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Sunday, April 5, 2020

Self Care During the COVID-19 Crisis: How Mindfulness Can Reduce Stress

Self care during the COVID-19 crisis is essential to maintaining your health and sense of well-being so you can get through this pandemic and get back to your normal routines when this is over (see my article: The Mind-Body Connection: Calm the Body and Calm the MindCoping and Staying Calm During the COVID-19 CrisisEmpowering Yourself During the COVID-19 Crisis and Self Care: Feeling Entitled to Take Care of Yourself).  In this article I'm focusing specifically on slowing down in a mindful way to notice what's going on in your internal world as well as to pay attention to the environment around you.

Self Care During the COVID-19 Crisis: How Mindfulness Can Reduce Stress

Learning to Be Mindfully Aware
I was talking to a friend a few days ago, and she was telling me about a workshop she took.  She told me the teacher, who was doing the workshop on breathing exercises and Qigong, said that in centuries past, before monks were allowed to learn these exercises from their teachers, they had to spend many years sweeping the steps outside the temple.  We talked about how fortunate we are to be able to learn these exercises through workshops, videos and teaching each other without having to wait years.

Afterwards, the image of a monk sweeping the temple steps stayed with me.  I thought about the monk performing this task and how, beyond the mundane aspects of it, sweep served to help the monk focus and be more mindful of himself, his task and his environment.

Just as the monks derived a sense of well-being from living in a mindful way, practicing mindfulness can be a valuable practice to help you reduce stress too.

Feeling Isolated and Lonely
Many people feel trapped at home because of the requirement to practice physical distancing. But rather than zoning out in front of the TV or computer, you can use this time to slow down and be more mindful of your body, thoughts, emotions and behavior (see my articles: Coping With Loneliness and Social Isolation During the COVID-19 CrisisUndoing Aloneness: Staying Socially Connected Even Though You're Physically Disconnected and Common Reactions to the COVID-19 Crisis: Fear and Anxiety).

Tips For Slowing Down and Being Mindful
So, let's discuss how you can learn to slow down in simple mindful ways:
  • Pay Attention to Your Body
  • Breathe:
    • Most people breathe in a shallow way, which can be anxiety and stress producing. Become aware of your breathing and take full breaths.
    • Take time to do a simple breathing exercise.
  • Do One Thing at a Time
    • Juggling tasks, even if you think you're good at it, is stress producing.  
    • Rather than multi-tasking, do one thing at a time and pay attention to what you're doing so that you can do your task in a mindful way. 
  • Take Breaks During the Day
    • If it's too hard to find the time and space during the day, get up a few minutes early or take a few minutes before you go to sleep to spend some quiet time with yourself  (see my article: Learning to Relax: Going on an Internal Retreat).
  • Maintain Your Perspective
    • Although stressful events, like the COVID-19 crisis, might feel like they'll go on forever, there will be an end.
    • Remember the words, "This too shall pass." 
    • Also, remember other times when you were able to get through very difficult times.
    • Remember that you're probably more resilient than you think (see my article: Resilience: Tips on How to Cope).
  • Take it One Day, One Hour or One Minute at a Time: Try Not to Anticipate What Will Happen in the Future:
    •  Whether you need to take it one day at a time or one minute at a time, try not to project into the future. 
    • Worrying about the future will only make you anxious and deplete your energy (see my article: How to Stop Worrying). 
    • Focus on the here and now (see my article: Being in the Present Moment).
  • Unplug From Your Telephone and Social Media
    • When you're able to take a break, unplug from the TV, your computer, your phone and social media. 
    • Remaining connected all the time is stressful.  
    • You might feel like you have to stay on top of breaking news, but spending a lot of time watching or listening to the news can be stress and anxiety inducing.  
    • Limit how much time you spend plugged in to your cellphone, computer and social media.
  • Focus on What You're Grateful For Each Day
    • No matter how big a crisis you're going through, you can usually find something to be grateful for--even if it's something that you think is small.  
    • That doesn't mean that you ignore the negative things going on or that you don't prepare yourself and your family for what might come.  
    • It means that you also remember that good things are happening.  
    • By writing down at least three things that you're grateful for each day, not only do you feel gratitude and appreciation for the people and things you have in your life, you also train your mind to remember that, even in the darkest hour, there are almost always things to be grateful for (Keeping a Gratitude Journal).
Getting Help in Therapy
You're not alone.  Many people are feeling the psychological effects of the pandemic (see my article: Undoing Aloneness: The Client's and Therapist's Parallel Experience in a Crisis).

Everyone needs help at some point.  There are times when, despite your best efforts to reduce your stress and anxiety, you might need help from a mental health professional.

A licensed psychotherapist can help you to manage your stress and anxiety by helping you to develop tools and internal resources.

Many psychotherapists, including me, are doing online therapy (also known as teletherapy, telemental health and telehealth) durng the COVID-19 crisis (see my article: The Advantages of Online Therapy When You Can't See Your Therapist in Person).

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an epidemic of loneliness, and the social isolation and loneliness involved with practicing physical distancing are making those experiences even worse.

Rather than struggling on your own, take action and get the help you need sooner rather than later.  In the long run, it could make all the difference in your health and emotional well-being.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, Somatic Experiencing and Emotionally Focused therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or emal me.