Being Mindful in 2020
Updated: Oct 6
If I were to get one wish from a genie, I would wish for 2020 to reset and I know almost all of us are thinking the same way. It is an understatement to say that 2020 has not been kind to us so far. It has unleashed a series of unprecedented events starting with the coronavirus pandemic continued by social uprising, natural calamities, and economic upheaval. This year is testing our patience, resilience, mental, and physical strength. Many of us are feeling drowned emotionally, resurfacing frequently for air. Anxiety, stress, and depression have increased multifold at all levels of the society, adversely affecting specific populations especially young adults, minorities, essential workers, and those having pre-existing psychiatric conditions.
If anything, this year is a stark reminder that change is inevitable and life is fragile. We, as humans, have very little control over this universe. As much as we would like to think that we are ruling the earth, in reality, we are a minuscule part of the universe. So how do we cope with all of the mishap, misery, and misfortune?
Being mindful can help.
Research has shown that mindfulness is an effective tool to minimize narrative chatter and keep our focus on the present moment to do what is required.
Mindfulness includes acceptance of the current situation and then doing what works to make the situation better.
Mindfulness practice increases awareness of your thoughts and feelings; at the same time, it provides a pause between your thoughts and action. This pause is very important because it allows you to make the right choice for that particular moment by balancing your emotional and reasonable mind. When we are overwhelmed with emotions, our logical brain shuts down. So take a mindful pause to settle down, calm down by acknowledging your thoughts and feelings, and accepting them for what they are without judging yourself or others.
Observe the situation and your thoughts and sensations related to the situation. Pay attention to the current situation without preconceived ideas or notions, and without leaving the situation. Stay away from judgments and opinions. Once we start applying judgment then the feelings follow, which leads to the negative spiral of thoughts and emotions. So just observe a situation by stepping away from it for a moment just like when an artist steps back from a painting to take in his work and decide the next stroke of the brush. You might notice that when you just observe your thought and don’t react to it, it goes away. According to Marsha Linehan, observing is crucial to describe your thoughts and increase tolerance.
Use words to describe your thoughts and feelings. Remember to be non-judgmental and state the facts. Do it effectively, choose your words wisely. Describing your thoughts and feelings helps bring clarity and makes it easier for you to manage them. You can say,” I feel worried about my job.” Remember one thing though; your feeling does not always reflect a fact. Be aware that your thoughts and feelings are your perception and interpretation of the situation. It might not be a hundred percent accurate. Look for evidence to check if you are not overgeneralizing.
The next step is to participate. Participate with increased awareness about the situation. You might have to break your conventional habits, and rethink responses. Stay away from blaming. Focus on one thing at a time and do it mindfully. Immerse in the experience. When you focus on one thing at a time, the task becomes achievable. For example: with so much uncertainty around us, we are unable to plan for anything which is in the near future, say two months down the road. That frustrates us. Instead of getting frustrated and annoyed about things that are out of your control, plan the next two days. Be deliberate about it. Then do the best you can and participate fully. Experience those two days by immersing in them. Focus on what is working for you right now. This will increase your satisfaction and will give you peace of mind.
By being mindful you will increase the chances of facing adversities using your strengths resulting in reduced stress and anxiety. Do the best you can with the knowledge, and resources you have to face the challenges. And don't forget to be kind to yourself!
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