These are challenging times indeed, in the context of the coronavirus situation. Many of you may be facing all sorts of challenges.
While we can’t solve these directly for you, we want to help you to support yourself through it.
Mindfulness can help you navigate the choppy waters ahead. It’s about getting more ground beneath your feet, so you’re better placed to take good care of yourselves and make wise decisions for today and tomorrow.
So in this short guide we look at how to apply mindfulness to the current situation. We also include some really good top tips on maintaining general wellbeing at this time of challenge.
You can also download the content of this page as a PDF guide here.
Mindfulness in a nutshell
At times of challenge or stress it’s easy to get stuck in ‘automatic’ repetitive thinking, which can make us feel stressed and exhausted. It can also block access to the wiser and calmer parts of our mind. This is where mindfulness comes in, because the best way to open up access to the wise mind is to create a gap or space for awareness and reflection. This is what mindfulness trains us to do. We use a simple ABC model of mindfulness:
Awareness: paying gentle attention in the present moment to your experience in your mind, body, and environment, without judgement. (‘Waking up to yourself’ meditation – see below).
Being with: having created space, this allows our brain and body to process our experience. The mindfulness approach here is to notice thoughts, emotions and body sensations, and to allow them to run through us without getting overinvolved in them. (‘Working with your thoughts’ and ‘Acceptance’ meditations - see below).
Choosing wisely: by doing the A and B we open up access to the wiser parts of our brain where we can see things more clearly, and what’s in our best interests. This can include how to understand and process our current challenging reality and all its implications, and to make good decisions about what to do with our time and energy. (‘Wise Choices’ and ‘Kindness’ meditations – see below).
To access the guided meditations go to: www.risingminds.org.uk/mindfulness
Top tips for applying the wisdom of mindfulness right now
Use this enforced time of lockdown to establish a mindfulness routine and practice – ideally first thing in the day, even if only a few minutes. Despite the anxieties the current situation creates, this is actually an ideal time for building a mindfulness practice.
- Use lots of mini practices (three step breathing space and the mindful minute – see below) both to build the mindfulness ‘habit’ and also whenever you notice yourself getting triggered by current anxieties.
- On that note, be vigilant around how much news and social media you engage with right now. It can be quite anxiety-provoking. One dose of news a day is enough right now.
- Notice strongly triggering thoughts and write them down. It’s also really useful if you can find people to share those thoughts with. Chances are you’re not the only one to have had them.
- Find positive distractions: keeping busy with activities that are interesting, nourishing and stimulating is a brilliant way to keep anxiety at bay.
- Kindness: this is perhaps this is the most important of all, and mindfulness can open up the portals to natural kindness to self and others. Carve out time for gentle, self-caring activities as far as possible. Also, don’t give yourself a hard time for the fact that you may be feeling all sorts of difficult things right now. That’s entirely natural and understandable and you’re not alone.
Five top tips for general wellbeing
The following five top tips are taken from the New Economics Foundation’s ‘Five ways to wellbeing’. They are all relevant right now, even if they have to be applied differently than in normal times. So we’ve added our take on them, in the context of our times.
Connect: especially if you are feeling isolated. Reach out for connection with friends, especially using technology like Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp video calls etc. It can make all the difference. The same goes even for those of you isolating with family members… You may well need to have contact with people other than them!
- Be active: even if you can’t get out of your home much or at all, you can still get exercise and move your body. Youtube aerobics videos, dancing etc.
- Take notice: this is the mindfulness thing again! It’s another way of applying it throughout your day. Take time to look at things in your environment afresh. Just notice how things actually are.
- Keep learning: if you do have any spare time, then this enforced period of being at home is a great chance to learn or develop new skills. There are a great many free online courses at the moment. Or it might be that this is a good time to pick up some activity that you used to enjoy doing but have neglected for a while (e.g. playing a musical instrument, knitting, etc.)
- Give: again, if you have spare time, you may feel able to offer your support to others who may need it – like giving people a call to check if they are okay. Being of service to someone else sometimes really helps take the focus away from your own concerns, at least for a while.
We don’t pretend that this will solve some real-world challenges you may be facing. However, if you are able to take basic good care of your mind and body by following some of the wisdom above, then you are far more likely to be in a good overall state to deal with difficulty and to make good decisions about how to respond best. We wish you all the best through this challenging time.