4 Mindfulness Techniques To Keep You Grounded Until The Coronavirus

Family, Self

Amidst all the scary reports and news about the coronavirus spreading, as well as stores, schools, and restaurants closing, it can cause a lot of overwhelming anxiety. Many people are wondering how they will manage, what is going to happen to the economy, and how this will affect their jobs and families. 

As a mental health professional that works with families, I’ve seen firsthand how overwhelming this situation is for family members of all ages. High school students are worried about prom and graduation cancelations, young adults are making return trips back home and adjusting to online college courses, and parents feel there is no script or protocol to help them manage this unchartered territory.

One of the most important things that parents and people can do is to stay calm and grounded. Of course, you are asking yourself, “How is that possible with all the craziness going on?” There are some wonderful mindfulness techniques that can help you stay more focused and grounded during these unsettled times.

First, you need to understand what mindfulness is and how it can help you, especially now. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your awareness and attention on the present. Focusing your attention on what is happening in the moment and being aware of not just your internal thoughts, but also your external experiences. The goal is to focus on your five senses.

While you are observing these experiences, you will work on not judging them as good or bad, but simply being mindful of them. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, improve memory and attention, and provide a boost to your immune system. The exercise below provides a quick way to get started with the practice.

Mindfulness Exercises:

Timed Mindfulness.

One of the simplest exercises to start with is sitting in a chair with your feet grounded, which means placing them flat against the floor. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes. During that time, simply be aware of all five of your senses and the input you are receiving. Focus on the temperature of the room. Notice the fabric of your clothes and the texture of your chair. Be aware of any sounds in the room. Observe your thoughts without being attached to them or judging them. The goal is to simply notice them.

Practice self-compassion with a loving and kindness meditation. 

Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Begin by taking deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. When you inhale, count in to four and exhale to the number six. As you breathe in and out, imagine yourself in a place that makes you feel calm, peaceful, and at ease. Perhaps your ideal place is a forest or a beach where the sound of the crashing waves provides a sense of soothing.

Now, repeat out loud, “I wish for happiness, calm, and peace for myself.” Repeat the phrase aloud three times. Next, think of someone you care about and wish the same happiness, calm, and peace aloud for that person. Imagine yourself feeling happy, calm, and content as well as the person you called to mind. You can also use this practice if there is someone you are experiencing conflict with, or perhaps someone you don’t connect with.

Take a walkabout.

Go for a walk by yourself for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Leave your phone at home. Again, the goal is to focus on your five senses. Unfortunately, technology tends to distract us from that focus. Instead, listen to the sounds around you. Perhaps you hear birds chirping or wind rustling the leaves of the surrounding trees. Notice the feeling of your feet as they touch the ground with each step. Use your eyes to observe the environment that surrounds you, which can include trees, animals, or anything else you see. Notice the smells, the scent of the earth, and pay attention to how your body is feeling.

Remember, your objective is to observe without judgment. Instead, accept what it is you are observing with an open mind. When you get home, write down your observations, including what you saw, smelled, heard, and felt. Use as much detail as possible so you can understand what it felt like to ground yourself in the moment.

Use Mindfulness with Daily Activity. 

Pick one activity that you do every day, mindlessly, and focus your attention and awareness on what you are doing. Examples are when you are getting ready to go to bed, washing dishes, prepping food for meals, or even enjoying your morning cup of coffee. While doing this activity, really pay attention to what you are doing. Avoid distractions and do not try and multitask. Instead, make sure you are fully present and aware. What does the water feel like as it runs over your hands? What does the food you are preparing smell like?

Pick one of these techniques each day and practice them for at least a month. Throughout that month, you will retrain your brain to slow down, be less distracted, and be able to appreciate what is happening in the present moment. Pick a time each day when you can unplug and focus on yourself and nothing else, whether it is the first thing you do in the morning or the last thing you do at the end of the day. The goal is just to create a routine, so you are more likely to practice the techniques listed here.

Remember, despite the uncertainty of what is going on in the world right now, and the new challenges that we each face daily involving the coronavirus, you can still stay centered and calm. Maya Angelou said it best when she said, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” Mindfulness can help you stay grounded and peaceful with just a little bit of practice.

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If you feel that you are still struggling with managing your anxiety pertaining to COVID-19, I am here for support. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and work with individuals and families through challenging transitions and times of heightened anxiety. I offer online counseling to allow you to still get the help you need while still maintaining social distancing. Please contact me for additional support and I will be happy to talk to you.