It’s safe to say that the pandemic has affected every American in some way at this point. For some Americans this means the worst- coming down with COVID-19, unemployment, severe isolation from family, and much more.
For others, we still are not exactly sure yet. We’re patiently waiting. Anxiety is welling inside of us as we wonder what the full effect will be by the time this is all over, and just how long we will have to wait it out.
I’m lucky to say that I am on the more fortunate side of this. It has been hard temporarily leaving work and losing my sources of income, but at my age I’m still living with my family so this has not hit me as hard as it has for people on their own. I’m grateful to have a support system getting me through this. However, it has still been difficult to be out of work and separated from the people I care about. Like many people, I’ve been experiencing a roller coaster of emotions because of it.
What I and many others are especially concerned of is how this will effect our mental health.
In response to this, I have been focusing more on mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a popular practice discussed by many psychologists and counselors today. To summarize, it encourages people to focus on the present moment, rather than getting caught up in thinking of the past or future. To me this has been a hugely beneficial practice during self isolation, as my anxiety has skyrocketed lately.
(I highly recommend listening to “The Psychology Podcast” with Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman as a simple way to learn more about this and psychology in general. I’ve been tuning in to an episode almost every day while I go on walks. The speakers on this show always have insightful advice on how to exercise mindfulness into your everyday life as well as other healthy ways to cope.)
So, what does it mean to practice mindfulness during quarantine?
First and foremost, I’ve been reminding myself of this: I can’t control or see into the future; but I can do my best to stay healthy, productive, and most importantly sane while I’m stuck at home. During social isolation it is especially important to learn how to manage negative thought patterns.
A huge reason many of us are experiencing increased anxiety right now is because how out of control we feel. Some of us are feeling out of control financially, over our health, over the safety of our loved ones, and our overall well-being during these times. For me, the root of my anxiety is grounded in my financial state and feeling uncertain of how long this will all last. I’ve been overwhelmed with guilt for feeling as though I’m not doing enough. By practicing mindfulness, however, I’ve managed to get some of that sense of control back.
One of the ways I have been maintaining this feeling of control is by focusing on my physical health through exercise and pushing myself every day. Exercise has always been one of the ways I manage stress. Exercise helps people get through stress (and the anxiety that comes with it) in many ways, from producing mood-boosting endorphins and helping with sleep. Knowing that I have complete control over my health during these times motivates me to get up and out of bed, and has given me something to aim at. Even if you aren’t feeling up to working out, I highly recommend walking or spending some time outdoors. Going on even a light walk has proven to be good for the mind, too.
Another way I have been trying to maintain this sense of control is by keeping a loose routine. Being at home has definitely given me more room to do what I want, when I feel like it, but in excess this is not a good thing. It can lead to unhealthy habits and sleep patterns that will only make matters worse. I have not been keeping a rigorous schedule, but have been holding myself accountable to keep some of the structure I had while going to school and work. For me this means making time for school work, my health, talking with friends, and creating time for the things I enjoy each day.
Overall, through mindfulness I have been able to keep a positive outlook on all of this. Each day I remind myself to simply live in the moment and focus on what I can do under isolation, instead of all of the things I can not. Rather than dwelling on all of the negative effects that this pandemic has had or might have in the near future, I’m focusing on what I can do each day. Instead of letting the time slip away I’m trying my best to use this time to improve myself and hopefully learn something new each day.
For me, this means getting back into art. I’ve been trying my hand at painting and sketching again- something that I never really had time to in between work and school. I’ve also been discovering new music and movies to keep me entertained during my down time.
I’ve noticed that the more I practice mindfulness and keeping a balanced perspective, the more I have been able to subside all of the negative emotions and anxiety. And I hope anyone reading knows that they can do the same; it is never out of your control.
It’s crucial to remember that in times like these, it is more important than ever to check in on ourselves and others around us, and to keep our heads up. No one is alone in this; we are all experiencing this new world together and are here to support one another.
I hope everyone is doing well by staying healthy and safe (indoors). Thank you for reading and please share your thoughts below, we are in this together.