With the spread and constant presence of COVID-19, you might find that your stress levels are constantly spiking. Who can blame you? It's a very frightening and precarious situation that has greatly affected the lives of almost every single person on the planet, whether directly or through a couple of degrees of separation. It's already hard enough to juggle responsibilities without a worldwide pandemic, so being expected to work and live like normal can be incredibly taxing. With all these conditions, it's likely that you'll be overwhelmed at some point.
You might not be able to change your conditions. Your employer may not be very forgiving, or you might be stuck inside and becoming a bit stir-crazy. Having a meditation and mindfulness practice can help ameliorate the emotional stress and allow you to let off some of the pressure involved in your circumstances. While it might give you more objective insight into your own life, mindfulness is mainly a good tool for adapting emotionally to situations that you may or may not be able to change.
What is Mindfulness?
"Mindfulness" is one of those buzzwords that can immediately make people groan. Despite the cringy and trite associations it may have, it's actually quite useful and powerful. Basically, it's the process and technique of noticing emotions while they happen without being affected by them. It's noticing what you're feeling and instead of being overwhelmed, you can focus on the recognition of those feelings instead.
This might not sound like a powerful tool, but it can be life-changing to be able to "step outside of yourself." If you're an especially emotional person, mindfulness practices will be especially valuable additions to your schedule.
How can you be mindful?
There are many guided mindfulness meditations that you can use for free. They can be found on the Internet on sites like YouTube, on apps, and some small business owners even record their own prompts and guided meditation audio to be used for your practices. However, they aren't necessary to use for a mindfulness meditation session. It can be helpful to do so if you're a beginner, especially if you're not able to focus well on your own.
Mindfulness meditation doesn't need to be done seated/cross-legged, but that's how it is generally done. There are other practices available, though, like lying meditations or even walking meditations. You might find that your mind starts to wander when you do something repetitive like knitting, and that's another valid method, too! Just make sure that you're using the following principles as you practice.
The basis of mindfulness meditation involves you looking within yourself, noticing all the little thoughts you have floating by. Instead of being absorbed in them, you should try to focus on nothing at all. It can be helpful to start by focusing on your breath instead, trying not to alter it. Don't feel bad if you start to think about something - it's natural, especially now! Worries or other random thoughts will pop into your head. Recognize these thoughts, but try to dispel them from your mind.
You might also become aware of how your body feels as you sit in silence. Again, this is completely fine. Try not to move or shift unless something is very uncomfortable. Sit as long as you're comfortable while eventually thinking almost nothing at all. This meditative state is one of the best parts of mindfulness meditation, and can be very helpful both mentally and physically.
What if you can't do a sitting meditation or meditate for long periods of time?
If you're an absolute beginner, that's completely all right! If you can do it for just a minute or five minutes a day, that's better than nothing. Even 30 seconds is good, though not really beneficial unless you're building up to longer amounts of time. Mindfulness doesn't need to be done for a specific amount of time. Even stretches of 15-30 minutes walking a day or every other day can do wonders for your mental state. Walking meditations and meditations while lying down are other forms of meditation that can be just as effective. Ultimately, the most important part is that you feel a difference in your mental health.
What if you don't feel calm while you practice?
Sometimes, your practice won't be fruitful. You might aim to sit down for 15 minutes and meditate but you just can't push the thoughts outside of your mind. You're jittery, restless, and getting frustrated with yourself because you can't get comfortable or in your "zen" mode. That's also okay. Just like therapy, some days won't feel very good. Recognizing these negative emotions can be just as beneficial as a whole, positive practice. You'll start to be able to approach negative emotions with more ease.
How does this even relate to COVID-19?
Mindfulness meditation permits you to occasionally enter a state of complete calm when you practice, and also be more aware of your emotions and how you deal with them outside of your practice. When you start to feel yourself spiral into anxiety, for example, you can employ your mindfulness techniques to acknowledge and mitigate the feelings. If you're getting angry with others for problems of your own, which is completely natural, you can do the same thing. Even if your practice isn't fruitful, the consistency that you employ when you practice meditation over time can encourage discipline in other areas of your life.
As you navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, having a mental tool to increase your ability to cope and encourage mental fortitude can make a huge difference. If you aren't immediately succeeding at meditation, that's completely natural. Rome wasn't built in a day, and your meditation practice won't be, either. The most important part of starting a meditation practice is that it serves you in the short- and long-term to promote personal growth and adaptation mechanisms. Meditation is not a substitution for therapy, but it can be very helpful if you're not able to access therapy. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a very frightening situation, and it's vital to take care of yourself.