Mindfulness May Help Ease Pandemic Stress

Everyone is living in a stressful situation right now. There is a global pandemic, humanitarian crisis, worries about financial security and divisive politics. It’s all mounting up to a point where many of us feel like we’re ready to blow with anxieties. It’s ordinary and universal. Even if we feel relatively safe, we’re worried about our families and communities. One step to getting through this might be mindfulness.

Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism but now is used by schools, hospitals, the armed forces and more places to help people manage stress and depression and aid well-being. It’s free and something you can learn at your own speed. If you hate it, there is actually an app that was designed for people who think it’s silly or dislike meditation.

Mindfulness increases your level of empathy and compassion. Right now, it’s very easy to start thinking about just ourselves and our worries. But, this really is a problem we’re all facing, and some people have it much worse than others. We’re not suggesting that anyone with food and shelter in a safe area should feel guilty. Just that we should all feel incredible gratitude to essential workers who are helping us carry on and for neighbors or caregivers who are looking out for us. Those feelings can actually boost your own morale, like counting your blessings.

Additionally, mindfulness makes us feel less lonely as it makes you feel more connected to your own body and space. It can help you “become your own best friend” when your regular company is separated from you. It can also cut down on shopping urges. Many of us have been turning to retail therapy while stuck at home. Amazon makes it so darn easy to shop. Shopping gives you a zap of “feel good” chemicals that can boost your mood. But, when you practice mindfulness and appreciate your life, home and blessings, you’re less likely to buy things you don’t need online.

It can be as simple as taking a walk and really looking around. Or focusing on your first cup of coffee and enjoying the flavor without reading your phone. See the sunrise and take a breath. Or allowing yourself to enjoy a daydream without feeling guilty. One of the most significant parts of mindfulness is awareness and acceptance. That means recognizing your situation and accepting it. For instance, that can mean acknowledging that you are anxious and recognizing that it is reasonable and not something wrong with you. You shouldn’t dwell on your stress, but reminding yourself that it’s okay to be stressed, or lonely, can help you move on from the feeling. Right now, you can acknowledge that this situation, this moment, is hard. But it will pass. Things will go back to normal. We have to wait it out. And not everything is terrible: coffee still tastes great; the sunrise is beautiful.

If you can get yourself in the moment, you can sometimes begin to relax that stress,” said Lexie Wolf, owner of Yoga Garden Pittsboro, who teaches mindfulness classes. “And if you’re so anxious and stressed that your breath is actually elevated or fast, just mindfully flowing that breath, taking deep inhales and exhales, can get you to begin to relax.”

Massachusetts General Hospital has made a great list of apps and resources for people who want to learn more about mindfulness. While things are stressful, take time to recognize that you are okay, and appreciate what you have, it can help you find a balance and feel at ease.

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