How can something like mindfulness meditation possibly help you during these difficult, unprecedented times?
If you live in metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire in Victoria then you are in no doubt back in lockdown after only being out for a few weeks. Lockdown 2.0. This time it feels extra lonely as we’re not only the only state in Australia but the only region in a state to be back in lockdown. And now that we’re all wearing masks, we miss the smiles of our friends and neighbours. Other countries are opening up. Some may argue a little too early, but that doesn’t help. They’re still opening up and we’re still in lockdown.
At least now we’re not being told to write that book or start that business. ‘Do what you always wanted to do but never had the time,’ they all said. I disagree. I believe it’s time to go slow and take it easy. Release the pressure to do something ‘productive’ with your time.
So how can mindfulness meditation help you? I thought I’d provide some tips and strategies that can help you get through this period. There is no system with these. Try all of them or try one of them. Whatever works for you at the time.
- Stop and breathe.
This may sound cliché, but it really does work. When you feel anxiety, anger or sadness rising, stop and take six breaths before speaking. Even when your emotions aren’t on this rise it’s a simple but effective technique to use on a regular basis. I use this technique regularly just to keep myself focussed and my feet on the ground.
Feel your breath as you breathe through your nose and out through your mouth. Do this at least six times. You can do this anytime. In the bathroom, shower, while cooking, cleaning or working at your home desk.
- Listen to your thoughts.
It may seem counter-intuitive when you’re having a lot of negative thoughts, but I am suggesting that you do listen to your thoughts. Firstly, take note of what you are thinking. Is it real? Is it something you can change? If yes, what can you do to make the situation better and then go about taking the necessary steps? If not, then can you consider accepting the reality? Maybe you need to seek extra support, be it medical or therapy or simply talking to a friend. Secondly, be aware of the emotions that these thoughts create. Are you becoming increasingly anxious, angry or sad? Does it make any difference if you continue feeling this way? I use this technique on a regular basis whenever I feel my emotions rising. I stop and check into my thoughts and in many cases I notice I’m ruminating on things that haven’t happened. However, I’m thinking about them as if they have happened and subsequently this is causing my emotions to escalate. Our minds can have a mind of their own sometimes.
Of course this approach isn’t going to be easy. It will possibly be quite challenging. Some life situations are not going to get better because you take six breaths or become aware of your thoughts. The aim of this technique is to be aware of what’s real and what isn’t and what you can change, and lastly what needs to be accepted.
- Do this every day.
As with all meditations you need to practice every day, even if it’s just for 30 seconds. The quality doesn’t matter. The daily practice is what is important until it becomes second nature.
Your thoughts or your ego will stop you from practicing every day. Your mind will tell you that you don’t have time or this is stupid and it isn’t working or you have to attend to some other task first. This is the best time to practise this technique. When the ego is working hard to stop you, this is the time to stop and do it. Take 30 seconds and breathe and take stock of your thoughts.
- Repeat a positive affirmation.
Now I am not one to say that you should turn a negative into a positive. You have every right to feel and experience whatever you feel when something negative is happening in our lives. You don’t have to minimise the situation. But a regular repetition of a positive affirmation can help get you through a difficult and stressful period. And it just needs to be simple. When I’m feeling particularly vulnerable, I repeat to myself, ‘I am ok,’ or, ‘I am safe.’ Find a simply phrase that suits you and repeat it over and over.
Lastly, take it one day at a time. Yes, we say this all the time but it is important to take note of. Besides, it works. No matter what is going on in your life, all you can do is take it one day at a time. We don’t know what the future holds and the past is gone. Right here and right now is all we have. And remember, you are enough. You are a human being with flaws who cannot solve everything or get everything done, but you are enough.