Relax: everything is out of control!
How mindfulness can support you in creating a sense of calm through connection to the present moment, and tame the feelings of overwhelm.
~Learn to relax with mindfulness ~
During times of stress, both personal and on a collective level-such as this time during the COVID-19 global crisis, it is essential for our wellbeing to find pathways to calm, clarity, creativity, and openhearted compassion. But how does one find such qualities of being, when there is disarray, chaos, and crisis within and around?
Our fear is a natural response to that which threatens our central sense of safety, the core of our being, our existence, and our sense of self. As everything in the natural fabric of life has a dual nature to its existence, one can sense into this duality as knowing that both positive and negative qualities can and in fact do exist in all things in the fabric of life. Negative and positive exist together, as do fear and courage. The positive side is that fear can motivate and mobilize us to quickly respond, to take inspired action to protect and persevere. The negative side of fear is that it can easily take over our lives, hijacking our brain, and use up our life energy, our attention, and our ultimately our ability to be present in the moment. When fear becomes overwhelm-all parts of the brain become activated in the stress response and this creates impulsive doing, thinking, and reaction. Responsiveness or response-ability as I like to call it is only possible in a state of heightened awareness yet we still have access to the higher-order thinking abilities within the brain such as reflection, the ability to attune to self and others, to our capacity to be creative and to call upon this to collaboratively problem solve and adapt healthfully in ways that preserve and even enhance our ability to stay calm, connected, caring and creative in the future.
Responsiveness or response-ability, as I like to call it, is only possible in a state of heightened awareness yet we still have access to the higher-order thinking abilities within the brain such as reflection, the ability to attune to self and others, to our capacity to be creative and to call upon this to collaboratively problem solve and adapt healthfully in ways that preserve and even enhance our ability to stay calm, connected, caring and creative in the future.
To calm the stress response and the panic and overwhelm that can come from this state, so we can regain access to our full brain's ability to be calm, clear, creative, collaborative and compassionate we can do the following:
Slow Down & Be Mindful ...
1). Placing one's attention with intention upon something (an object, someone) and maintaining this intentional attention. This could also be considered attuning one's attention to that of something else.
2). Open awareness. Opening your awareness up allows you to become receptive to the moment, which is a state of allowing what is. This helps create distance between you and the subject of your attention so that there is some subjectivity afforded where both you, the subject, and the space between call exist independently yet together as well.
3). Kindness and Compassion. Holding compassion, kindness, love for both yourself and your inner experience and that of the other, the outer world.
Mindfulness Practice of Breathing: The antidote to fear and overwhelm is to connect with the present moment. How?! Breathe!
Breathing is something we do in every moment and slowing down enough to notice your breathing creates a space large enough in our brain to respond to, and attune to the moment at hand, to the breath. Mindfulness really means to intentionally attune or place one's attention on something (an object, someone) and maintain this attention with open awareness.
Focusing on noticing the in-breath: the air coming through the nose, and following it down the back of the throat to fill the lungs and the expansion in the body that is created, and the feeling the flow of air out that same pathway to empty the body and feeling the sinking, settling grounding feeling that it creates is both an example of mindfulness and practice. Simple, natural, and something accessible to anyone, in any moment.
Use the above image as a guided visualization to help you track the breath as a way to support coming into diaphragmatic breathing- which is a fancy anatomical way of describing a deeper quality of breath that comes about when the parasympathetic half of the nervous system is stimulated! This supports the activity of the nervous system to down-regulate and restores a sense of calm in the body and in the system, and we can relax when we are regulated!.
If you are an adult with kids, do this activity with them to support their own growing capacities to self-regulate through co-regulation. It is also a time to connect mindfully together and teach them the power of their attention and that of the breath, and the wisdom of their body.
Neff, K., & Germer, CMindsight: the new science of personal transformation. to accept yourself, build inner strength, and thrive.
Siegel, D. J. (2010).Mindsight: the new science of personal transformation.New York: Bantam Books.