"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
Covid 19 and the lockdown challenges all of us in different ways. Some of us are better able to take these challenges in our stride than others. But none of us are unaffected and many of us are simply not getting through this unscathed. As I write this, we are on day 19 of our lockdown here in South Africa, and we have a bit more than two weeks further to go, unless another extension to the lockdown is announced. With the recent rate of infection increases, the likelihood of an extension is high. Perhaps just reading the preceding sentence jacked up your anxiety?
If worry and anxiety is a state that you get stuck in or even if it just catches you off guard from time to time, there are some really simple ways to relieve your anxiety in the moment. a quick internet search will show you hundreds and thousands of things you can do to ease your anxiety. They all have some things in common. One of them is to bring you into the present state. Into your senses. Into your breath. Here and now.
Here and now is the ONLY place where your personal power and your resourcefulness can be engaged. Here and now is the only place in which you can be mindful and where you can achieve a state of settledness and calm.
So when worry and anxiety hits, and you're dying to make your way to steadiness and calm, there are a few practical things you can do:
Begin with breath: breath in deep breaths that feel as though they're making their way to your belly. Inhale deeply through your nostrils and vigorously exhale through your mouth. When you exhale, make a sound if you like; like you're expelling the anxiety with each exhalation. Breathe normally in between if this will keep you more steady, and resume the deep breathing again when you are ready. Repeat this for a while until you feel calmer. Our breath is a beautiful tool. It signifies that we are alive. Used optimally, it can also improve the quality of the very life it helps us enjoy.
Experience your senses: Getting into your body is as simple as looking at something and counting the different things you notice about it. The colour. The shape. The texture. The size. Its uses, etc. The same goes for each and every other sense you have. Touch, hearing, smell, taste.
Bring your body into motion: So a walking, going for a jog or to the gym is off the cards. Unless you're fortunate enough to be able to do this where you live. But, a bit of on-the-spot dancing, jumping-jacks, bouncing, skipping-rope, playing with pets, kids, friends will bring you to here and now.
Music: Music has a way to transport us to a different time. Whatever music gets you to a good place, jack that us, and bring your body to it!
I want to share a mealtime mindfulness exercise that you can integrate into your day as frequently as you like. You can do it by yourself, or with your family and whatever companions you are sharing your lockdown lodging with. This activity integrates gratitude and also works wonderfully with kids.
Become an adventurer at mealtime. bring your full attention to your meal. Invite all your senses as guests. Doing this, even the simplest meal can become a rich experience and a commune with the self.
You can use a raisin, nut, a fresh cut of fruit, a piece of chocolate, or even an entire meal as your object for mindful eating.
Start by looking at what you are planning to eat. What do you notice visually?
Now, smell the food carefully. What do you notice?
If applicable, do you notice any sounds? If you’re eating something like a raisin, try holding it close to your ear as you squeeze it gently. Or if you’re unwrapping a chocolate, listen to the crinkles of the wrapper as you unfold it.
What do you feel with your fingers? Is the food warm or cold? Is it smooth, rough, or sticky?
Now, put the piece of food on your tongue, but don’t chew on it yet. Just leave it on your tongue and notice how it feels in your mouth. Do you taste anything yet? What activity do you notice in your mouth? Whilst doing this, breathe deeply.
Start chewing it, very slowly, just one bite at a time. Notice how the tastes change as you chew.
Try to notice when you swallow, and see how far you can feel the food into your body.
Comtemplate the journey of your food. How it sprung to life and traveled to your plate, to your hand, to nourish you. Breath deeply as you travel your contemplation.
Give gratitude for your food. It was divinely created to make its way to you.
A beautiful by-product applying this idea of eating mindfully, you can learn to be more present while you eat. In this way, we become more aware of our reactions to food and eating, as well as our habits around mealtime. Also, eating mindfully doesn’t have to mean eating slowly. As you know what to pay attention to, you can eat at any speed.
Having said that, this is an exercise with which you can approach any activity.
And of course, the more frequently you drop into mindfulness, the more practiced you will become at it and they more tooled you will become at managing your anxieties in the moment.
It's all about creating a bit more space between stimulus and response.