With constant updates about COVID-19 coming our way, how can we adapt to our current reality without being consumed by anxiousness? Jennifer Davis, Director of Student Personal & Professional Leadership, Duke-NUS, shares some tips on practicing mindfulness.
In times of uncertainty, it’s normal for our stress levels and feelings of anxiety to increase. When anxious we are more likely to perceive even safe situations as threats, and ourselves as not resourceful and resilient enough to manage our current reality.
Practising mindfulness can make the difference between escalating feelings of anxiety and being present, calm and clear in moments of uncertainty. Notably, mindfulness is the ability to be focused in the present moment, and aware of our inner experiences of thoughts and emotions, without being carried away by them.
Try these mindfulness practices to steady yourself in anxious moments, and navigate the evolving current reality with greater clarity and ease.
1. Notice When You’re Anxious – With awareness of anxious thoughts and feelings, you can prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed and imagining the worst case scenario; or at least break free sooner.
TIP: In such moments, say ‘STOP’ to yourself, signalling for your mind to pause your anxious thoughts. Take a few slower and deeper breaths. Then, observe your thoughts. Are you over-estimating the riskiness of the situation? Are you actually in threat in this moment, or is this a worry? Are you underestimating your resourcefulness? Proceed with clarity about whether you are truly in danger now, or if you have the resourcefulness to manage the situation.
2. Understand What You Really Need – We are more likely to find ourselves spiralling into a mindset of scarcity when we are anxious: 'there aren’t enough supplies'; 'I don’t have enough information to keep my family safe'; ' I’m feeling disconnected as friends and colleagues aren’t comfortable being in public'.
TIP: In these moments when you’re reaching out for more, take a few breaths and ask yourself what you truly need right now? What you might really need is to take a break from the information overload, to get some fresh air, and feel connected to your loved ones. Remember that if you truly need a break or emotional support there is no amount of information or comfort foods that will meet these needs.
3. Connect With Compassion – Remember you are part of a community. One of the mind's habits, when stressed, is to sort how we are different from others. Believing we are different gives us an illusion of control over our situation. For example, if we can attribute someone’s suffering to their circumstances, something they’ve done, where they are from, or some other way they are different from us, this makes us feel we’re not as vulnerable to the same circumstances of their suffering. This can sometimes keep us from feeling overwhelmed or anxious. The problem with this reasoning is that we lose our ability to see the situation clearly and with compassion. Recognising our commonalities not only helps us make wise choices for how to care for ourselves, it also encourages us to take actions that support the well-being of our greater community.
TIP: When you notice yourself feeling upset or beginning to view another person as the 'other', first offer compassion to yourself. Remember that you are scared, that this is a stressful experience for you, and that you wish for yourself and your loved ones to remain healthy and well, and to be free of stress and worries. Then take a moment to consider that the other person is likely to be experiencing the same. They may be scared, stressed, and wishing for health and to be free of worries. Self-compassion and compassion for others are perhaps our most resourceful capacities for managing anxiety and remaining resilient.
All information provided within this web and mobile application is intended for general information and is provided on the understanding that no surgical and medical advice or recommendation is being rendered. Please do not disregard the professional advice of your physician.