finding one that you click with. Many medical plans provide coverage for these practitioners, too, so do some research on if there’s a certain percentage your benefits will cover the costs.
If you have additional tips, feel free to share in the comments below!