Editor’s Note: Transform Through Therapy specializes in online group therapy, with a special focus on grief and caregiving. In this series, they will be talking about COVID-19 and the impact it is having on mental health.
While life is always unpredictable — as I’m writing this, my co-worker spilled salsa all over her computer and now it won’t turn on — when there is ongoing stressors like the continuing concerns over COVID-19 and other major events happening in the country and the world, it can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.
When we feel stress, that comes with feelings of fatigue, sadness and even anger, and as human beings, we want those feelings to go away because they are uncomfortable. And we tend to try and cure them by binging Netflix or eating a whole box of cookies.
While these activities can be helpful temporarily, as a long-term habit what we are really doing is denying our feelings. And then those feelings just take up more and more energy and can start affecting other areas of our life.
A healthier way of dealing with these overwhelming, uncomfortable feelings is to practice mindfulness, which means that you are self-aware in the present moment, and being at ease with what is.
Here are suggested activities to help you get into a state of mindfulness. These activities can be done with children as well as on your own.
‘I-Spy’ or ‘The Name Game’
This exercise is designed to use to curb spiraling thoughts. It will take your mind out of the yuck and focus it on what’s in the moment.
Sit and count to 10 slowly.
Open your eyes and look around.
Name three things that you can hear.
Breathe in and out three times.
Name two things you can see.
Breathe in and out two times.
Name one sensation you can feel.
The idea of this is to start with simple things — things you hear and see — and then you can look inward to what you feel. It doesn’t have to be monumental — it can be a stubbed toe — but your mind will be focused there, instead of on destructive thoughts.
Follow your breath
This exercise focuses your mind on breathing in and out, so you can identify how you are feeling without the distractions of thoughts.
To do this exercise, sit and breathe in and out while counting, like this:
“Breathing in one (breathe in) ... breathing out one (breathe out).”
“Breathing in two (breathe in) ... breathing out two (breathe out).”
Continue to at least 10, but you can go up to 20 or 30, depending on how much time you need.
If you’re doing this with children, ask them questions to help them focus on their breath.
“Can you feel your breath in your nose?” “Can you feel your breath in your chest or belly?” “Can you hear your breath going in and out?”
After you’ve finished counting, continue your slow breaths in and out, and ask yourself, “How am I feeling?”
The point is to help you pinpoint how you are feeling and if that feeling changes. What that feeling is doesn’t matter.
When you find yourself spiraling into a train of destructive thoughts, like how you look, how you’re doing your job that day, or bigger issues, practicing mindfulness can help you stop those spirals, and be present, which helps you face your feelings and move forward.
For other mindfulness ideas and activities, check out the following resources: