How mindfulness can help you cope during COVID-19

Right now we’re in a moment that may be provoking anxiety. We may have thoughts about what we should have done to be better prepared and we almost certainly have concerns about what will happen next and what the future will look like.

The ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” 

It’s true this present moment may look different than life did even a week ago. It’s also true that our worries about what could happen can motivate us to make wise decisions – wash our hands more often, avoid large gatherings, etc. But beyond that, worry and anxiety about all the possible “what if’s” largely aren’t helpful and might result in missing the sweet moments happening right now and the peace that tends to come when we live in the present.  

Since life today is filled with changes that can be unsettling, here are some mindfulness suggestions and resources to help you maintain a sense of focus in the present. 

Try 20 seconds of mindful handwashing

We’re all more aware of the importance of hand hygiene and we’re probably washing our hands more frequently. Use those moments of taking action to also refocus on “just this moment.” CLICK HERE to watch an example of mindful handwashing.

As you wash your hands pay attention to: 

  • How does the water feel on your hands? Do you notice the scent of the soap?
  • Notice your hands working over and around each other. Carefully attend to the sensations as your hands move together — the fingers, the palms, the thumbs. 
  • Send some appreciation and gratitude to your hands. Consider the work they do to take care of all your needs, make your food, earn your living.
  • As you rinse off the soap, allow worries about the future to be “rinsed off” as well, clearing the mind to focus on what’s happening right now. 
  • And while you’re drying, notice the sense of life and vitality in your own hands. Feeling some appreciation for this moment, give yourself credit for doing all you can, moment by moment, to stay healthy for yourself and those you care for. 

Start the day with a pause

While still lying in bed, before you begin the day, check in with your breath, your body, and the sounds around you. If your mind is already busy or anxious, acknowledge it, but then take some time to really ground yourself by focusing on sensations in the body. Even 1-2 minutes of “check in” with yourself in this way can allow you to begin the day more centered and in touch with the current moment.

Practice STOP when you notice you're getting anxious

  • S - Stop what you’re doing and take a moment to be still
  • T - Take a few deep breaths and just be aware that you’re breathing
  • O - Observe any sensations in your body, thoughts in your mind, emotions in your heart
  • P - Pause to come back to your breath, then proceed with your day with greater calm

Call or FaceTime a friend and practice mindful listening

Rather than texting, consider calling or using FaceTime, Zoom, or video chat to connect with a friend or loved one. Really listen to their voice, see their face, and feel the connection that comes from being fully present with another person, even virtually.

Download (and use) a mindfulness app

A mindfulness app is a great way to introduce yourself to guided meditations. They offer short, guided meditations, motivational messages, and relaxing music and sounds. Here are a few to try that are free but can be upgraded to a paid subscription.

Read a book on mindfulness

New to mindfulness? Here are a few great books that help you understand what mindfulness is and how it can improve your life.

  • 10 Percent Happier by Dan Harris
  • Mindfulness for Beginners or Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe
  • The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety by John Forsyth 
  • The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook by Bob Stahl

Mindfulness ideas for kids and teens

  • Take a walk outside with your kids and notice sounds, colors, etc. Look for things you’ve never noticed before. 
  • Pause to take 3 deep breaths to reduce stress and invite calm. 
  • Eat one bite of breakfast or lunch and pay close attention to what you’re eating. Is it crunchy or soft? Salty or sweet?
  • Before dinner take a moment to go around the table and have each person share one thing they appreciate. Avoid any judgment or criticism of what is said. Trust that this practice will likely become more meaningful to children and teens over time.
  • Do some mindful stretching together with a few simple yoga postures.
  • Before bed, name one thing that went well today, a pleasant moment or a time that felt happy. Again, avoid judgment or criticism when you invite your child to engage in this activity. Just listen to whatever they share.
  • Check out other mindfulness resources and ideas for children at mindup.org.

Find additional mindfulness resources including videos, guided meditations, books, and more at intermountainmindfulness.org.