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    Surviving COVID-19: Dealing with Anxiety and Tough Feelings with Mindfulness

    Posted August 3, 2020, 8:25 pm by Soula Gountouvas

    We’ve all been coping, in one way or another, through the tough times the pandemic has brought on: huge lifestyle changes, self-isolation and uncertainty about the future. Even if someone had it all figured out, this would be a challenge.

    With most of us losing access to some of our best tools to keep us sane - being with friends, going to parks, working and routine - there are a lot of tools that can help us build resilience right now and for the future. From the tangle of our thoughts, feelings, worries, emotions, and not-so-helpful mental habits, here’s one way mindfulness can help untangle them and support us from inside out!

    So when you’re having a tough moment, try following these three little steps...

    Pause & Take a Breath

    This seems obvious, but it’s surprising how much it can help! Often we can be running on auto-pilot in our day, where we’re just feeling anxious but maybe haven’t even named it out loud and barely aware that we’re operating from that mode, which actually doesn’t feel that great. So taking a pause, even just one breath, can help us tap the breaks on our running mind or agitated body.

    The trick with this one is just remembering to do it! So what can be really helpful is practicing it anytime, even when we’re not dealing with difficult feelings. You can start by picking a time. Choose a time in the day that’s matched with another activity that you already do, for example, when you pick up your phone, before or after you eat, or every time when you sit down on a chair.

    Even though it sounds like a lot, you might only remember once or twice in a day which is a great start! If you do this throughout your day, you get used to taking these micro-breaks which can help if you start feeling suddenly overwhelmed or anxious.

    Check In & Get Curious

    Once we’ve paused, we can ask ourselves: What’s happening right now? If I’m in a default auto-pilot mode, what does that look like? Get curious about this state of being that you’re in right now. Are you rushing, or starting to worry or ruminate? What habits might you be playing out right now?

    When we allow ourselves to pause, and take a look at what’s happening, we’ve started to shift our perspective and relationship to what’s happening. Rather than just operating from auto-pilot or anxiety-mode, we can start to learn more about what’s happening internally, and eventually how to manage it better and better.

    Care for What’s Happening

    In this final step, we’re acknowledging where we’re at and looking for what might be needed to care for ourselves in that moment. You can ask yourself: what do I need right now? Or what might be helpful given that I’m feeling this way? Do I need to take care of a task in order to stop worrying about it? What kind of support might I need in order to do that?

    By taking the time to pause and really look at what’s going on with a fresh perspective, we’re in a better position to take action on it. Often things like anxiety or worry might be low-level and lingering under the surface and affecting our day to day.

    So when we practice really getting in touch with our internal world, especially in really tough moments, we get better and better at knowing what we need to do to take good care of ourselves.

    It can be really useful to start small. Practice with emotions which are less overwhelming and work your mindfulness muscle so when that when the bigger stuff comes up, you’re more practiced in the process of how to care for what you need in that moment. And it sounds simple, but it’s not always easy.

    Love and Patience Starts with You

    So be kind with yourself in the process, and however much you’re able to do it, you’re doing great! Community support is also essential. Learning how to be with our emotions in new ways is hard to do and it can be so helpful to learn with others.

    Check out Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (ibme.com) and join a deep-dive retreat or a weekly course to learn how to apply these practices in life and learn with others. The world has been shaken up in many ways - a dose of gentleness and community goes a long way.

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    Soula Gountouvas

    Soula Gountouvas

    Soula Gountouvas lives in Toronto, Canada, of French-Canadian and Greek descent, and works with Inward Bound Mindfulness Education managing retreats and doing community outreach. Currently working in schools, she has offered violence prevention programming with youth and school staff since 2014. After discovering mindfulness herself at the age of 19, she’s passionate about offering Mindfulness, Compassionate Communication, Justice and the Arts programs to youth.

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