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How to Build Mindfulness into Your Day (and Ways to Help Tame COVID-19 Angst)

This past week, I found myself feeling a little angst-y. I was supposed to be on a weekend retreat with more than 50 other women. The state of Iowa kept updating its recommendations on gathering sizes and social distancing. The people-pleaser in me didn’t want to cancel because I was playing the piano on the retreat. While my husband and I are healthy and my kids are healthy young adults, my dad and mother-in-law are both in their 80s, and I know that makes them much more susceptible to COVID-19. Fortunately for both my angst and the participants, the retreat was canceled.

With this particular crisis, I was able to name my feelings, “angst”, immediately and then work on self-care for when I feel this way. I think back to September 11th and getting “stuck” in the 24/7 news cycle where I was replaying what happened over and over every time I watched an update. When I wasn’t replaying it, I was worried about the future - what it meant for our country, for my young children. But I never really named what I was feeling or sought self-care.

I attribute this change to practicing mindfulness which I learned about more than 5 years ago.

Mindfulness is paying attention, in the present moment, non-judgementally. Even more important than the definition of mindfulness is the benefits. It helps lower blood pressure, reduces stress, enhances mental health, improves sleep. I noticed these benefits and also that regular practice increased my empathy and helped me focus on what was important in my life. It also helped me navigate all of the speed bumps in life more smoothly - the bumps were still there, just a little smoother. And now, in this current environment of uncertainty, mindfulness is not taking away COIVD-19, it is just helping me tame the angst-beast!

After practicing and studying mindfulness these last few years, I have found some ways to build it into my day.

1: Focus on your breath when you first wakeup

Use the opportunity to listen to your breath. Follow it as it goes into your lungs and as you breathe out. Feel your chest or abdomen expanding. If you start thinking of other things, do as my mindfulness teachers recommend. Gently tell yourself “thinking” and follow your breath again. Do this for between one and five minutes. You may find that even one minute is difficult to do when you first start out. It’s okay. I promise it will get easier! The best part of this practice is that it doesn’t take any special tools. You just breathe.