Practicing Mindfulness in Quarantine

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.

Photo by Arthur Brognoli on Pexels.com

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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.

Learning to Trust Yourself

From a young age we become accustomed to chasing recognition and approval- whether that may be from our classmates or our teachers. It’s not always easy to catch this habit. We rely on others in many forms. Sometimes, it’s asking someone whether or not you should post a photo. Other times it’s something much more serious, such as making a major career change. It happens slowly but surely, and soon enough we rely on the advice of others more than we trust ourselves. In the worst cases, can not even distinguish our true desires with our need to please others.

As comforting as it may be to always take the advice of others, there is a point where we must draw the line. Where we must take actions for ourselves and only ourselves; to make decisions without seeking validation from others. How does this all come back to trusting ourselves? When we make a habit of looking towards others for the green light we begin to feel as though our decisions must always be cleared by others.

Often times we ask our friends what we should wear to an event, or if we should apply to a job, or if they think we are making the right choice… the list goes on and on. Sometimes we need advice to assist us, go provide us with a solution, and sometimes advice from the people we trust can save our lives. This advice can be beneficial and lead us down great paths. Other times, though, we find ourselves asking advice because we want to hear someone to say that we are making the right decision. Although deep down we know that we want to make the choice that we are asking advice on. We are simply seeking validation.

The major problem with constantly seeking the opinions of others is that no one you ask is you. No matter how much you trust someone, their advice will not always fit you. The best compass we can find is in ourselves, guided by what will make us happy and what we feel is right.

What we must learn is that ultimately, no one has the same desires as us, goals as us, or the experience that we have had in life. Even if someone truly believes that they are giving amazing advice to us, it is coming from someone with a different perspective that will not always suit us. When we ask for someone’s advice on a major life decision, we are allowing someone to determine if we are capable of pursuing a goal or not. We must first have faith in ourselves that we know our own strengths, weaknesses, and above all what we want in life. Yet we still place what others say over what we already know.

If we everwish to trust ourselves we must place the value of our own opinions above anyone else. Learning how to make decisions entirely based on ourselves and our personal insight, we give ourselves the power to live with the mentality that we can trust ourselves and live confidently with the choices we make.

“Ashes”

Ashes

the small town she grew up in

became engulfed in dancing flames

memories burnt to ashes

among forgotten names

her heart begged her to run

but something told her to stay

light broke through the dust filled clouds

revealing just who to blame

she spent her life burning bridges

wasting away her worry filled days

and now with nowhere else to go

she had to live with her mistakes.

b.b.

 

For those who regularly read my posts, I have been writing for a year now and want to share some. I enjoy poetry a lot and hope that my words can reach out to others. Background on this poem: I wrote it in a time where my anxiety was at a high and I found a lot of comfort in pouring my words on to paper. Of all of the poetry I have written this one resonates with me because I found a way to create a story using imagery.

Yes, I Have Changed

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You told me that I changed; that you could no longer recognize who I am. You said that with disappointment traced in your voice. I, on the other hand, took it as a compliment.

Looking back at who I was just months ago, I can see how far I have come. We often look at how we change over the years but seem to forgot that we are constantly changing. Each and every day we experience new things, encounter new obstacles, and grow, even if we do not see these small changes at first. And as you grow and change for the better, you may begin to outgrow old habits and old people. Eventually, we reach a point where old relationships and friendships are tested.

I realized that this is the main reason why I am no longer in touch with some people. When I look at my past, I know that I am not nearly as confident or independent as I am now. Although there are still times where I am unsure of myself, I have grown enough to know my own worth and that it is not determined by others. I used to thrive off of approval and recognition, and in this stage of my life was where I met some of my closest friends.

These friends seemed to know that, and took advantage. I was blinded by my love for these friends, so much that I could not see the effect they had on me. I changed because of them- for the worse- and lost touch with what was important to me. Although as time passed while I surrounded myself with toxic people, I had to learn where to draw the line. For a long time, I chose to be around people who were simply not interested in bettering themselves or the world around them.  As I grew out of old habits, they were not pleased with me. They did not like who I was becoming, mainly because it did not fit their ‘criteria’. I began to wonder, why did they not support me? Why did I need their approval? They did not like to see that I was changing.

I grew out of that mentality as I began to focus on myself and my goals, which included being independent. I knew that I could never do so  and from then on I could see the negative impact that those friendships had on me. I can not blame them, but I had to accept that we just did not share the same values. In some ways I grew to be more mature than these old friends and slowly we grew apart. In my time away from toxic relationships, I built better ones where we support each other. These relationships have promoted me to grow and have taught my that the only approval I need is from myself.

Don’t fear change; embrace it. Take each and every experience, every person, and each obstacle as a lesson. You will find yourself flourishing once you finally give yourself the chance to grow.

 

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Stop comparing your success to others. If you are proud of yourself and what you have accomplished, then you are doing just fine.

Growing up in an age where everyone’s lives can be posted online with the click of a button, it is difficult to resist comparing ourselves to others. We are constantly reminded of what other people are up to and there seems to be this secret contest of who will become the best. We see young models, celebrities, and other images of success every time go online- this leaves us with a constant feeling of resent when we look back at our own lives, and realize that maybe we can be doing more with ourselves.

What we must not forget is that, some people do have the luxury of being born into wealth, or with more opportunities and resources than others. On the other hand, some people work their way towards wealth, fame, or whatever it may be, and we find ourselves wishing we were at the same level of progress as them. But we can not get caught in the toxic mindset of comparing ourselves to others. we should always remind ourselves that reaching our goals, however big or small they may be, is a journey. Some of the best things take time, and if that means you will encounter a few setbacks along the way, face them with confidence. Face any bumps in the road with your head held high, knowing you will find a way to overcome them.

It is also important to remember that it is okay to have different goals as others! Some people dream of becoming surgeons, or lawyers, or even an actor- some of us dream of a simple lifestyle. It does not matter which path you choose, as long as it leaves you feeling fulfilled and content with your life. It is time that we stop measuring our success and accomplishments with one another. We should all read a point in our lives when we realize that we are enough. The value of our achievements is not determined by what others believe is right- it is determined by what we want for ourselves, and the strength it took for us to get there.

For those of you who have struggled to make it, I hope you know that you are strong. If you have been working hard to better yourself and reach your goals, be proud of yourself. Give yourself the credit you deserve.

Why We Need to Travel

pexels-photo-287240.jpegWaking up every day, living the same life becomes exhausting. We become so accustomed to what we know that we seem to forget that so much more is out there in this world than what we are used too. We need to be reminded that there is so much more this world has to offer.

There are so many unique cultures out there. Being trapped in the same environment for so long limits our perspectives, closing us off to new ideas and values. Reading about different cultures from home is one thing, but experiencing them is another. Learning and experiencing different cultures from around the world gives us the chance to live life in someone else’s shoes. Doing this not only allows for us to build character, but teaches us to be more open minded. We begin to understand that there is beauty in the differences we share.

 

What Makes Us Who We Are.

We all reach times in our lives where we are tested for our breaking points. It can be when we are thirty or when we are as young as thirteen, but for me, that was at a very young age and it changed my perspective on life forever.

When I was exposed to violence at such a young age I felt like part of my childhood was ripped from my hands and I could not take it back. I recalled the years I spent growing up and how early I was forced to adapt to the world around me.

Often times I would take pity on myself, wondering why others could live such simple lives. I wished that I had the same things that they had, because I thought that maybe if I had grown up in a better environment that I would have better opportunities.

It took time for me to realize that I was looking at my life from the wrong perspective. I spent so long dwelling on what I did not have that I failed to see what was right in front of me. That the experiences I had starting from a young age pushed me, revealing qualities of me that I would never have discovered if it were not for that push.

I have grown enough to know that where I grew up, the people in my life, and what I have experienced are what makes me who I am. Everything that has happened and everyone who I have allowed into my life have shaped me in ways I can not begin to explain. I may resent the challenges that I faced growing up but I can take pride in who I have become. They have led me on a path of discovering my own strengths and weaknesses, where I am meant to be.

We are not defined by our past failures, nor the challenges we may face in life. Although we are forever defined by the choices we make to overcome them. That is what makes us who we are.