We’re in this together.
Quarantine: inconvenience & opportunity
The entire human race is having a range of experiences in the throes of this pandemic. Some of us are finding ways to make the best of it while others are struggling to do so. Have you noticed how the state of mind of people around you or on social media isn’t always dependent on how stocked up they are on food, toilet paper, etc.? Fear and the unknown are exhausting some of us. We don’t all have the same level of trust in those we acknowledge as our leaders either. For those of us who’s story is one of real lack and fear of uncertainty, I want to ask you to practice mindfulness.
In order to get an idea of what this looks like I will contrast it with its opposite, which I call mind-bound. Our minds can sometimes be like time machines. Have you heard the expression, “you’re all up in your head”? When we climb the stairs out of our bodies which are always in the present moment with our pulse and breathing, and get all up in our time machines, we can travel into the past and find things like nostalgia and regret. Then we can travel into the future which has not happened yet and find feelings of anticipation and anxiety which are all subject to the influences of the past. Have you ever forgotten what you ate yesterday? Do you ever lose track of time or important possessions? These are examples of being mind-bound that we all experience sometimes in our lives. Depression, anxiety, frustration, compromised memory, and exhaustion are very common symptoms of being mind-bound and can be alleviated with mindfulness.
Mindfulness in contrast, is not using the mind to time travel, but in being fully conscious and aware in the present. This presence can not only relieve you of some of your own stress, but also to conserve your energy for the present moment and be a grounding example for others around us. When we watch the media for example closely, we find that no one has all the answers to questions we want answered. We may note some very different perspectives on social media, some of which seem selfish and insensitive, along with the beautiful examples of people being present with and for each other. To be clear, I don’t claim that practicing deepening our mindfulness will abolish all our fears. They will come, but we do not have to feed them. Fear serves us best for example when it plays a role in our immediate survival such as in self-defense or escaping a predator (fight or flight). It is not nearly as helpful among us in this time of staying home either alone or with our friends and kin.
Pragmatism & Mindfulness
Let us be practical and empathetic in our homes. With many of us home from work, many of us find ourselves with our families a lot more than we are used to. One way to do this is to balance some more communication between us with making sure to take some time for ourselves. For example, now and then we could simply take a moment to sit somewhere by ourselves such as the back yard, a bedroom, or even the bathroom. Be mindful of our pulse and breath even as many thoughts buzz in our minds. Don’t even try to quiet them. Just let them come and don’t feed them by giving them more attention. Instead return to minding our breath. Is it shallow and is there tightness in our chest? Take breaths just a little deeper and slower and your whole body and mind will follow this effort.
We have regular house meetings in our house. We have made it a rule that we do not let thoughts or even resentments and fears stay silent for too long. We need time to think things through, but we also get more things dealt with before they build up. Its also good to plan our routines together both for children and adults. Plan things like meetings and game nights. Our minds are going to keep going back to our questions and the unknown and it is helpful to return to the present moment together.
Do you miss going out to eat? Planning and cooking meals at home can be a great opportunity to be mindful or can be used as an excuse to hoard and over-indulge. I really want you to be aware of what you are doing in this time. If you are significantly less active, and have fears and feelings of lack and scarcity, its easy to over do it which can make us more tired and gain unwanted pounds. This in turn can result in anxiety and depression and can compromise the depth and quality of our sleep even more than it already may be. I won’t tell you what to eat because contrary to popular opinion, there is no one size fits all advice. But mindfulness is a universal fit.
The following are mindful concentrations that can help us maintain our health when staying at home, managing our stress, communicating, and ultimately improve the rest of our lives and those around us by example. Give these following concentrations some attention for the next few weeks and let me know how it effects your moods, depth of sleep, energy level, focus, and patience.
- Before eating or drinking anything in the morning, take in a tall glass of water. If you can find lemons, lemon water is good. Take a moment to sit, drink, and feel the water move down inside of you. Make this a daily habit for the rest of your life.
- Don’t hide your eating. This feeling of scarcity will pass. But when we are less conscious, some of us can catch ourselves binging on hoarded food like it’s the end of the world. That won’t serve your health if you are overdoing it. You won’t sleep as well. You will be more lethargic. Any anxieties you have in this state will just get worse. Make your meals opportunities for sharing.
- Sit down to eat without distractions. This means no tv or anxiety provoking conversations. Be present so that you can taste your food and feel it inside you. Save the charged conversations for house meetings.
- Only eat when your body is hungry. This is a difficult thing for many of us. If we are ever prone to overeat, it is because we are feeding some other feeling of lack that food cannot satiate. Sit with your hunger. Hold your hand over the lower part of your belly and ask your body if it is as hungry as your mouth or your mind.
- Eat mostly what your body wants. Of course, sometimes food is just wonderful for the pleasure of eating it and if you are getting good at #4 you still won’t overdo it. But let the majority of your food and drink be what nourishes your body. WARNING: Be very careful with alcohol if you are going to drink it. Alcohol causes us to become mind-bound. We are thus not fully present for ourselves and our family. The other thing to keep in mind about it is that the numbing escape that it affords us perhaps allowing us to relax a little and laugh and feel a break from our stress, lasts for a very small fraction of the total time that drinking affects us. We may be able to fall asleep, but we will often wake up in the wee hours of the night and do not always get the depth of sleep that we need to rejuvenate us.
- Practice stopping our eating when we feel about ¾ to full. This requires us to pay close attention because if we are distracted, we can miss our body’s ques that it is satiated.
- I know in some places you can still get takeout but lets take this time to develop our skills in the kitchen. Have fun with it and experiment. This is another opportunity to engage each other and our children in mindful nutrition.
- Savor your food. Enjoy it and don’t distract yourself from it. Being mindful in this way is not only pleasurable but it also allows us to refine our tastes and explore what can be both nourishing and delicious. If we just eat a lot of processed foods and take out during this time it can compromise our health and our moods.
- Meditate. There are many forms of meditation. I prefer sitting in silence. There is a misconception that it is difficult however it is really one of the easiest things we can do and comes quite naturally to us if we do not have expectations of it. Find a place where you can have minimal distraction. Turn off electronics or sit outside in your yard comfortably. Don’t try to quiet your thoughts. Just practice not feeding them with more thought. They will come and go like waves on a vast ocean. Pay attention to your breathing and keep coming back to it. After a while you will find that you can go for extended times with minimal thought. This has value comparable to sleeping and can help us to return to mindfulness throughout our day.
- Balance our intake of energy with hydration, rest, and activity. Its important to be active now and we may miss our active jobs or attending our gyms etc. Look for some new things to try on the internet if you have access like exercise routines, stretching and yoga etc.
We may be in this situation for a while, staying home with each other. We can expect some uncertainty no matter how closely we watch the media. If we can choose to be present for ourselves and each other, we can greatly minimize the stress this causes us. Let this be a time for caring and sharing with those close to us. And even if we live alone, let this be a time of introspection and self-care. Its so easy to get caught up in feeding our fears, going around and around with the same repeated thoughts and questions we don’t have answers to, and this can be extremely exhausting. Practice the ten steps I’ve listed for mindful nutrition. Also contemplate how they can be applied to other areas in your life.
Do you need someone to talk to about mindfulness and how to most gracefully get through this difficult time? I am offering remote consultations and am available to help coach you as we all do the best we know how, to endure this time and even thrive in it! Please email me for an appointment at email@example.com and make sure to stock up on compassion for each other. CHEERS.