It's scary. The Coronavirus is officially a pandemic. Everyday there are reports of more cases of the coronavirus spreading in more countries, and more people dying. Schools are closing, events are being cancelled and travel plans are being suspended.
Even how we communicate with others has changed. I was at the doctor's office the other day with my mom, and when I attempted to shake the doctor's hand, she apologetically pulled away and greeted us with a wave. No touching!
I, myself, am being extra cautious, and washing my hands more often, longer (20 seconds) and making sure I use a paper towel in public restrooms to flush, turn on faucets and open doors. (I did this before COVID-19, but no slacking at all!)
Yes, we must take precautions. This is serious stuff. But how do we respond sensibly and not react with panic. How can we take precautions and still maintain our sanity? How can we become the solution and not add to the problem?
The answer can be found in one word - mindfulness. A daily mindfulness practice can help you keep your feet on the ground while the world around you feels out of control.
Mindfulness is about being present - not in the future or the past. We do this through practices such as Yoga, conscious breathing and meditation. These practices help us observe our feelings or sensations in our bodies that are happening in the present moment without judgment. When we are aware of what is happening to us in the present moment and accept it, we can let it go. It no longer owns us. We own it.
Quick Mindful Fix
So, for the short term, when you feel afraid, anxious or even panicked about the coronavirus, try this S.T.O.P. Moment approach developed by Elisha Goldstein:
S = Stop what you're doing
T = Take 3 mindful deep breaths (pay attention to your breath)
O = Observe your emotions and body response (name it to tame it!)
P = Proceed with something that will support you (i.e., call a friend,)
Mindfulness Takes Practice
For mindfulness to work in the long-term, it takes practice. There are plenty of studies showing the benefits of mindfulness including one recent study out of Harvard Medical School. Results show that activity in the emotional center of our brain, the amygdala, was less active in subjects who participated in a two month meditation training. The amazing thing is that brain imaging during the study was taken not when they were meditating, but when they were not meditating! That means that the effects of mindful meditation lasts way beyond the actual practice.
Long Term Fix
If you want to remain calm in the storm of this coronavirus outbreak as well as for the long term, checkout the guided meditation below to get you started. Begun is half done!
Also, if you work with youth, you can use these instructions with your class at the beginning of the day or whenever they are feeling stressed. They, too, are feeling the fears generated by social media, the news, their friends and parents. But, remember, it starts with you!