On Thursday I walked back from my last appointment before starting my social distancing. As I strolled home, REM's song "It's the end of the world as we know it" was playing in my head. My first thought was in agreement with the continuing lyrics, 'yes, I am fine'. There was drizzle in the air and beautiful blossom was hanging from the trees. Red berries sat alongside the variegated leaves of the bushes I passed. Two nights before I'd watched an owl fly out of a neighbour's tree, launching itself into the sky before, very swiftly, flying out of my eye-line. And all of my loved ones were safe and well. There was still so much to be grateful for.
As I continued down the road, my second thought was 'this is the end of the world as we know it,' - at least for the foreseeable future. No hugs with my beautiful family members (I do love a hug!), no holidays (I was due to visit my Mum & Sister in the States and accompany my nieces to Disney at Easter), and no sporting events (I love watching live Rugby Union and tv coverage of The Open Golf tournament in Augusta is always a sign Spring is here).
In that moment it would have been easy to get swallowed up by sadness but especially in these unprecedented times it is important not to let our thoughts overwhelm us. It is often our habit to judge life as not being quite right in some way - not what we wanted or expected, not good enough. Add to this the thought of 'what if' and bingo we unintentionally cause drama and resulting stress to our lives, making it harder for ourselves.
Here are some suggestions of ways to help stay away from destructive thoughts over the coming weeks:
Meditation is a great way to sit and watch our thoughts and their resulting body sensations. It is only natural for us to get scared and sad at what is happening in the world. When we meditate it gives us space to locate these feelings inside, to breathe into them and witness their intensity, their transience. This is a kinder response for ourselves than getting caught up in the stories and thoughts in our head, toting the worse-case scenarios and what-ifs.
Do more of what you love. Create a gourmet meal, bake a cake, get out the sewing machine, create your at-home gym, read a book. Now is the time to start that new hobby, learn a language, train in something new. So many people are offering free or heavily discounted on-line services at this time. I've signed up for a Qi Gong course reduced by over £100 to just £14.99. If it feels good, do it!
Get out in nature - whether it's for a run, brisk walk or a stroll it is a great way to get into your body and out of your head. Feel the ground beneath your feet, leaves between your fingers, become aware of the smells and sights surrounding you - not judging which are good or bad, simply being aware of them.
Stay in touch. We are very fortunate to have amazing technology in our lives, so let's use it. Social media sites accessible by phone through to video chats there is plenty to choose from. If you use a service like Zoom you can video link for 40 minutes free of charge if there are 3 or more participants (less than 3 there is no time limit). There are other specific devices you can purchase too. Think of those living alone and not just the elderly - choosing an independent social-filled life is one thing, being home alone day after day is another.
Be mindful - all this means is stay in the present moment. Don't go comparing the current situation to the past or worrying about the future. As you brush your teeth, chop your vegetables, walk in the garden, play with the family - just be aware of what you are doing at that moment. It really is liberating!
Practice gratitude. If you don't already have one, start a gratitude practice. Write down or say to yourself each morning and/or evening all the things you are grateful for. There's no limit and no judgment, just go for it. If you are unsure where to start try Magic by Rhonda Byrne - you practice gratitude over 28 consecutive days to revolutionize your health, money, job, relationships and much more. After the 28 days it will become such a part of your life you won't be without it! For those of you at home with family, get them involved and make it fun - even incorporate it into home-schooling.
Catch yourself - when you notice you are 'What iffing' turn it on it's head and 'What if up'. There has been a 'What if up Club' in the States since 2008. Instead of saying 'What if' and going downwards and reeling off all the bad things that could happen, say 'What if' and go upwards and say all the good things that could happen eg What if during this time off: I discover I can turn my hobby into my living; the kids start to get along better, etc.
And last but definitely not least - Choose Love & Be Kind - Intolerance and impatience will be the enemy of a peaceful isolation period. Remember that we all have our own little ways that may annoy one another but if we are kind we don't need to point these out every time. Stop and ask yourself exactly what it is that annoys you, you might learn that it's as much to do with your expectations as their actions or lack of. We don't always need to be right. We can put on a smile and go to our hearts and instead choose to love what we perceive to be the bad as well as the good.
I always remember my late Dad telling us how during the war everyone pulled together - he spoke of the camaraderie and the kindness shown by strangers. Coronavirus is now our common enemy - we are all in this together. So let's care for each other - by not spreading the disease and by being kind at every opportunity.
Keep safe, laugh lots and get out in nature as often as you can.
If you would like to discuss meditation and mindfulness in more detail please don't hesitate to contact me.
Author: Samantha Hall
Artwork also produced by me.
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