If you’ve been feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed in the last few months, you’re not alone. The coronavirus epidemic has had a massive impact on our daily lives and it’s any wonder we’re able to get out of bed and dressed in the morning at all. (If you did, great job!)
While we may not be able to control how long the situation lasts or when our lives will return to normal, we can take steps to protect our own mental wellbeing. Take a break from social media and the news, and use some simple mindfulness exercises to stay grounded in the here and now, rather than sending your thoughts and worries spinning all over the globe.
We talked to Cassie Kang, a Mindfulness Coach who shared some quick and easy tips for staying centered and how to manage stress and anxiety during difficult moments.
Our respiratory system is the only automatic system in our body that we can bring under conscious control, and this can be a powerful tool to calm yourself down during tough times. “We tend to forget to breathe deeply especially when we feel stressed and anxious,” says Kang. “Simply bringing your attention to the fact that you are breathing in this very moment helps a lot. Simply focusing on the sensation of your breath coming in and out can calm your mind down in no time.”
Make a mindfulness “first-aid kit”
Kang suggests employing the five senses to make an emergency kit for moments that you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed – similar to methods that are utilized to treat panic attacks. “This is very easy to prepare, you could get a picture that was taken at a great moment in time (for the eyes), a favorite scent or perfume (for the nose), perhaps a teddy bear that has the softest texture (for touch), maybe something really tasty and makes you very happy (for taste), and lastly, something your for your ears – maybe a piece of music that brings back memories of a special happy time.”
Use positive affirmations
Take some inspiration from Gloria “I Will Survive” Gaynor, and create your own personal positive affirmation. “Any positive affirmation that speaks to you works,” says Kang. “My favorite is ‘I am strong and I can handle anything that comes my way’ and ‘I am enough.’” Write it down on a bit of paper or as a note on your phone (or even save it as your screen background), keep it nearby, and consult it any time you need some support.
Express your feelings mindfully
Many of us have a tendency to push away negative feelings like anxiety and unhappiness but Kang says that it is important allow these feelings to run their course. “Feelings and emotions should not be repressed. I recommend expressing your feelings mindfully during challenging times, for example by journaling. Just writing down whatever comes to your mind in the moment without any judgment can be a very powerfully healing exercise.”
Stay connected with loved ones
Making and maintaining a support system during this time is essential. “Try to stay connected with friends and family even if you are not able to meet in person; use technology, be creative, and have fun.” As the coronavirus spreads around the world, you may also find yourself providing much-needed support to family and friends who are only now beginning to face some of the challenges that we have been dealing with for several weeks here in Beijing. Lean on one another, and don’t hesitate to ask for help.