Mindfulness In Times of Uncertainty

3 min read
By Ece Ozkan

We are all tired of hearing the word “coronavirus” or “COVID-19”, and anxious about the situation. So don’t worry, this is not a post about that, this post is more about dealing with uncertainty in a nutshell. All of us have been bombarded with news from all over the world and feel the need to stay plugged in. That said, unless you are a journalist, healthcare professional, or in another critical occupation, you do not need to be plugged in to COVID-19 news 24/7. As a matter of fact, it is encouraged to log off, occupy oneself with other things to keep our mental health intact. It is really challenging though, I know. Especially if you are stuck in a country where you are a non-resident, and all you can think about is whether you will be able to go back home or stuck in uncertainty. I’m in the United States as I write this post, my mind keeps wandering everytime I hear helicopters, most likely transferring patients to nearby hospitals, and ambulance sirens all day long… This post includes techniques I – try to – apply to manage my anxiety in such an uncertain and chaotic environment. Hope it helps you as well.

Pillars of Resilience

Resilience can be defined as the ability and tendency to “bounce back” after facing adversity. When we are facing major challenges worldwide, resilience comes in as a helpful tool and keeps us moving on rather than being stuck with anger and questioning “why me”? Option B, co-authored by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, is a great resource if you’d like to read a bit more on this topic. For now, as a quick summary, let’s look at the pillars of resilience to understand how we can build on it:

  1. Mindfulness: Mindfulness can be simply defined as being fully aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not being reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us. Seems quite tough these days, with the information overload and rising uncertainty. In such a tough time, mindfulness teaches you there are no “should”s or “should not”s in life, but just facts. The way of seeing things in terms of what’s actually happening rather than obsessing over how things should be happening, is mindfulness. There are several meditation apps to help you practice mindfulness, and I can talk from my experience with Headspace that it really helps easing into setting up a meditation practice via fun animations and guided meditations.
  2. Cognitive and emotional health: It’s only human to get overwhelmed and let our thoughts start spiraling when we face uncertainty. Make sure you don’t feed the stories in your mind about catastrophe so that you can regulate your emotions as much as you can. A few good tactics to achieve this includes reading, yoga or meditation practise, and therapy (talk therapy, aromatherapy you name it).
  3. Mission and purpose: Resilience is correlated with living consistently with our values. Think about your North star, what matters to you most in life and how you can align your life with them.
  4. Social engagement: In times where we have to apply “social distancing” in order to flatten the curve to beat the COVID-19 pandemic, social engagement sounds impossible at least for a few more weeks. Yet you do not need to be physically connected to engage with others. We need each other’s support more than ever, reach out to the loved ones via video call or even send them a message!
  5. Physical health: How we exercise, eat and sleep are the foundations of resilience. Moreover, these things boost your immunity, which is what you need to beat the COVID-19. There are so many alternative exercises you can do at home, from jumping jack drills to online yoga classes. I listed several online Mandala yoga tutorials below, you can start from there 🙂 

Taking Control of Anxiety 

Several news outlets started to publish articles about how to limit your exposure to coronavirus news in a smart way. Unless you are stuck in a country with heavy exposure to the virus and waiting to be evacuated, or have a similar emergency situation, it is probably wiser to limit news consumption to bare minimum. In any case, some useful tips are:

  • Find a few legitimate resources, like CDC or WHO website and a trustworthy news outlet, and stick to them for information. Do not read everything that pops up on your feed or forwarded to you by a friend with the best intentions
  • Limit your screen time reading news and know when to walk away. Information overload can do more harm than help you
  • Try not to seek constant reassurance or Googling symptoms. It is tempting to keep refreshing the COVID-19 map to see how many more people caught it or recovered, but it only intensifies the anxiety for most of us
  • Allow yourself a daily “worry time”. This is one of my favorite strategies. If you are a born worrier like me, at least limiting your worrying time can alleviate your anxiety.

And of course, the one thing that you might be most familiar with: Yoga/ Exercise. Practicing yoga, even a 15 minute one, could help calming your mind in this utter chaotic environment. Breathing and grounding exercises are proven to combat anxiety, plus you do not need to go to a yoga studio – as a matter of fact most studios are shut down temporarily. Mandala Yoga offers several online tutorials, which you can find at its Vimeo page here. Will leave a few specific tutorial links below for convenience:

Surya Namaskar A

Headstand – prep poses

Flying dragon

Mandala Yoga flow