Mindfulness For Stress Resilience During COVID19

Written By Sean Grabowski

A passionate ambassador, educator and student of mindfulness and meditation. Advocate for unique experiences and life long learning.

April 26, 2020

With a global pandemic at the forefront of world news, the global economy, and the minds of enormous amounts of people around the world, a great majority of us are facing a very new and foreign level of uncertainty. The unfortunate side of all this being that for many of us, uncertainty tends to bring with it a variety of other emotions. These emotional states often range from fear and anxiety to helplessness. 

As a mindfulness and meditation teacher in Toronto, a city with millions of people living in close proximity, this is certainly the case that I have been witnessing on a daily basis, as well as throughout the global pandemic thus far. People across the country, as well as around the world are experiencing high levels of anxiety and stress, and are seeking methods and modalities to help them work through their emotional tension as we move forward with a countrywide quarantine. Whether you may be feeling higher levels of stress as a result of job loss, social isolation, boredom, or lack of stimulation, there are many tried and true methods of handling our stress during unique times such as these. 

Before we get started on the list, I just thought I’d share this podcast episode discussing a mindset shift for the situation at hand. In this episode I discuss why fear is the last place we want to be operating from during a time like this, as well as some of the really good things about the lockdown we are currently experiencing:

For anybody looking to improve their state of mind, or simply to learn more about mindfulness and meditation, here are some tips on how to foster mental resilience and manage stress during the coronavirus pandemic:

Change Your Relationship With Uncertainty

One thing that has come top of mind for me lately as a result of the pandemic is a certainty is, and always will be an illusion. Over the past couple of years, I have found myself planning my life out as if the experience of roaming the earth is something entirely predictable and certain. This experience has made me realize how false this really is. Over the past couple of weeks, this has been my main piece of advice for the students in my sessions. For many of us, fear and anxiety are nothing more than reflections of our lack of control over the future. We have grown up in a world that teaches us that control over our lives equates to comfort and happiness. Though there is definitely some level of truth behind this lesson, coronavirus has proven to us that certainty in itself is not necessarily the healthiest thing for us to rely upon. In fact, relying on anything for our comfort, confidence, or happiness is not the wisest choice. Reliance, in the end, is the crutch that limits our ability to self generate these same emotions from within. Uncertainty in and of itself can teach us a lot of good lessons. These lessons include adaptability, problem-solving, acceptance, and releasing the need to control what is so. Sometimes the world simply is the way it is. To quote someone who I can’t quite name, “sometimes, shit happens”. What makes us powerful in life is not how we control life’s challenges, but how we adapt to them.

Mindfulness And Meditation 

Although there are many techniques that can help manage and reduce stress at the moment, there are few things that are better at doing so in the long term than meditation and other related mindfulness exercises. Although many of us are aware of how relaxing and calming meditation can be for the mind and body, few people know that this ancient practice actually helps thicken grey matter in the parts of the brain that control stress, memory, learning, and emotional regulation. In this way, regular meditation actually shrinks the amygdala where stress hormones are released, to begin with, and strengthens the other parts of the brain than control our ability to handle stress, cognition, and mental processing. It functions as a double whammy to both adapt and erase stress from our everyday existence. At the end of the way, meditation is calming and soothing and can help provide us quite a few lessons about the habits of our thoughts, our attachments, and the negative obsessions we give our power too freely and willingly. Taking a few moments for stillness can, at the very least, help us become aware of many of the mental filters we place on our everyday experiences to distort reality from our perceptions of reality. Mindfulness and meditation are habits that can truly change our lives, and there has never been a better time to give them a try. For anybody looking to start meditating, there is a wide array of apps and resources available online. Click HERE to browse some of the best apps available or sign up for my newsletter at the bottom of the page for some free audio clips to get yourself started.

Journalling & Self Reflection

When you really break it all down, the thoughts we think to ourselves are the root of nearly everything we do and have in life. Therefore, becoming truly aware of these thoughts can be one of the most powerful things any individual person can do to improve their mindset and mental health. Taking time to self-reflect on a regular basis reveals to us where we are not free, and more importantly, it provides a chance to contemplate why, and what we can do about it. Though stillness in all its various forms can help us acquire this knowledge, journaling is one of the most tried and true methods of bolstering self-awareness. Journalling is a key ingredient in the secret recipe for the success of many of the most influential business executives, creatives, and athletes of the modern era. This practice alone can help reduce stress through self-expression, improve happiness, and self-love through affirmations, and it can change the way we show up through self-awareness. With so much time on our hands, this is as good a time as ever to dive into the notepad and put some thoughts on paper. You just may come across something you never realized until doing so.

Mindful Art & Sketching

Though this may be the most surprising addition to this list, mindful art, and mindful coloring have recently become the subject of a wide range of scientific research. As unexpected as it may be, scientists are finding that artistic exercises are truly a meditation of their own, and provide a host of valuable benefits that include reductions in stress, blood pressure, and emotional reactivity. Finding presence at the moment is not only good for the soul, but it is good for the body. Through creative expression in art and sketching, we can exercise the often ignored right brain while simultaneously engaging in one of the most tried and true methods of relaxation. Depending on who you are, you might even find it pretty damn fun.

Yoga And Other Movement Meditations

For myself personally, the lack of activity has been the most challenging aspect of being in quarantine here in Toronto. As a very active individual, I would typically spend large amounts of my free time playing sports and finding other unique ways to exercise both inside and in the outdoors. With most outdoor spaces, gyms, and athletic facilities closed, I’ve been seeing this as a unique opportunity to get creative with my workouts and movement meditations. Although this has included a wide variety of home workouts and running variations, I’ve been particularly enjoying yoga, and have been experimenting with a wide array of online classes. Though it is indeed a form of exercise above all else, yoga certainly possesses quite a bit of mindfulness in execution. Through an exercise in focused awareness, presence, and tuning into the sensations of the body, we can turn any form of movement and exercise into a mindful activity. As long as we are fully present and focused, we can experience many of the benefits of mindfulness in the form of exercise. It is in focused attention on the craft at hand that we are able to access the flow states of acceptance and calm, leaving all sense of worry and emotional reactivity to drift away and disappear. This can not only be a momentary practice but a way of living.

Defining Our Intentions

Although being stuck inside during the coronavirus pandemic may not be the most fun experience, nobody can deny how great of an opportunity to rethink the way we currently live, and how it was that we got here. For many of us, this is actually the perfect time to think about diving into additional education, career planning, and intention planning. When it comes to designing a fulfilling life that truly excites us, there is one fact that will always remain true: you can’t get there if you don’t know what you want. Just as you can’t drive or bike to a destination you haven’t decided upon, without direction, our life becomes little more than a feather in the wind. One of the common similarities among happy people is the intentional purpose of their lives. Meaningful existences have a purpose, and this purpose is what propels us toward our goals. It’s what keeps us passionate throughout the ups and downs. It’s what motivates us through the process of expansion. When our intentions are clear, our awareness of processes and experiences that help us progress begin to stand out more clearly than ever. Declaring intentions are perhaps the first and most important step in the art of living well, accomplishing goals, and living a stress-free life of happiness and abundance.

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