We all have areas of life that sometimes feel overwhelming, over the top, and just plain too much to handle. Add in a global health crisis with homeschooling and/or back-to-school stress, back-to-work stress, hot spots, surges, and the unknowns of how coronavirus will impact cold/flu season and it can feel like we’re on the edge of a full-blown meltdown.
“Mindfulness is a wonderful tool for finding your way back center,” says Julie Potiker, author of “Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm in the Midst of Chaos. “Here are some quick tips you can use to tap back into calm.”
- Observe Yourself Without Judgment
When you feel the intensity of a particularly challenging emotion welling up inside of you, drop down into the emotion and see what’s there, not judging it but simply observing with curiosity. This is the heart of what mindfulness is all about. It takes practice, but soon you’ll be able to tune into your body and notice what’s happening inside you. Once you notice these feelings, you can work with them, giving yourself room to breathe and changing your relationship to them.
- Comfort Yourself with Soothing Touch
Placing your hand over your heart — or wherever you find it most comforting (i.e., your shoulder, your cheek) — taps into your body’s mammalian caregiver response and releases oxytocin and opiates in your brain to counteract cortisol, the stress hormone.
I put my hand on my heart probably twenty times a day! Whenever I hear an upsetting story, up goes my hand to my heart. Some of my mindfulness students find that placing a hand on their belly or cheek worked better for them. Try different spots out on yourself and see what works for you.
- Tell Yourself What You Need to Hear
What do you wish someone would say to you right now? What words would be most comforting or soothing to hear? Do you need to be told you are safe? Strong? Capable? Create a phrase and repeat it as a mantra to yourself. For example:
I am healthy and strong.
I am safe.
I will get through this.
Whatever unfolds, I will be there to meet it.
I am loved and appreciated.
Focus on the mantra until it sinks in and you begin to believe it. Don’t worry if it feels forced at first.
- Focus on Gratitude
One way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal. Answer two questions in your journal each night: What are you grateful for today? What did you enjoy today?
- Practice, Practice, Practice
When we are in the depths of emotional chaos, pausing to care for ourselves and our emotions can feel challenging. The more you practice, though, the easier it becomes, and the more quickly chaos will resolve into something more manageable. We can’t control what comes our way, but we can control how we respond to it.
Practice mindfulness every day, and you’ll begin to tap into it more readily when you need it most. Researchers report that it takes, on average, a variable 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.