Compassion during COVID-19

With the ‘stay-at-home order’ still in place, compassion may be the best way to reduce stress, and maintain optimal wellness of body and mind.

There is no denying that the global pandemic COVID-19 is an overwhelming and strange time in history. Mindfulness teaches us that being gentle, kind, and compassionate towards yourself is the first step to managing this challenging time as a human.

If mindfulness is one of the self care techniques you turn to, then this article will provide you with some ideas for how to apply it during this unprecedented time.

First, it is important to recognize that everyday may bring something a little different when it comes to how we are feeling in body, and mind. Honoring the duality of being human means allowing for awareness of both sides of self.

On one side, we may experience happiness, joy and enthusiasm for adapting to this new life at home. Perhaps it feels like we are gaining something. For some it feels nice to get to spend more time around the house. Maybe we feel relieved to avoid the commute and be at home, relaxing with Netflix.

On the other side, we can experience a whole spectrum of sadness, guilt, worry, fear and grief over what we have lost. Being cooped up at home alone or with family, finding a new norm has it’s own challenges. This is especially hard since the change was rapid, massive and unexpected.

How we respond to the reality and depth that this catastrophic event has had on our local and global community is our own. There is no right or wrong way to feel.

“Life is a painful and beautiful, sometimes weird joyous experience.” -Cara Allison

I hope that you are able to take comfort in knowing that we are all in this together. Though answers to many questions may still be unclear, and the certainty that we sometimes get accustomed to has felt non existent, I hope there is still a sense of trust.

Trust that we will see this through to the end. As a planet, we have definitely been here before. May there be some peace in knowing that resilience is an intrinsic part of all of us. 

So let’s take a look at some of the ways we can cultivate resilience and compassion for our situation through mindfulness. Here are some of my favorite techniques! May they be an inspiration for you to find comfort, wellness and healing during this very difficult time.

Five ways to be compassionate towards yourself, and how to apply mindfulness while at home:

1) Mindful movement: For a body that is both joyful and energetic, one must be balanced in both dynamism and stillness. This means that it is both equally important to do a movement practice and resting practice. Do some form of movement and resting practice every day.

  • How to adapt at home: As fitness facilities are closing temporarily, many teachers are going online as a way to continue to provide a much needed outlet during this time. Look into taking an online yoga, meditation, or exercise class as often as you can. There are a variety of free, donation and subscription based fitness, yoga and meditation classes. You can find my offering of weekly mindful movement and meditation classes for free on Facebook and ZOOM by donation! If you feel lost and are not sure how to begin creating a home practice, I also offer online coaching sessions.

2) Mindfulness in nature: Be sure to practice social distancing and always wear your face mask and gloves when you go outside. Not only are you protecting yourself from the virus, but you are also practicing kindness towards others. If accessible, take a simple stroll in your neighborhood or park. This can be very effective for soothing an anxious or busy mind. Being with the trees and plants have a way of grounding and calming the whole body. The sun also offers valuable vitamin D, which gives a wonderful boost to our mood. If you can, use 5-10 minutes of your time for sun bathing.

  • How to adapt at home: Any activity can be done in a mindful way. While you walk, notice what’s around you. Slow down to feel each step, breathe and center yourself in the stillness that nature has to offer. Listen to the birds and feel the warmth of the sunshine on your skin. If walking outside is not something you can currently do, practice plant gazing. While looking at a tree or indoor plant, breathe and just be with the experience of peace that the plants have to offer. Know that if the trees are still standing, and the birds are still singing, there is still peace to be found within.

3) Mindful cooking and eating: As you may have noticed by now, mindfulness is about paying attention on purpose! How about we take our mindfulness into the kitchen by exploring new recipes. Bringing fresh ideas into the kitchen allows for your creative energy to flow. Creative energy is the heart of the human spirit and it makes us feel alive! Have fun while fulfilling the intention to nourish your insides with good food choices. 

  • How to adapt at home: Include as many fresh fruits and vegetables as you can into your meals. Try researching anti-viral foods such as garlic, onion and ginger! You can also try introducing anti-inflammatory supplements into your daily routine like turmeric. While cooking, pay attention to the colors, and textures of your ingredients. Once your meal is finished, take your time while you eat. Slow down and chew each bite 20-30 times, allowing for plenty of time to digest your food. Notice the flavors, and textures in your mouth. Enjoy your meal completely!

4) Mindful meet ups: The human connection is essential for our survival. We love to be around each other! Lately, many have looked to ZOOM, FaceTime or Skype for virtual meet ups! Virtual happy hour with family, co-workers or friends is so much fun. There is nothing like *seeing* those I love and care about, even if its on a computer or phone screen. Staying connected helps with feelings of isolation and it is been shown to really cheer someone up when they are feeling blue!

  • How to adapt at home: Make time to connect with friends and family via phone or computer. Even virtual connections matter! Share fun memories, laugh and create community.

5) Compassion meditation: Sometimes taking care of yourself means small, kind gestures. Offer compassion, love and kindness towards your self, especially when feeling blue. This is a really difficult time and it is OK to let yourself feel sad, angry or lost. Use mindfulness to listen to what your heart wants and needs during this time. By practicing mindful awareness of our feelings, a holistic environment is created within where our emotions and thoughts have the freedom to come and go instead of getting trapped in the body, which creates suffering.

  • How to adapt at home: To practice the compassion meditation, find a quiet place to sit comfortably. You can sit in a chair or sit cross legged on the floor. If you prefer to lay down, that is OK too. Take a few slow, deep breaths, and center your awareness at the heart. Set an intention for this to be a process of paying attention to your feelings, on purpose and without any judgments. Then begin to ask your heart a few gentle questions: What does the heart know? What does the heart want? What does the heart need? Give yourself plenty of time to listen compassionately. If there is anything you would like to say to your heart, let it flow through. You may want to spend some time journaling about your insights too.

I hope that these suggestions have sparked a bit of insight for you into your own strategy for self care. If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that we can do this. Remember to take each day as it comes and live moment to moment. Come back to your breath periodically during the day to anchor you into this moment, the same way that an anchor steadies a boat.

“This is the time to steady yourself – and it affects everyone else.” – Jack Kornfield