The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives, and while many are eager to loosen stay-at-home orders, coming out of quarantine may be just as stressful as navigating through it.
So, how do we cultivate calm amid this tumultuous time? Mindfulness, of course, and we’ll go a step further with advice on how to put this concept into practice in our current state of affairs.
Let’s consider the grocery store as an example. It’s a place many of us have had to visit throughout quarantine and one of the first places many of us will consider returning when restrictions loosen. But it’s also a place where anxiety is likely to run high and leave you feeling exhausted after 30 minutes of grabbing bread, milk, and cheese.
But there are ways to ground yourself for this stressful experience, and the lessons learned from your trip to the store can be applied to new experiences throughout the end of quarantine, including going back to the office or returning to school, when the time is right.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways you can prepare yourself and manage stressful situations, using the grocery store example.
- Have a plan: Before the pandemic, you might have been able to hop in your car and swing by the store without much thought, but now, it will save you time and stress by considering your trip beforehand. Take a moment to write a list of everything you need. Make sure you’ve packed a mask and hand sanitizer. Consider if there is a store you can visit that may be less crowded. It’s also a good idea to determine your acceptability level for human contact before you head to the store. For example, at what point does the store become too crowded for you? Will you park close to someone or in the far corner of the lot? It’s better to decide beforehand rather than force a stressful decision in the moment.
- Embrace uncertainty: You may drive to the store and find that they don’t have your favorite coffee. The lines might be much, much longer than you anticipated. Or, there might be people walking around in crowds or without masks. This situation is uncertain, and if you balk at every unexpected event, you’ll only find yourself in a pit of despair. As best you can, embrace uncertainty. Chuckle at the surprises that greet you and challenge yourself to be flexible. As always, you can embrace uncertainty and remove yourself from the situation if you deem it unsafe.
- Take a breath: This one is tricky because you should take care to wear masks where appropriate and consider your health above all else. Still, taking a deep breath calms the nervous system and makes you less reactive. If you find yourself in a stressful situation (perhaps something unexpected as mentioned above), take a few deep breaths and find your center. Soothe yourself. You’ll make it through.
- Send compassion: With the stress of the pandemic, it’s easy to become flustered, and you will no doubt encounter frustrated people—whether it’s the checkout clerk or the person in front of you in line. Remember everyone, including yourself, is doing the best they can in this uncertain situation. If someone overreacts, send them compassion. Smile. Breathe. Be.
- Withhold judgment: It’s important to have good judgment when taking care of your health as we loosen quarantine but recognize if you are drawing conclusions—about yourself or others—that aren’t helpful. Perhaps, someone speaks to you in a short tone and you immediately label them a jerk. Maybe you forgot your grocery list and immediately reprimand yourself for being forgetful. Be gentle with yourself and others as best you can, and practice releasing unhelpful judgements.
How are you embracing the uncertainty of our current situation? Let us know in the comments below, and share any mindfulness tips that have helped you during this stressful time.