by Tricia Warner, CSW-PIP
Clinical Therapist, PATH Program, LSS Behavioral Health Services, Sioux Falls
The COVID-19 virus has changed all of our lives. We are social distancing by staying six feet apart from each other. We are postponing holiday gatherings. We are visiting our older loved ones through windows. We are wearing masks to the grocery store.
I miss my clients as I sit in my office hoping they will successfully transfer over to Telehealth due to the need to be apart for safety. I have concern for them, as I cannot see them in person. I hope they are faring well.
As with grief and loss, there are many difficult firsts with COVID-19. We had our first Easter with COVID-19 and its restrictions. First graduations without in-person ceremonies are coming up. First babies are being born without getting to have visitors in the hospital.
Like we have to adjust to grief and loss, we have to adjust to COVID-19. It is difficult in that the restrictions can change every day. Are we going to have to stay home much longer? Are summer activities going to happen? Are people going to be recalled to their jobs? How long will it be until I can hug my mother again?
There are many questions and no good answers right now; however, we must adjust and accept the trial we are in at this time. It will pass, but we don’t know quite when. Things will get better, but we don’t know quite how. Still, without having the answers, we must learn to cope with COVID-19.
Using mindfulness for coping and self-care is a good strategy in that it provides calmness and a distraction. Mindfulness is a practice during which we focus on the present and utilize ways to relax and focus. We slow down and step away from our technology as well during mindfulness practice. By caring for ourselves, we can build resiliency during stressful times.
“…we think about mindfulness as the ability to be present in the current moment, with awareness of our thoughts, emotions and sensations in the body and what is happening in our environment. Another aspect of mindfulness is cultivating curiosity and openness with what is present in you and around you.” (Salgado, 2016)
Some mindfulness techniques to try are as follows:
- Take a deep breath.
- Notice the physical sensations in your body (air flowing in and out; any tight muscles, etc.).
- Notice any thoughts that come and refocus on your body’s sensations, over and over if needed.
- Stop after a few minutes.
- Notice how you breathe normally. Do your chest and abdomen rise and fall with each breath?
- Next, breathe deeply in and out and count this as 1. Continue deep breathing until you reach 10.
- Keeping social distancing in mind, plan to take a slow walk.
- Inhale deeply and exhale three times.
- Begin walking and just go where you wish to.
- Notice sensory things, such as the sight of the green grass, sound of a bird or the feel of the light wind on your face.
- Notice what is holding your attention, such as the sight of tree branches being rustled by a breeze.
- Take three deep breaths again. Note your feelings.
Mindfulness and Eating
- Sit down in front of your meal. Look at and smell it.
- Taste a bite of food. Chew slowly and savor this (direct experience).
- Think about the flavoring and the coloring of the food you had (memory).
- Taste another bite of food and really notice any feeling or sensation about the experience. Note the differences between the direct experience and the memory of eating the bites of food.
Mindfulness and Belonging Affirmations
- Find a quiet and preferably private place.
- Tell yourself three times: “I am good. I am loved. I have value.”
- Think of someone you love and say: “You are good. You are loved. You have value.”
- Next, consider people suffering due to COVID-19 and say: “You are good. You are loved. You have value.”
- Think of a way to offer kindness to someone later in the day.
Source: Real World Mindfulness for Beginners, Edited by Brenda Salgado (2016)