Mindfulness In a Time of Mindless Worry

Written by: Christine de la Torre
BSY 200HR, Yoga Teacher

The current state of the world is turbulent to say the least with news updates on our devices constantly, new ordinances in effect, conflicting advice, junk science mixed so well it’s hard to tell what is real and what isn’t. In this moment of our lives things have shifted for everyone with stress and fear of the unknown tangible, we are overlapping working from home, family cooped up in one house, and maybe lost income. We need to cope with our anxiety and stress now more than ever. How can we possibly cope or even try to enjoy this social isolation that has landed upon our social species? The antidote is mindfulness.

Mindfulness is thrown around everywhere these days, in the workplace, schools, advertisements, and even in apps; so how do we even begin to define this ever present buzzword? How I think of mindfulness is primarily as awareness, becoming aware of my physical body and how it feels, what is going on with my breath, where am I storing anxiety or stress, what emotions are awash over me that I haven’t completely come to terms with yet. Becoming more mindful of self is a simple start to the practice of mindfulness.

How can we include more mindful activities into our daily lives that have been completely upended? Below is a guide to becoming more mindful and present during simple everyday tasks. But wait! One quick disclaimer, instead of trying all of these things and overwhelming yourself, why don’t you pick one to try for a week and see if it works for you, if not leave it and try another.

Mindful Walking:
I love a good walk, it is a healthy dose of low impact exercise and can be an opportunity to put the phone down and just be alone or walk with your fur baby! Personally it takes about a mile before my brain starts to slow down and I can start working on mindful walking, so see what works for you and adjust. As you walk keep the phone away, avoid the urge to look at how many miles you’ve walked or steps taken and just enjoy the journey. Walk as long as feels good for you while becoming aware of nature around you. Notice the sounds as you walk, become aware of the breeze or temperature on your skin, the smells, the sights. Notice and become more present in your walk.

Mindful Eating:
Mindful eating can be challenging, it requires sitting with your food, without the TV, phone, or book, and taking time to savor each bite. Making sure you are not distracted by screens is a foundation, but so is eating slowly, taking the time to enjoy the meal rather than scarf it down quickly. Before you take a bite, pause to smell the aromas of your meal then as you take each bite, chew slowly, noticing what textures and flavors present themselves. Enjoy a slower meal every once in a while without feeling like you have to do this each time you eat.

Mindful Conversations:
Engage in a mindful conversation with someone you value and trust. If you want to use a screen like Skype or FaceTime you can, but you might notice that it can be more distracting. You might consider the good old-fashioned phone call or a face-to-face conversation with someone you live with. If you live with that person definitely keep the devices far away (out of temptation if it pings or lights up) and truly look at the person with whom you are conversing. Whatever method you choose, take the time to truly listen, even if it means speaking slower or allowing some awkward silences to happen. Notice when you start to pre-plan your response and gently guide your consciousness back to what your loved one is saying. Really lean in and soak up this conversation and time with this person, it can really help with coping through stressful times. Lastly, notice your body language and what it is telling both you and the other person. Body language is a powerful form of nonlinguistic communication, the simple act of uncrossing arms or resting palms facing up show that you are willing to listen and receive that person’s thoughts.

Mindfulness While Working:
You can engage in a moment of peace even as you work during the day by dedicating a moment to close your eyes and observe yourself as you sit. Start by sitting up tall with both feet on the ground. Close your eyes, feel the crown of your head lengthen towards the sky, and start with rolling your shoulders towards your ears on the inhale and then down your back to soften on the exhale (repeat the shoulder rolls a few times). Then begin to sit still and deepen your breath, sending it all the way down into the belly. Observe your belly as it expands and contracts as you inhale and exhale respectively. Find this for just a minute or two or as long as you’d like! I personally like to set a soft timer to go off after a certain amount of time to make sure I don’t let myself stress about losing track of time or wondering how much time has elapsed.

Mindfulness is a challenge that we face every day, but you can work on being present and remaining in the moment with these few ideas. As you practice it, gather new information about yourself, notice how your body feels before and after these mindfulness techniques, and above all else be kind and compassionate with yourself because we are all human going through some very unusual situations right now.