In New York City, and across the world, it has been widely reported that rates of mental illness have increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing guidelines that have been put in place since March. As families are being encouraged to stay inside and avoid social contact, reports of an increase in depression and anxiety show a need for appropriate mental health during these times. Mindfulness can play an important role in coping with social distancing and the external circumstances we find ourselves in.
From Isolation to Mindfulness
However, we are in quite a strange emergency. It is one where unless we are essential workers, it is a moral obligation for all of us to stay at home. In turn, many of us have been left alone, isolated with much more time on our hands than we are normally use to. For many we have simply been left alone with our minds and the ever-growing stream of information which the current state-of-affairs in the world seemingly necessitates.
Isolation is a sure-fire route to feelings of anxiety that may lead to loneliness, and depression. It might be that you are worried about the current state of finances, your own health, the well-being of your loved ones, or the future of civilization itself. We are living in extremely uncertain times and all of these worries are justified.
News, Media, and Anxiety
When we look at the news and our lives, we are truly confronted with suboptimal and forlorn circumstances. In this instance, the way in which you are using your attention isn’t just hurting you, but it might even hurt others. You might read an article that is misleading, but also terrifying, and spread it as a result of unmindful panic, which can lead others to panic. You might even reflexively lash out on your loved ones for going outside and potentially getting infected, leading them to feel unjustly attacked. It is all too easy to simply give all of your attention to the terrible situation the world finds itself in, and in turn, potentially become consumed with anxiety, stress, and depression. Given that many of us have been left alone with our minds, what matters most is how we decide to utilize them in terms of what we give our attention to.
Practicing Mindfulness During Covid-19
Practicing mindfulness can be seen as a tool whereby you have greater and more importantly, wiser control of how you use your attention. Often, when we have too little control over how we use our attention, we use it less wisely, which can gradually spiral into feelings of anxiety and depression. Mindfulness is a way to reset your mind before such a spiral can get out of hand. Instead of going down a rabbit hole of how badly things in the world are becoming, as a result of practicing mindfulness, you have a greater capability of simply shifting your focus to things you enjoy. Mindfulness isn’t deluding yourself to the reality of the situation either: it is simply a practice that allows you to become more capable of understanding that yes, the present moment in the world might feel overwhelming, but the present moment also has great things in it too. For example loved ones and hobbies. By being mindful, we direct attention to those positive things instead of those negative things, because they are truly important.
Tips For Mindfulness During Isolation
- Deep Breathing Exercises
- Focus on Being, rather then Doing
- Practice Patience
- Be Curious and Explore the Possibilities
- Accept, Trust, and Let Go
- Focus on Gratitude
In enabling you greater and wiser control of your attention, mindfulness makes it far less likely that you will become enamored with stress, anxiety, rumination, worry, and/or depression over the current pandemic.