Mindfulness in a Difficult Time
The pandemic has brought with it unrivalled challenges for us all. Many of us have experienced increased feelings of anxiety or fear during this time. Mindfulness provides us with an opportunity to bring ourselves into the present and offers us techniques to deal with negative emotions. As human beings, we are often caught up in the past or the future. Mindfulness puts us into the moment. At this moment, here and now, most of us are okay. If we can put ourselves in the present we can handle challenging emotions and difficult thinking. Mindfulness meditation has been proven to alleviate depression, stress, and anxiety. It can offer us a way to cope in challenging times, such as these.
Over the past number of months, many of us have been noticing that we are experiencing feelings of fear. It is important to remind ourselves that fear is natural and appropriate. It is nature’s protector. It is okay to notice that we are feeling fear at this time. Self-soothing is important as we do not want to allow ourselves to be hijacked by the fear as when we allow this to happen, we can feel disconnected. We can lose our sense of perspective on things as well as our humour and compassion for self and others. What can we do to deal with our fear and soothe ourselves?
When fear is very strong, we need to bring down the nervous system and breathe. A simple technique is to breathe in for the count of 5 and breathe out for the count of 5. If you feel comfortable enough with this perhaps try to hold the in-breath for 6 and extend the out-breath to the count of 7 as this can soothe the nervous system and bring the parasympathetic or relaxation and soothing response into play.
Bring your attention to your feet or use this as an additional technique to breathing outlined above. Bringing our attention to the feet can help to soothe and ground us by simply noticing the points of connection of our feet with the ground. If we can imagine that our feet root us to the earth as the roots of a tree serve to root it to the soil, we can feel a sense of steadiness and solidity. Noticing the feeling of the feet as they make contact with the ground or our bodies making contact with the cushion or back of the chair that we are sitting on - this helps bring our selves into the here and now.
Offer comforting phrases to ourselves, using phrases like - ‘It’s okay.’ – ‘I can be with this’ and ‘This too shall pass ’. If you find it easier, think of the words you might use to comfort a dear friend if they were in distress. We are often wonderful at comforting other people but sometimes neglect to offer that same comfort to ourselves.
Do some free movement, if that is possible for you. Simple stretching can be beneficial, even if chair-based. If possible, it can be helpful to get out in nature - feel the fresh air on our faces. Utilising our gardens, outdoor spaces or even opening a patio door or window can allow us to connect with nature.
Some other techniques that Mindfulness offers which can help us to cope with challenging times including; STOP
S STOP – Stop what you are doing and take a pause. Allow yourself to tune into where you are right now.
T Take a breath – Take a deep, slow breath. In doing so, you are coming back to the present. Allow yourself to feel your feet on the ground.
O Observe - Notice what is going on inside of you. Do you notice that your heart is racing or that you feel tension elsewhere in the body? Ask your self how am I right now in this moment?
P Proceed - Proceed mindfully and act with awareness of yourself and what will help you. In considering this perhaps you feel it might be helpful to take an action such as calling a friend for a chat or getting out into the outdoors.
It is great to see that companies are feeling altruistic at this time and many are offering some free access to their mindfulness and meditation apps to non paying customers, these include:
Balance - https://www.balanceapp.com/
Simple Habit - https://www.simplehabit.com/
MS News Issue 108, Page 9. Article by Patricia Lucey - MS Ireland Community Worker