These are uncertain times as the world navigates through what most would consider unthinkable in their lifetimes. The COVID-19 virus has upended life. With the amount of information flooding in from different sources, it’s hard not to become overwhelmed. You are not alone if you feel that way—fear, anxiety, and worry have become constant companions throughout this ordeal.
Your feelings are valid; it doesn’t do any good to ignore your emotions. What is happening in the world is monumental and life may never be the same. You may be feeling a sense of loss and with that comes grief. Your experience is unique; it’s important to honor where you’re at in the process and not compare your reactions and emotions to those of others.
It’s easy to become affected by the negativity and doubt saturating the news and social media. Now more than ever it’s important to find your anchor within, something to keep you grounded so that you can navigate this storm with resilience rather than be negatively influenced by it.
A good place to start is by doing a mental detox of anything that isn’t serving you. It’s hard to find your anchor or peace within if there are toxic thoughts creating a barrier to experiencing life from a higher perspective or truth. You might not be able to control what’s happening in the world but you can control how you respond. Use this precious time to do a bit of self-exploration by using the following tools to help clear your mind and reconnect you to that part of yourself that is the calm amid the storm.
1. STOP: Stop. Take a Breath. Observe. Proceed.
STOP is a great pattern breaker that helps you redirect the flow of thoughts (which are full of energy and information) and influence how you are going to respond. It’s a mindfulness practice that has you pause, take in what’s happening, and then act with more awareness and wisdom.
Here are the four simple steps:
- S: Stop what you are doing.
- T: Take three deep breaths and pause.
- O: Observe what is happening in your mind and body. You might feel some tightness. Notice the impulses you have to react.
- P: Proceed with mindful action, choice, and decision as a result of taking the mindful pause.
Where thoughts go, energy flows. By putting the STOP formula into practice, you begin to exert choice over how and why you engage with people and experiences.
2. Take a News and Social Media Break
There are many outside energies vying for your attention; it makes it hard to concentrate and focus on more meaningful activities. Choose a day, three days, or a week where you will disengage with the news and social media outlets. If this seems unlikely then do the opposite—choose a time for 15 minutes or half-hour each day where you will check-in. Be sure to time yourself.
This is the time to do what’s best for you in order to function optimally. When mental health is declining, so is your physical well-being. Here are some benefits of taking a news and social media break.
- Be aware of thoughts and feelings.
- Live more in the present moment.
- Move more. (Being online or watching television is sedentary. It’s important to get up and move as much as possible.)
- Experience nature.
- Connect with family.
- Try new activities.
- Sleep better.
3. Release Thoughts and Emotions
A helpful life skill is knowing how to release negative thoughts and emotions rather than keeping them within where they can fester and cause complications over time. It is well documented that chronic stress is linked to a number of health problems. While it’s perfectly normal to be stressed at this time, find ways to cope that are health-promoting such as the following:
- Listen to music
- Play an instrument
- Have a dance session
- Take up some form of art
- Talk with someone
- Learn to meditate
4. Be of Service
During times of crisis, the best of humanity comes out. There is a greater sense of connection and belonging to something bigger when contributing to the whole. When you stop and ask yourself, “How can I help,” or, “How can I be of service,” you create a new internal dialogue that leads to alternative and expanded ways of thinking and responding.
If this option calls to you, do some research and see what the needs are in your community. Or, you can come up with something of your own that uses your unique gifts and talents. There is a part for everyone to play.
5. Take a Mindfulness Nature Walk
Mother Nature has the profound impact of dissolving negative thoughts and replacing them with a sense of expansion and possibilities. If you can do so safely, get out and take a mindful walk by silently taking in the natural world around you. For example, feel the air on your skin, smell the vegetation, listen to the birds singing, and gaze upon the mountains in the distance. As you walk, feel the ground beneath you rise to support you with every step. Take in deep breaths, be grateful for life-giving oxygen. Here are some of the benefits of mindful walking:
- Get out of your head
- Connect more deeply with the environment
- Slow down and be present
Try to get out and walk once a day for some nature therapy.
You are in the same boat with friends and strangers as you wait to see what lies ahead. There is much uncertainty in the air. In the end, it’s the little things you do each day that will culminate in strengthening the anchor within and creating more peace of mind. You will get through this.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; it does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.