Are you losing yourself at times in the chaos of COVID-19? Do you wonder where your day went? Coping with non-stop media coverage, conversations that rarely exclude the pandemic and a decline in both our economy and our autonomy. Are you confused, distracted, unproductive or energised, constantly alert? It’s completely normal to feel whatever it is you are feeling. Switching off at night is hard and it’s not just our devices, but turning off the constant flow of thoughts is almost impossible without a developed practice to do so. This never-ending flow of feelings and thoughts puts the body at risk of damaging its immune functioning, which is precisely needed to be avoided right now.
Mindfulness practice delivered via a smart phone app or in person, has been shown to reduce stress and build immune functioning. Sounds like the antidote for coping with a crisis. Jon Kabat Zinn, one of the founding fathers of modern day mindfulness says “you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf” reminds us of the importance of being mindful to distinguish between what we can control and what we can’t and that it is possible to learn new skills to cope with our circumstances. When it comes to mindfulness, we can learn to notice our thoughts and to develop the skill to notice the content, notice their presence, their helpfulness or unhelpfulness.
We experience somewhere between 30,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day and before you have started to read this article, you will have had many thoughts from the banal to the serious, the critical to the rational. The mind thinks involuntarily just like the heart beats involuntarily and it’s our mind that enables us to be our best in everything we do and so our mind deserves a rest just like our body does when we extend it constantly. When did you last take a moment to do nothing? Not being on or looking at your phone, not talking, not being with people? When did you last sit and do nothing?
“The vast majority of our emotional suffering is focused on the past or future. It’s not right now,” David Mercier, John Hopkins University said. “Mindfulness brings us into the endless present. It’s always here. It’s always now.”
By coming into the present moment, which is an act of mindfulness, we can reduce anxiety, there is focus, alertness and an avoidance of judgement, thoughts and sensations and over time it builds the capacity to not being distracted with the past or the future. This can be enabled through the practice of meditation; the capacity to sit, breathe, focus on the breath and allow the thoughts to pass. Meditation is simply a way to give our active brains a rest, a well-deserved break. This practice is of course easier said than done and that is simply why it is called a practice. Meditation has been shown to improve concentration, focus and improved sleep quality and when we have these things, we have more energy, better concentration, better moods and better relationships.
Benefiting from meditation takes training, patience, kindness to self and a reason to do it. When making a regular commitment to attend the gym, perhaps it’s for physical and mental condition or to improve cardio fitness or shape. Whatever the reason, there is a goal. Mindfulness needs to be approached in a similar way and finding a purpose for starting a practice and then a commitment to set a practice plan. The wonderful thing is it doesn’t have to cost you anything as it can be undertaken anywhere.
A mindfulness practice might also include self-compassion or self-care, such as lowering expectations of what can be achieved each day, permission to take breaks between each block of work, taking a 20-minute recovery walk in the park or giving yourself permission to not cook dinner and order in for a change.
A mindfulness practice might be the edge you need to bring you into the present each day and help you cope more positively during these uncertain times.
“Wherever you go there, there you are”, Jon-Kabat Zinn, 1994 Piatkus
Sheena Polese, ICF Australasia NSW Branch leadership team member, specialises in Leadership development and Personal Development Coaching. Sheena can be reached via www.fitmindcoaching.com.au or email@example.com.