During this coronavirus pandemic, the present situation may be scary and the future unknown. Yet, focusing your awareness on the present moment using mindfulness activities can help you manage your stress.
The present moment is different than the present situation. In practicing mindfulness, you can find calm by engaging with your environment and what you are sensing right now — rather than thinking about the future or past.
Practicing Mindfulness Throughout the Day
As you plan your routine for the day, make time to try these mindfulness activities:
List your intentions for the day. Each morning write in a journal or sketch the things you are looking forward to that day.
Use a key phrase or mantra. Choose something that inspires you and keeps you calm, then repeat it throughout the day. "I feel peace" or "I am grounded" are possible phrases. Pick one that speaks to you.
Try a short meditation. Use an app like Headspace or Balance. Or go low tech and do a deep-breathing exercise: Focus on counting to six while breathing in and breathing out. This has been shown to improve mood, lower blood pressure and boost other heart health markers.
Integrate movement into your daily meditation. Try yoga, hiking, walking or exercising. Focus on how you feel as you are doing it. Pay attention to the muscles flexing and relaxing, your breath flowing in and out. Don't multitask by listening to music or an audio book. Focus on the present feelings as you create a moving mindfulness activity.
Pay attention to sensations. It could also be as simple as paying attention while showering – how does the soap feel on your skin? What does the shampoo smell like? What is the temperature of the water?
Stephanie Knight, MD, FAPA, chief of psychiatry at University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus, also recommends this mindfulness exercise that engages all your senses:
- Put a ripe orange in the freezer. Keep it in there until you need it for this exercise. When you're feeling especially anxious or overwhelmed, give yourself five minutes to focus on your experience of the fruit by using all five senses.
- Slow down your breathing and relax your shoulders. Cup the orange in both hands and focus on its coldness. The temperature of the orange will naturally slow down your heart rate and reduce your anxiety level. For an added calming effect, hold the orange to your face at an area above your cheekbone and temple.
- Look at the orange, noting its color and shape. If you're having trouble focusing, then count the dots in the orange skin to improve your concentration.
- Scrape the peel with your fingernail, taking note of any juice that sprays out.
- Smell the scratched area of the peel. If the aroma is associated with calm or happy memories, then allow those to come into your mind. If you don't already have positive associations with an orange scent, then create them now. Experience your new sense of calm and associate it with the fruit's smell.
- Begin to peel the orange. Pay attention to the sound of the rind as it pulls away from the fruit.
- As you remove the outer rind, imagine depositing your stress and anxiety into the peel. When you're finished peeling, throw those "feeling peelings" into the trash as a cleansing conclusion to your Minute Maid Mindfulness. If you need a boost of energy, prepare the rest of the orange so you can enjoy it as a snack.
Learn more ways to step back from stress.