The coronavirus pandemic has caused pandemonium throughout the globe. People are on edge. Anxious. Worried. Here are three ways mindfulness can help you navigate this storm.
1. Keep asking yourself this question: “How am I doing in this exact moment?”
The fundamental problem that the coronavirus is causing is fear. Think about it. If you had zero fear about the coronavirus you would be absolutely fine. It is fear that is paralyzing so many across the planet.
How does fear manifest? It’s all about the future.
“What if I get the coronavirus and die?”
“What if the stock market never comes back and I don’t have enough money for retirement?”
“What if my kids’ school shuts down? I have to work and have no way of caring for them during the day.”
Future, future, future. It’s where our worrywart minds always want to go during times of stress.
Well, try this. Several times throughout your day, particularly when you’re at peak anxiety, stop whatever you’re doing and ask yourself, “How am I doing in this exact moment?”
I’m telling you, almost every time you ask this question the honest answer will be “I’m fine.” Let’s say you’re in your car on the way to picking up your kid. What is wrong right then? Nothing. You’re driving. Maybe listening to music. That’s it.
I’ve been using this technique for years during times of high stress and it really helps to calm me down. It inserts me into the present moment and quiets my catastrophizing mind.
2. Use your smartphone to remind you to breathe deeply.
I wrote a piece recently about this very topic. The tip is this: Every time you enter your security code to get on your smartphone use it as a reminder to take one long, deep breath. Every time. I don’t care if you need to get onto your phone ten times in ten minutes. Do it. And if you’re really anxious, take three deep breaths each time. Taken together, these deep breaths throughout your day will help calm your nervous system.
3. Be present with your anxious feelings.
When most people feel anxious they do the same, unhealthy thing — they resist the anxious feelings. It’s not even a conscious decision. People just do it. Their involuntary thought process is, “Ahh! I’m anxious. I hate this feeling! Go away, damn it!” All this does is prolong and exacerbate the situation.
The healthiest way to deal with persistent anxious feelings is to do the opposite of resisting them and, instead, go inside and place attention on exactly how you feel in that moment. Don’t try to get rid of the feeling or ruminate about how this coronavirus situation is going to ruin you.
No. Go inside and feel the anxiety. Be present with it. Observe it. Acknowledge its existence.
And just keep saying to yourself, “Okay. This coronavirus thing has me feeling like absolute crap right now, in this very moment.” And leave it at that. Don’t let it go beyond how you feel in that moment.
Because how you feel in that moment is the only thing that exists. Everything else is just your egoic, fearful mind creating thoughts that will make you miserable and prolong your agony. You’ll be surprised how effective this can be in getting anxious feelings to pass through you.
We live on a speck of dust
Finally, this coronavirus hysteria seems to have had the effect of making people take life more uber-seriously than usual. So to try and calm people down a bit, I’m going to leave you with this photo.
Taken from Voyager 1 at a distance of 3.7 billion miles, the photo is the most distant image of Earth ever taken. Can you see little old earth? It’s the tiny dot about half way down and to the right, in the middle of the brown vertical band (the bands are the result of sunlight reflecting off the camera).
My point? In the midst of all the coronavirus hysteria, try to remember that we are living on a tiny rock that is spinning around in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
So take a deep breath. Be present with what’s going on right now. And remember the words of the great Persian poet Rumi: “This too shall pass.”