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Mindfulness in the time of Covid-19

written by Julia Korenman, M.D.
on Sunday, 3rd May ,2020

Many of my friends do yoga or meditation, but I have not managed to do either of those. I have read some books about mindfulness and have tried to incorporate some of those practices with varying levels of success.  I wish to improve because mindfulness has been shown to be helpful to manage anxiety and depression. Trying to stay safe and healthy during this pandemic has forced me to be more mindful and has shown where I am still struggling.

One definition of mindfulness is having your mind and your body be in the same place. A classic example of not being mindful is driving to work and having no idea of how you have gotten there as your mind has been on the day’s schedule, what to make for dinner, that sick patient that needs to be called, etc.  

Current attempts to keep my mind on what I am doing go something like this.  I need to wash my hands, soap all over and start to count slowly to 20, when is that conference call? Do we have enough onions for that recipe? Don’t forget to call Mom. Oh no, did I count long enough? I start all over, chastise myself for losing track, as I am wasting soap!

I have much more success when it comes to toilet paper— I count out those squares and avoid using it to blow my nose, because I’ve spent too much time foraging for it!  My son even sent me toilet paper as a gift! I need to “spend” it wisely.

Walking outside now requires alertness and vigilance—if someone is walking my way, I need to move over to keep my distance.  However necessary this type of mindfulness is, it is not relaxing and doesn’t lessen my anxiety.

There are many mindfulness apps and resources on line and I highly recommend them for those who are interested.  However, I don’t find extra computer time relaxing, so if you are like me, I thought I would share a couple of simple exercises that ground me.

  • If you are doing something and you get caught up in worrying or anxiety or what needs to be done next, stop. Remember where you are. “I am washing the dishes, my hands are wet, the soap smells sweet, my feet are planted on the floor, my back aches a little.”
  • Walking meditation, one of my favorites. I walk early in the morning and love doing it this time of year because it is just getting light when I walk. However, I can miss my walk altogether if I am not careful because I can get caught up in thinking about my day. I was taught 2 techniques to avoid this. One is to concentrate on the 5 senses: what do I see? What do I hear? What do I feel? What do I smell? What do I taste? Whenever my mind wanders off, I try to bring it gently back to that. The other trick is to do a toe to head check, starting with feeling my feet striding on the ground, then my knees bending, my hips flexing, etc.. When I manage to do those things, I start my day off more peacefully.

I recommend the book “ Mindfulness an Eight-week plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World “by Mark Williams and Danny Penman for more suggestions.

Being mindful of our behaviors will help keep us and our loved ones safe during this pandemic and practicing mindfulness may help us cope with uncertainty and anxiety.

Tags: mindfulness, covid

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