Mindfulness for coping with anxiety and stress during the COVID19 pandemic.

Often, mindfulness is mistakenly thought of as something soft and fluffy, but, mindfulness is much more than this; it is most definitely a valuable resource to help us face difficulty and uncertainty in life.  

In this current time of global crisis every day we are faced with headlines bringing the latest frightening and distressing news of how COVID19 is causing death and chaos in the world. 

On a personal level, the pandemic is showing me so much about my own reactivity, and fear, in the face of what we are suddenly faced with.  I notice, for example, as I venture out for my weekly shop how careful I am, I see potential virus in places I never even noticed before.  The handle of the shopping trolley, every item I pick up, and everything I touch is a potential carrier of this deadly virus, I imagine it there, invisible, and just waiting for a host to invade.  I am aware of my hands in a completely novel way, they become contaminated objects, held differently, experienced with fear.  I remind myself not to touch my face, I imagine how the virus would get from my hands into my lungs.

I try to be mindful of the fear, otherwise it has the potential to overwhelm me.  The brain is hardwired to scan for danger, I notice I am now compelled by the daily news updates and newspaper headlines.  It is like the overload of news is catnip for the brain, something in me craves to know what is happening, despite knowing, that within the day it is all quite repetitive, and all has the potential to feed fear and uncertainty in me.

Mindfulness is what makes me hyper-aware of what I am experiencing, this is what enables me to take a step back, to practice coming back to simple presence.  Once I tune into my breath, and feel into my body, I already feel more grounded.  I can then choose to turn off the news reports and just take a few minutes to breathe, and create the space needed to see what is going to be more nourishing for me right now.  In other words, mindfulness takes me from a state of stress reactivity, tinged with fear and compulsion to engage with the media storm, to a state of awareness, and calm response, that enables me to take wise action and look after myself.

In these difficult times, I would encourage anyone feeling stressed and anxious, to use some of their newfound ‘lockdown time’  to explore how mindfulness might help.  There are lots of really good and free online resources offering meditation such as –

http://www.freemindfulness.org/download

The Oxford Centre for Mindfulness are offering weekly talks through Zoom every Wednesday evening throughout the pandemic –

https://oxfordmindfulness.org/online-sessions-podcasts/

Wishing all readers health and wellbeing at this difficult time.

Sally Otto

BSc(Hons),MBPsS,PGDip.CBT,PGDip.MBA

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Sally Otto Therapy Bedfordshire
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