3 Mindfulness Techniques To Keep You Grounded Until The Coronavi

Family, Self

Adjusting To The New Normal - Surviving Life During A Pandemic Managing your reaction to crisis

There are very few of us who feel untouched by this world health crisis and we are all striving to adjust to the new normal. Not only do we need to manage the impact it has on us as individuals, but we also have to take into consideration how it impacts those around us. This complicates things and requires an increased level of self awareness and awareness of the world around us than is normally needed in our regular day to day lives. 

All aspects of our lives have been impacted - work, home, finances, socializing with family/friends, health (physical, mental, spiritual), recreation, worship, etc.  The impact varies from slight to devastating depending upon to which area you are referring. Regardless of where the impact falls on this scale, it is unavoidable and requires adjustment; and this adjustment is not always a smooth transition. It is especially difficult because almost everyone around us is struggling to adjust too. That means that the people we would normally lean on are feeling scared, stressed, tired, and sad themselves. 

So what do we do to survive and even thrive during this time of upheaval? Turn inward!

It is essential to turn toward the only thing over which you actually have control, which is yourself - your thoughts, your feelings, your beliefs, your actions. If ever there was a time that the oxygen mask analogy was applicable, it is now. STOP RIGHT NOW! Grab that imaginary oxygen mask and take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Now do it four more times on a count of four in and count of four out. 

You MUST take care of yourself.  Your ability to remain present and grounded and clear minded is essential to making choices that will support healthy and sustainable adjustment. The most important thing you can do right now is to deal with your own reactions to all these changes. Get your mind clear so that you can truly be consciously available to support those around you and find effective solutions to the new challenges with which you are faced.

There are many ways that you can deal with what has hijacked your body, mind and spirit. Here are three quick ways to check in with yourself, deal with what is there and reboot:

  • Tune into your body sensations
  • Feel your feelings
  • Challenge your story

Tune into your body sensations. This is simple. Close your eyes (it is easier to focus this way). Do a body scan from head to toe and notice where you are feeling discomfort of some sort. Maybe it is a furrowed brow, a clenched jaw, tension in your neck or shoulders, a lump in your throat, aching in your chest, swirling in your belly, etc.. When you notice something, focus your attention there and just breathe (like you are breathing into that part of your body) using the four-by-four breathing mentioned above. After a few breaths you may notice the sensation intensifying, weakening, changing, or shifting to another part of your body. Just notice and keep breathing. After about 90 seconds you will notice the sensation has dramatically lessened or dissipated entirely. 

Why is this useful? When we are upset, feeling threatened or sad or angry we go into a fight or flight response, which activates all these reactions in our body to protect ourselves. Then our minds create a congnitive-emotive loop to make sense of our defensive reaction. We think thoughts that support our reaction, we feel emotions related to that and our body responds with uncomfortable sensations. Tuning into the body and allowing sensations to be there while breathing slowly, calms down the nervous system and breaks the loop.  

Another way to break the loop is to feel your feelings. In the same way that you tuned in to physical sensations in your body and allowed them to be there and move, you tune in and watch your emotions move through. Notice an emotion, maybe even name it as one of the five basic emotions (fear, sadness, anger, joy, creative/sexual energy). Sit with it and feel it while breathing. Again, when you allow it to be there and move the way it wants to, it eventually moves through and dissipates. It doesn’t necessarily disappear entirely, but the grip it has on you does. You can be aware of it while not being driven by it.

A third way to break the loop is to challenge your story, which means to question the thoughts that are fueling your reactivity. You might have a thought like “my business will be ruined by this crisis”. That thought would generate fear emotionally and a fear reaction in your body. Then it could trigger other thoughts, like “how will I support my family”, “how will my employers survive”, etc. and then the fear increases and fuels more thoughts and so on and so on. 

You might ask yourself if it is true that the crisis completely ruined your business. Look at the facts. Are you completely out of money, inventory, the ability to produce, creative ideas, disaster relief options, options for collaboration or reinvention, etc.? Find a few ways your story is not true. If you have trouble switching your mindset, Byron Katie’s process The Work has an excellent worksheet for challenging your stories. After you challenge the truth of your thought, you once again break the loop - this time by shifting the way you are thinking. 

When you choose to break the loop with one, or all three of these techniques, be aware of one potential pitfall - shame. Sometimes when you shift your perspective, move out of the swirling tumult of your own reactivity and can see what you did while in that state of mind, there is potential for shame to set in. With clear eyes, your behavior can appear irrational and embarrassing. If you don’t pay attention, you can easily slip into another reactive cycle by shaming yourself for having been reactive in the first place.

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Don’t let the shame knock you down when you have just gotten yourself upright. If you notice shame creeping in, just go back to the three techniques and stop the shame in its tracks.  We are all human and the current state of affairs is something completely new to all of us. When the challenge of adjusting to the new normal gets to you, turn inward and do your own triage first. Then with clear eyes and an open heart, turn to those around you and figure out how to get through this together.

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