Pandemic Fatigue Getting to You? Here’s How Mindfulness Can Help
A mindfulness coach takes us through steps of mindfulness practice that can help us tackle pandemic stress.
Setting up your workspace. Your work and home life melding into one, and you’re finding it hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. The groceries are running out, and so is the can of disinfectant spray.
Is it time for the kids to log in to their class? Will they be able to learn like this? What about their social skills? Did someone just cough? Do I have a sore throat? What were the other symptoms again? Time for another Zoom call. What if I lose my job? Will our business be able to recover?
Stop! Take a deep breath!
On any given day, our minds experience a barrage of different emotions.
Happiness, sadness, irritation, anger, contentment, calm, agitation, anxiety.
For most parts, they come in moderate amounts and we’re able to deal with them.
Now throw into the mix a global pandemic that brings a year-long lockdown that forces us to dismantle our lives as we knew it, and make sense of a ‘new normal’.
The result? We’re thrown into a loop of mostly negative emotions on overdrive.
The Pandemic and Our Mental State
“What the pandemic has done is brought a lot of uncertainty, whether it's related to work, or home, or the wellbeing of loved ones. Uncertainties like this lead to a fogginess in your thought process,” says Manish Behl, mindfulness coach and founder of Mindfulness India Summit & Mindful Science Centre, Mumbai
The biggest uncertainties during the pandemic have been in terms of health and job security.
“Our work and health are our two basic securities, and not knowing how either of them may fair even a few months down the road leads to us losing one of our most basic psychological safety nets.”Manish Behl, mindfulness coach and founder of Mindfulness India Summit & Mindful Science Centre, Mumbai
When one is faced with a barrage of overwhelmingly negative emotions that the pandemic has brought—fear, anxiety, uncertainty and pain, and sadness—it's natural to want to not confront them, to distract ourselves with our phones, work, or a stream of mind-numbing content.
This is where mindfulness comes in, and this is how it can help you cope with distresses of the times.
It All Starts With Taking a Deep Breath
What is mindfulness?
“Have you ever walked into a room and then realized you don’t know what you came for?” Manish Behl asks.
“This is because, most of the time we go through our day on autopilot. We’re either zoned out, or our minds are preoccupied with other thoughts.”
According to Behl, mindfulness is a big canvas. It's basically awareness. And this translates to how you relate to the events you are faced with.
The practice of mindfulness involves reconnecting with your own body and thoughts and it all starts with taking a deep breath and just observing yourself.
Observe the situation you’re in and the way in which your mind and body are reacting to it.
Respond, Not React
When you are in a heightened state of stress, your body is ready it react, he explains. Your mind is in a frenzy trying to think and do too much in too little time.
“What mindfulness does is slows your mind down, bringing it down from the ‘fight or flight’ mode to the ‘rest and digest’ mode. So that you’re able to process things with more clarity and in turn, respond to them appropriately instead of just reacting.
It increases your resilience and your ability to bounce back from stressful situations.
‘This Too Shall Pass’
When we talk about pandemic stress, the two main feelings at play here are fear and uncertainty.
Both of which have been amplified by news and media in the past year. To the point where the pandemonic overload of information has become pervasive, impinging on our thoughts and emotions every waking hour.
To keep from spiraling down with the onslaught of worrying, and often fear-mongering news, positive reinforcement and acknowledging that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy and unharmed can help. It helps to remind ourselves that this too is only temporary.
Mindfulness isn’t a quick fix solution to dealing with stress. ‘It's a gradual process,’ explains Behl.
Practice Makes Perfect
It is training your mind to change the way it perceives, processes, and responds to situations. So don’t be disheartened if you’re not able to get a hang of it right away. It takes time. It takes patience.
Setting aside some time specifically for mindfulness can help deliberately streamline your mind when you’re just starting off.
Where to Start
For someone who’s new to mindfulness, Manish Behl recommends the following tips to start off:
- Sit in silence for 10 minutes a day
meditating may be an all too daunting task for many. Maybe you’ve tried it before and failed. Behl says, it's alright.
Meditation is a great way to focus your mind and slow it down, but to start inculcating mindfulness, it’s enough to just sit in silence with yourself for 10 minutes every day, without any distractions.
- Mindful wake-up
Don’t just jump out of bed, he says, or start going through your phone as soon as you wake up. Give yourself a pause as soon as you wake up before you let the day and everything that lays ahead get to you.
- Don’t force yourself to be happy
Don’t chase happiness and force positivity all the time. Behl calls it ‘toxic positivity’.
Allow yourselves to feel what you feel, instead of trying to reject it. Acknowledge that the unpleasant feelings are a part of you as much as the pleasant ones are, and they’re all meant to be felt the same way.
- Mindful eating
“Breath before you eat”, he says. Take a moment to appreciate the food before you, and drink it in visually, before eating. Eat peacefully without any other distractions. Don’t eat in front of a screen.
Be mindful of what you’re putting into your body. Eat clean, healthy food that is easy to digest.
- Rest and recoup
Take multiple short breaks throughout the day to give yourself a chance to rest and recuperate. A pandemic is a time when both your body and your mind need ample rest.
Have a designated workspace and take short breaks every hour or so between work, stepping away to rest and recharge.
- Get more ‘green time’
Spend time with nature. Take a walk outdoors. Do some gardening. It not only helps you slow down and untangle your thoughts but also improves your memory
- Sweat it out
To get the endorphins flowing, it's essential to be active and exercise as regularly as possible.
- Let yourself be
Be considerate to yourself. Allow yourself to be less than perfect and make mistakes. Allow yourself to not have all the answers and not have maximum output.
FOMO, or the fear of missing out, can lead to many of us feeling like we aren’t doing enough in the lockdown, and we end up trying to do too much at once.
Slow down, and tell yourself it's only to not check a few boxes.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out
Everyone is going through this together, and now is when we need to be there for each other, more than ever.
So, if you're feeling too overwhelmed or aren’t able to cope, do not hesitate to reach out for help from your family, friends, or even a professional.
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