We're in an unprecedented time due to the global pandemic we are all facing. All around the world, we find ourselves asked to stay home and self-isolate.
Whether we are exhibiting symptoms of any type of sickness or not, there is a social responsibility to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and stay home.
For many of us, self-isolating could bring up painful feelings of aloneness or, at least, uncomfortable boredom. With everything going on, we may also find ourselves feeling fear and worry in the uncertainty of what is to come.
However, with this situation comes an unexpected opportunity to turn inward. This can be scary if our internal world is filled with challenging or uncomfortable emotions.
If you find yourself turning away from your regular routine of meditation and yoga, please know that you are not alone. It is natural to want to distract yourself in times of uncertainty like these.
The challenge we face (for myself included) is to use this inward time to continue to develop our practices. We can use yoga and meditation to survive this period of self-isolation.
How Yoga and Meditation Can Help
Sitting in meditation for an extended period of time or participating in yoga class are great ways to come back into the present moment and release anxiety or worry.
However, sometimes in uncertain times like these, it can be even more challenging to find that internal peace or stillness. In a recent “The Trauma Therapist” podcast , Dr. Bruce Perry talks about “dosing.” He recommends "dosing" ourselves with activities that can calm our nervous systems and regulate our emotions.
This means that instead of meditating or practicing yoga for say 30 minutes or an hour once a day, like you may have done before, it could be more useful to "dose" yourself throughout the day.
Get up and practice five minutes of yoga every one to two hours. Take time to meditate and become aware of your breath for a minute every hour.
Give yourself regular doses of these soothing practices to keep yourself regulated throughout the day.
Tools to Combat Anxiety:
1. Soothe yourself preventatively.
This takes a certain level of self-awareness and insight that can be gained through frequent meditation practice. Learn to notice signals that you are becoming anxious or overwhelmed.
This could be a rising heart rate, clenching of the jaw or other muscles, shallow breathing or any other number of physiological cues. It could also be an increase of thoughts based around fear or the uncertainty of the future.
When you can notice the warning signs before you lose yourself in them, you can take a pause and do your five minutes of yoga or one minute of intentional deep breathing.
2. Dedicate specific times of your day to check the news or social media and commit to these boundaries.
We are being inundated with information - not all of which is helpful or even true. If it is important to you to stay updated, that's okay.
Staying glued to the news or your social media feed for updates is guaranteed to increase your anxiety. This tool is paramount in creating space for stillness and healthy detachment.
3. Watch online yoga classes and guided meditations.
One pleasant result of this time of self-isolation is that it is creating endless online content - much of it totally free. If you have struggled with developing a solid home practice, then it is a good time to start.
Having online content to follow along with can be so helpful. Find a teacher or studio who is uploading regular classes and follow along. Create a yoga studio or meditation sanctuary in your own home.
If you need help finding some good online classes, check out: Best Sites for Online Yoga Classes to Deepen Your Practice
4. Practice acceptance.
We don't know for sure what's going to happen for sure. This isn't really up for debate - things are changing rapidly. Uncertainty and anxiety go hand in hand.
We can learn to practice acceptance to combat this feeling. We can accept that we don't know. We can accept that we can't know.
We can accept that we're scared, angry, happy, relieved, guilty or any other feeling. If you are struggling with accepting these feelings, you can access online counselling. Get a therapist that you can connect with.
I offer online psychotherapy at mbltherapy.com and so do hundreds of other licensed and trained therapists all over the world. I am happy to help people connect with an online therapist that is able to work with them.
Mindfulness Tips to Help Us All Stay Sane
1. Let yourself feel feelings.
There's a lot of fear present. Even if you are not feeling fearful, the fear around us is palpable. A vast array of feelings other than fear will likely be triggered as well.
Some may confuse you. I'm here to tell you THAT's OKAY!
Let yourself feel these feelings. Feel where they arise in your body. Feel them as they shift, intensify, or dissipate. Feeling your feelings is different than thinking your feelings, and the invitation here is to focus on sensation rather than intellectual judgments.
In Vipassana meditation, it is taught to observe sensation without aversion or craving. From this, we can learn to appreciate the constantly changing nature of our human experience - anicca - the law of impermanence.
Each feeling will change. Each thought will change. The state of our world, will change.
2. Practice mindfulness outside.
If you can safely practice self-isolating and get outside, please do it! Listen to the sounds of the world.
In my busy neighbourhood, I hear more birds and silence than ever before. Sit in the stillness that is present and absorb it.
3. Watch your breath.
Practice Dirgha Pranayama - the three part full yogic breath - as often as possible. This will calm your nervous system and bring you back into the present moment.
Allowing ourselves to stay in a pattern of shallow breathing not only keeps us anxious but it does no favors for our immune system either! Stay with the breath - stay healthy and present.
4. Notice when you feel more peaceful.
Be mindful of when you feel at ease - and do more of that. Notice your physiological and mental cues throughout your day.
Everyone on earth has felt a shift in their regular routine and you may find yourself needing different things than usual to feel peaceful or joyful.
Embrace joy because we all deserve to feel it - and without it, we will struggle more than we need to.
Be it a favourite food, tv show, exercise routine, art, music, or any other activity that allows you to focus on something enjoyable - let yourself have some happy moments.
Be self-compassionate and gentle with yourself - especially if you find yourself doing things that you would normally judge yourself for (ie. binge watching an entire season on Netflix!).
The invitation here is not to throw caution to the wind and indulge yourself without regard. Instead, the invitation is to notice what brings ease and give yourself healthy doses of those things, without judgment.
5. Notice when you feel isolated and reach out (from a distance, of course!).
Social distancing does not need to mean we are isolated. Physical distancing is a better way of putting it, and instead we can practice "distance socializing." Call, text, or videochat with your people more than you usually would - especially if you feel isolated or alone.
While self-isolation is a great opportunity to go inward, if you are noticing that your challenging emotions are causing significant distress than this could be a sign that you are too isolated.
We are social beings and we need human connection. Reach out!
Stay safe and healthy. We will get through this - separately - but together.