Mindfulness During a Pandemic
Our jobs pay the bills, occupy many of our waking hours and can even give our lives meaning. They can also be a source of significant stress at the best of times, and now is not the best of times. Dealing with COVID-19 as a business owner or worker is incredibly stressful and anxiety-provoking.
This week the county I live in (in the San Francisco Bay Area) we were all ready to open up hair salons, massage studios, and fitness centers. Two days before the slated opening on July 1, county health and government officials determined it wasn’t safe enough to do so. Of course, I and many others are grateful for the efforts to handle this deadly pandemic, but we are also very disappointed to have to go backwards.
Not only am I upset to have to reschedule long-needed haircuts and massage services, but I am also deeply worried for the people in those fields. They were already suffering from the long shutdown period. Some of them will lose their livelihoods.
Many of us were plunged further into grief and despair of ever seeing an end to this horrible situation, which puts us into a tizzy, unable to focus on next steps. This is where the practice of mindfulness can help.
Mindfulness is a concept that many of us hear about but may never have really practiced or delved into. It is a helpful life skill, no matter what your daily work is.
I was a stay-at-home mom with a 3 year-old and a newborn before I really started working intentionally on it. A mom friend who was a working artist talked about parenting as a creative endeavor and said all creative endeavors need reflective time. It was one of those aha! moments for me. I started giving myself time to relax and recharge so I could be a better mom as well as a happier person.
Now, many years later, as a business owner facing the daily rollercoaster of the COVID-19 pandemic, I find those hard-won mindfulness skills to be incredibly necessary. Here are two different exercises I use.
When you are experiencing a particularly stressful moment, a popular mindfulness exercise known as S.T.O.P. can be helpful.
- Stop. Just take a momentary pause, no matter what you’re doing.
- Take a breath. Feel the sensation of your own breathing, which brings you back to the present moment.
- Observe. Acknowledge what is happening, for good or bad, inside you or out. Just note it.
- Proceed. Having briefly checked in with the present moment, continue with whatever it was you were doing.
Another simple exercise, known as R.A.I.N., can help us stay in the present moment and not get caught up clinging to the experiences of others, or our own emotions.
- R: Recognize. Acknowledge what is happening, just noting it in a calm and accepting manner.
- A: Accept. Allow life to be just as it is, without trying to change it right away, and without wishing it were different somehow.
- I: Investigate. See how it feels, whether it is making you upset or happy, giving you pleasure or pain, just note it.
- N: Non-Identification. Realize that the sensations you are feeling make for a fleeting experience, one that will soon pass. It isn’t who you are.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” — Viktor Frankl
And, always, remember to breathe!