Starting your career, facing final exams or looking for that new job is stressful at the best of times. Coupling it with the most uncertain of times, in the midst of a global pandemic makes it a time filled with stress and worry for a great many people. Whatever about protecting our physical health from this unseen enemy, it is also vital that we work to maintain and protect our mental health during this challenging time and try to stay in control of the things we can control and be mindful of what we can’t.
Staying Mindful In a Crisis
Mindfulness is a technique which we can all learn, and can help bring some element of calm to this situation. According to mindfulness practitioner Joanne O’Malley; “Mindfulness or being ‘Present’ and ‘Aware’ cultivates a way of being that builds people’s inner resources, their mind & heart fitness. The practice helps us to be in control of our own minds and mental / emotional stats, instead of our minds/ automatic reactions being in control of us.”
Information and misinformation
One of the greatest problems surrounding this pandemic is misinformation, and how people are affected by it. Whether it be my social media platforms, fake websites, messaging apps, or people repeating hearsay in conversation-the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown up hundreds of examples of disinformation and misinformation, ranging from fear mongering, to paranoia, to downright dangerous erroneous medical information. It’s vital that you shield yourself from any stress, strain or damage that such misinformation can cause by only abiding by information from trusted sources, such as national media, government and health agencies. The Covid-19 pandemic has monopolised news networks, and is very hard to avoid, but you do need to give yourself a break. Try turning the notifications off on your phone, only check news feeds once a day if you can, because rest assured you will hear the news at some point, and it is best you hear anything from a tried and trusted source.
Health Comes First
You will have increased stress to deal with at this time in addition to what may be pressing deadlines, coursework and/or job applications. But whatever the external pressures that you may have, the most important thing is your health. Everyone deals with the current situation differently so make your own decisions based on what works best for your welfare and be mindful of what your priorities are. Don’t take on unnecessary extra stress or work at this time. While we are all in this situation together, around the world, each and every person has unique life circumstances which may add to their concern. For example, if someone has an underlying health condition that may exacerbate their vulnerability, or has family members who may be at risk, it can detract from their ability to contribute. So bear this in mind if you are involved in group work for a college project, or waiting to hear back from someone in relation to a job. Compassion and empathy is more important now than ever so ensure that you treat others the way you would like to be treated yourself.
Make sure you:
- Stay in touch: With family, friends and loved ones. You may not be able to see them but you do think about them, and they think about you. On a professional or academic basis, also stay in touch with colleagues and contacts, but don’t force the issue if you are waiting for a response. As we said above, this situation is affecting different people in different ways.
- Listen: Practise mindful listening by taking time to listen to your body and your mind, about how you really feel. “When we engage with our life in this way, bringing calm and alert attention to each moment, change naturally occurs. We are freer, less imprisoned by automatic conditioned reactions; able to see and understand more deeply what is actually happening and this opens up space and choice,” says Joanne O’Malley of Mindfulness At Work.
- Feel: There are a range of exercises you can do to engage in mindfulness and help your body adjust and relax in this stressful time. Visit www.mindfulnessatwork.ie to find out more. You can also use this time to develop empathy and compassion for others by listening to how they truly feel.
- Be considerate: Frustrations and fear can easily cloud good communications so make sure you take time to consider the impact of your response during this time.
Scientific research has proven that mindfulness techniques demonstrably reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and fear. There is plenty of help out there, both in terms of professional advice and of course free digital resources to help you develop this skill to take some time out to care for yourself.