Mindfulness for stressful times
By Jen Wood
Jen Wood is an emotional wellbeing coach, psychotherapist and wellbeing consultant. She is based at Restoration Yard in Dalkeith Country Park and during the Covid-19 pandemic, is helping us with some of the problems we face from feeling unsettled, to working from home and today, coping with uncertainty. This post includes a short self-compassion session.
How can mindfulness help?
As we start to contemplate the easing of lockdown, there is still a huge amount of uncertainty in the world. What will the ‘new normal’ look like?
I am aware of people who are enjoying their furlough leave relaxing in the garden, and others who are working extremely hard on the front line of healthcare, education and in care homes. As some people develop their yoga practise and improve their homes, others are taking on additional tasks due to the situation.
Added to that, things which we took for granted have changed. I tried to go to the bank this morning, and faced an hour-long queue. Who knows when I’ll get to the hairdresser? First world problems perhaps, but indicative of change.
We are also told how Covid 19 is impacting the nation's mental health, but we don’t know how. As a therapist, I have been quieter over this period as have almost all the therapists I know.
With all this uncertainty, I reflected on what has helped me through this time, and it was my mindfulness skills. I would like to share some of these tips with you.
Mindfulness tip # 1 - Feel your feelings
I often say to clients ‘what we resist persists.’ If we can allow ourselves to feel the discomfort for a moment, it can pass more quickly. Conversely, if we repress our feelings, they tend to hang about. We sometimes suppress them with food or alcohol - that can’t just be me - but the benefit is usually short lived. It’s normal not to want to accept things that we don’t like. However, the first step towards positive change is acceptance of the situation or how we are feeling about it. Try allowing yourself to lean into the difficulty for a moment, perhaps putting your hand over your heart, and saying to yourself ‘this will pass.’ Notice if you are telling people that you are fine, it can often mean 'feelings inside not expressed'.
Mindfulness tip # 2 – Be your own best friend
The words that we say to ourselves are the most important words we ever hear. At the same time, we are often much more critical of ourselves than we are of others. I know I am, particularly when I’m stressed. So how can we change? Imagine that you’re talking to your best friend. How would you speak to them? Notice any difference in what you say and how you say it. Notice your facial expression or tone? Now practise adopting that when talking to yourself. If we befriend ourselves, we become more resilient.
Mindfulness tip # 3 – Take a Self-Compassion Break
If you experience a difficult or stressful situation, see if you can lean into the difficulty for a moment and feel it in your body. Now follow these steps and say to yourself:
- This is a moment of difficulty. That’s mindfulness. Say to yourself, ‘This is a difficult moment’ or ‘this is a moment of suffering’. Use your own words and it will be more powerful.
- Suffering is part of life. That’s common humanity.
You could say to yourself ‘Other people feel this way too’. ‘We all experience suffering’. ‘I’m not alone’.
- Put one or both hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest or another place that feels soothing. Now say to yourself whatever you need to hear to ease the difficulty or suffering. Some suggestions are:
- may I be kind to myself
- may I give myself the compassion that I need
- may I learn to accept myself as I am
- may I forgive myself
- may I be strong
- may I be patient
If we can accept ourselves, and the events in our lives, and look after ourselves, we can build our resilience and experience more wellbeing.
How can you look after yourself today? Maybe try my short self-compassion session?
Jen is offering online Mindfulness Meditation (Mondays) classes via Zoom. Also, Jen offers individual wellbeing coaching, therapy and mindfulness sessions via Zoom or by phone. To find out more, head to Jen’s website.