Six weeks ago, many of us would have never guessed that the COVID-19 pandemic would be ruling most aspects of our lives. Our metropolitan areas more closely resemble ghost towns than they do bustling cities. The education of millions of students is being put on hold. Operations within major industries have come to a screeching halt. Thousands of people are sick. What a time to be alive!
Things are changing at a moment’s notice, and most of us are living more hour-by-hour than day-by-day. With most of our routines changing, and some of our lives being totally upended, it can be difficult to not get totally stressed out and overwhelmed. But fret not, friends! I’m here to help! Mindfulness has been a hot trend lately, and it is more relevant now than ever before. As a trained yoga instructor and avid meditation practitioner, I am delighted to offer you some mindfulness tips and tricks to keep your head from spinning and your eyes from shedding more tears than necessary.
I’m going to safely assume that you’re reading this from your phone or your computer, which I fully support, given that this is designed to make your day/week/foreseeable future better. But hear me out: my first, and arguably most important, piece of advice is to put it down, turn it off, and unplug yourself. For those of us working remotely and attending online classes, this can be tricky, but giving yourself a break from the constant digital barrage of information and stimuli is for your health. I promise. Whether we’re scrolling through Instagram or reading the news, being plugged in doesn’t help very much in the mindfulness department. Taking some time out of the day to put down devices and be present is only going to make you feel better.
If you’re still feeling the dread creeping in even with your phone safely out of reach, there are a few techniques you can try to keep the doom and gloom at bay. One of the most simple and accessible ways to practice mindfulness is to perform a basic human function that we are all very good at: breathing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, if you can’t get your mind to just cool it, if you’re worrying about anything at all, taking a few moments to just breathe is a great way to remedy whatever mental anguish you’re experiencing. Find yourself a place that you can sit comfortably, close your eyes, and just breathe. As you’re breathing, pay attention to each inhale and each exhale. Really focus your mind on nothing more than the breath. The best part about this exercise is that it can be done anywhere, at any time, for any reason. Whenever you need a moment of quiet or a moment to refocus, just listen to your breath and let your mind reset.
I know that for a lot of us, our entire life feels like it’s been reset right now. Routines are totally thrown off. Schedules have been cleared. If you’re anything like me, you’re currently wondering exactly what you’re supposed to be doing with yourself. The simple answer? Whatever feels right! The world we’ve lived in up to this point is constantly moving, and you’re expected to be moving with it. Society has slowed down, and you get to as well! Check in with yourself throughout the day. Acknowledge your feelings and your current state of being. Taking these moments is a great way to help you direct your energy and time where it will be the most effective.
Looking for a place to direct that energy to? If you’ve been thinking about trying out yoga, now is definitely the time to do so. Getting started is easy; all you need is a mat and your body and you’re all set! There are tons of online resources with easy videos that you can follow to get started, but if you’re more of a book person like myself, there is some great literature out there to get you going. One of my personal favorites is Light on Yoga by B.K.S Iynegar. This text is considered the Bible of modern yoga, and it has all the information you could need to begin your own practice. Another great resource to check out is Yoga Journal. Not only do they publish a monthly magazine, their website is packed with tools to help you find the type of yoga that will fit the best for you. Devoting time each day to practicing and studying yoga will help make it a habit, and it is, in my professional opinion, one of the best habits you can have. Yoga is the physical practice of being present, and it is a key component of your mindfulness toolbox. In my experience, the more I practice, the better I feel, and the more present I am able to be on and off the mat.
A wise man once said that the times, they are a-changin’, and right now that’s more true than ever before. In this time of uncertainty, we will all be better off if we keep ourselves as calm and collected as possible. These techniques will help you keep your composure through the madness, and hopefully be something that you can carry with you when we all return to regular life.