The word “mindfulness” takes on a new meaning in a pandemic. In other words, we all need to practice it!
Last year, I went from a mindfulness skeptic to a believer—transforming from a person who thought it was all irritating nonsense to one who meditates every morning. Now more than ever, I recognize the importance of mindfulness, which, by the way, doesn’t have to include meditation.
The pandemic has forced us to slow down and stay in place. We have literally gone back to basics. For example, I’ve spent my entire professional life operating at warp speed—going to the studio, delivering speeches, jumping on planes, etc. Not anymore, at least for now. And for the foreseeable future, I work at home.
And for so many of us, this transition has been extremely challenging. Some of us have lost our jobs or have been furloughed. Essential workers are putting their lives on the line. And some of us are just trying to hang on to our jobs, working from home, fumbling with Zoom, not knowing what tomorrow brings. It’s stressful.
With our uncertain professional lives seeping into our busy personal lives and space, and many of us taking care of kids or parents, sometimes it feels as if we’re living hour by hour.
It’s a recipe for stress, which can lead to heightened reactivity and a great deal of emotional thinking. It’s often too much. But it’s the reality of now.
Three months into the pandemic, I noticed a negative change in my behavior and thought process. I was stressed out. I was doing a million things at once. I was breathing shallowly. I was easily irritated by people. I was texting all the time, trying to solve a million problems at once. My mind was on overdrive. It was hard to stop thinking and worrying.
At one critical point of exhaustion, over eating, weight gain and realizing my relationships were fraying, I knew it was time for a change. I needed to ground myself. I couldn’t remember that last time I meditated. Not good.
At one point, I looked in the mirror and became upset. I didn’t like what I saw. My head hurt, and my face was covered with stress lines. I felt like I had really let myself go, and all the problems that I was trying to solve were not getting any better, despite my best efforts.
I dug deep in that moment and found the strength to stop — I literally stopped, mid-thought, walked to my bedroom and laid down on the floor on my back and simply started listening to my breath. Gradually, I could feel my headache wash away. I told myself, “I need to get back into this.”
I didn’t judge myself for neglecting my mindfulness practice, but I did commit to come back to it every day.
What has helped is a 10-minute meditation every morning or while I’m running. I do it to get centered, lower my reactivity and just slow down.
You don’t have to meditate if it isn’t for you. But you do need to find a way to connect with the present.
Maybe, you can commit to taking a 10- minute walk in the middle of the day to just get out of the house. Perhaps it’s taking five minutes after your kids are in bed to reflect on the day that’s passed and asking yourself how you can invite more happiness in tomorrow. There are great apps — Calm, Headspace, and others that can get you started. Try it!
This will not solve the world’s many problems, but it will help you get through each day with less suffering. We are in uncertain times. A bit of mindfulness will help.
Know Your Value wants to hear about how you’re coping and finding mindfulness during this uncertain time. Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.