Everyday Resilience: Mindfulness
My Presbyterian Credo colleague, Bob Stice, starts his plenary session by asking, "recall a difficult time in your life when you weren't sure how you'd get through ... what got you through?" Recalling how we've gotten through tough times reminds us that we cultivate resilience just like we build muscle - with practice.
Today's stressors for me: our daughter living in Europe, which is now the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. My mother-in-law, who is living in assisted living, is no longer allowed to leave - or have visitors. And my church - the place where weekly I center myself, is closed; I wept through my soon-to-retire pastor's online service this morning. How about you? What stressed you today? And what got you through?
As I wrote yesterday, everyday resilience is about small practices you can do, with intention, that help you get through. Mindfulness is definitely one of them. Mindfulness is defined as being fully present to the moment, noticing your thoughts, what your senses are telling you, and what you are feeling without judgment and with compassion (for people of faith, it's looking at yourself through God's eyes). Traditional mindfulness practice often begins with a body scan that can take 20-45 minutes or more, but not everyone has the time - or the focus - for such a concerted effort. Here's my invitation to you: start by noticing what's around you: what colors do you see? Have you noticed that the cherry trees are blossoming? Take a moment to sense where your clothes touch your skin. Noticing things like this can take a minute or less, but even that brief amount of time can feel like a mini-vacation for our overdriven brains. Ready for a little more? Start sensing what your body is trying to tell you. Where in your body do you experience worry? How about anger? What about joy? Can you listen to this to know that you have looked at social media - or the news, for long enough? Let your body tell you when you need to take a break - and listen to it.
Our energy goes where our thoughts go. If we are worrying about the past, our energy goes there. If we are worrying about our uncertain future, zip! Our energy goes there. We only have so much energy! So keep it in the now. And remind yourself that at this moment (I hope!) you are okay.
Mindfulness is the number one way to heal our brains from trauma. I don't know if this coronavirus scare is reaching trauma level yet- but I'm guessing some are feeling this is toxically stressful - and risks overwhelming coping mechanisms. If you want to try out a more structured mindfulness practice, many apps on your smartphone are available. My favorite is called Insight Timer. A good book on this is Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. And if the idea of sitting with your too busy mind lacks appeal, think about a practice like yoga - lots of YouTube options await you until it's safe to try out a class.