by Elaine Smookler: Mindfulness doesn’t protect us from feeling fear, anxiety, and grief, but it can offer tools to navigate those complicated emotions…
“I don’t like Wagon Wheels. I like Whippets. These aren’t Whippets.” I looked at the disappointment on my husband’s face knowing he was not allowed to go out and get the cookie he needed. For some people, happiness, safety and security during the reign of Covid-19 requires Whippet cookies. Who am I to judge?
As for me, my house has never been cleaner, because there’s nothing like a pandemic to pep up an otherwise sleepy cleaning regimen. Awareness has helped me notice myself feverishly cooking and stress-baking (because I am pretty sure we’re going to be OK if we have enough lentil soup frozen.)
As a mindfulness teacher, my students are sharing their concerns about having strong emotions, like fear, as if they shouldn’t. They seem surprised that mindfulness is not always working to keep them from feeling unbalanced and overwhelmed in the face of an unprecedented global crisis.
Here’s what I tell them: Mindfulness is not a barrier to feeling overwhelmed. When some piece of news or alarming reality knocks you down, you may well feel completely overwhelmed. It’s natural. It’s your body’s response to alarm.
How Mindfulness Helps You Find Grace Under Pressure
It’s OK if you do not want what’s happening right now. It’s OK to feel frustration or fear. It’s OK to feel rage, grief, terror, sorrow, and even selfishness. Feeling them is not the problem. It’s what you do with what you feel that puts the pandemonium back in the pandemic. What choices are you making? These days, choices are limited and might come down to making 6 dozen banana muffins versus throwing an iron, or a person, through a window.
Mindfulness helps us cultivate a way to respond before we flip our lids. And if we don’t quite manage that, and find ourselves blowing our cool these days, more than before, saying “sorry”—and meaning it—can help soothe frazzled feelings.
One helpful approach to returning to your senses is grounding yourself in them: notice something you see, something you feel, something you smell, something you hear, something you taste. You only experience your senses in the here and now. Paying attention to them can help pull you out of fixating on worrisome thoughts.
Caring for yourself requires you to be gently vigilant. Pay attention to whether you are hungry or angry, or feeling lonely or tired (H.A.L.T.). Offer yourself the tenderness you need.
Family meals, especially after days spent together, can be stressful events. Finding ways to stay alert to hair-trigger reactions that flare up can be an act of great kindness for you and your family.
We might be terrified out of our wits. We might want to push uncertainty, or other people away. It’s always good to notice. That’s called mindfulness. Check in with the impulses in play—offer them comfort and understanding, and continue to check in with yourself. Stay close to everything you’re feeling. Take it in and be present for the ride.[
A WAVE practice to help you surf these uncertain times
Welcome what’s bubbling up, in fact, invite it in! Resistance = more suffering.
Accept and feel what your body is experiencing, allow all your emotions to rise and fall
Value the enormity of these unprecedented experiences – learn and grow
Embrace yourself in any way you can, letting kindness guide your path