Mental Health and Mindfulness in the time of COVID-19
As a world, we are experiencing a time of extreme stress. With many of us facing extended time behind closed doors and others having to put their lives on the line every day to make sure essentials keep running, this is an extraordinary time for our mental health.
While many of us are, rightly, very focused on our physical health, that can’t be our only focus. We need to put systems in place to protect our mental health.
Take Care of the Basics
The twentieth-century psychologist Abraham Maslow created a theory that in order to address our “being needs,” we have to have our base needs cared for. This hierarchy is widely accepted in physiological circles.
Sit down and assess what those needs are for you. Let’s take a look at a few key biological needs, the ones at the bottom of the hierarchy.
- Food: Make sure you are eating regular, healthy meals. If you are struggling with this, put systems in place like meal planning or easy grab and eat options to keep your body feeling good.
- Sleep: Make sure you are getting enough sleep and are sleeping on a schedule that works for you. Depending on what your work life looks like right now, it doesn’t necessarily matter if you are awake for a traditional 9-5 but you should pick a regular time to be awake and to be asleep.
- Clothing: Usually this one means having clothing but in our current world, it is more about making sure you are changing your clothing with regularity. Take showers, keep yourself feeling clean. It might not look the same as before the pandemic but make sure you feel good in your skin, even if that just means brushing your teeth and changing into daytime pajamas.
Once you have these basic needs cared for, you will have an easier time addressing your mental health.
Mindfulness at its core is about noticing our minds and bodies without judgement. Being aware of yourself and how you are feeling without trying to force yourself to feel one way or another is wonderfully soothing.
There are many ways of doing mindful breathing. Try a few of these and see what works best for you.
Whichever breathing technique you use, find a comfortable position for yourself. Many people find sitting in a chair or lotus style on a soft surface with your hands gently resting on your knees.
Some people prefer to close their eyes and others choose a point to focus on. Either of these are fine, just find a way to rest your vision.
Once you are in a comfortable position, you can try any one or combination of the breathing techniques below.
- Breathing as you are: This is just breathing as your body does naturally. Notice where your breath is going, how fast or slow it is. Don’t try to change it, just allow it to exist.
- Count of four: Breathe in for four counts, hold it for four counts, breathe out for four counts
- Alternate nostril breathing: Plug one nostril and breathe in deep, plug the other and exhale. Alternate and repeat.
- Abdominal breathing: Put your hand on your stomach then breathe deeply to push your hand up. This will cause your diaphragm to lower to make way for your lungs. This can be combined with the above techniques as well.
There is no right or wrong way to have a mindful breathing practice, try out different methods and see what fits for you.
This is a method of checking in with every part of your body, seeing how loose or tight your muscles are. Like all mindfulness this is generally a check it but it can be combined with breath and a loosening of your muscles.
This video is a lovely guide if you prefer to be led through this technique.
Mantras are a wonderful, personal, way to calm your own personal anxieties. They can be as general or complex as you like.
- ”I will get to the other side of this”
- ”I deserve to take time for myself”
- ”It is okay if not everything is perfect right now”
- ”I am doing the best that I can, and that is enough”
Develop your own to match your own situation. It is amazing how positive self talk can help us through challenging times.
Take What Works, Leave What Doesn’t
We are all different and will find different techniques to calm our anxieties. Try things out, find what works. Stay healthy, stay safe.