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Mindful Living: Tips to Find Inner Peace During the Pandemic
By Lisa Langer, PhD

Of all the ancient and modern practices designed to wake us, the simple practice of mindfulness has arrived at the forefront of our cultural sensibility. Why is it taking hold so strongly in our American health care, academic, and business institutions? What makes mindfulness so compelling? Over 30 years ago, when Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, began sitting and adapting Zen Buddhist mindfulness practices to the health care arena at UMass Medical Center and writing Full Catastrophe Living, no one, including himself, could have predicted the Mindful Revolution.

Now more than ever, with health care in the spotlight as we navigate a global pandemic, mindfulness and self-care have become essential to our overall wellness. In fact, there are deep threads connecting our mental health with our physical well-being.

While so much is out of our control right now, it’s more vital than ever to focus on taking care of our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This must begin with the personal responsibility of self-care. It’s pretty simple, although not always easy.

The following are some proactive everyday tips for maintaining your mental health and finding inner peace during times of unrest and uncertainty.

Stay balanced and grounded through self-care:
• If you’re worried or anxious, remember you’re not alone.
• With everything happening in the world, it’s natural to feel this way.
• Self-care every day must be a top priority.
• Do at least one thing for yourself even if you’re taking care of young children.
• Go for a walk.
• Enjoy a cup of coffee or herbal tea.
• Take a long shower or bath.
• Schedule self-care into your day.

Tune into your breath and body regularly:
• Simply bring your attention to your breath.
• Notice each inhale and each exhale.
• At the same time feel both feet grounded to the earth.
• Your breath becomes an anchor in the body to the present moment.
• Bringing our attention to the present helps relax the body and mind and lessen any worried or anxious thoughts.

Express your feelings to close friends and family; don’t keep them inside:
• Worries or anxious thoughts can seem more difficult if we keep them inside.
• It helps to talk to people we care for and trust.
• Also, it helps to share and express your feelings.
• Make connection a priority for your mental health several times a week and you’ll feel less alone.

Consider limiting time on social media and watching the news:
• You’ve probably heard this before, but make positive choices about the amount of time spent looking at Facebook and Instagram as well as watching the news.
• Media can increase your reactivity and worried thoughts.
• If you choose to look at media, consider spending most of the time on positive sites.

Mindfully meditate, either formally or informally:
• Terrific meditation apps (e.g., Headspace, Calm) can lead you in simple, short formal meditations.
• Try a five- or 10-minute meditation to ground your body and settle your mind.
• Bring more awareness to everything you’re doing; for example, make changing a diaper or playing with your child a mediation by bringing your full attention to the activity.
• Know that worries and challenging thoughts will always come to mind, but you can choose to simply notice the thoughts and let them pass. This takes practice, but you can do it!

Questions to Ask Yourself
When a stressful life event falls at your feet, choosing a productive response rather than having an impulsive reaction is an ability we all aspire to. The following questions will help you navigate what’s happening both inside and outside of yourself in the moment:
• What is happening right now?
• What am I feeling about what is happening?
• Is what’s happening pleasant or unpleasant?
• Am I having a reaction?
• Can I be in a relationship to this experience (whatever it may be) responsibly rather than reactively?

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, uncertainties in our environment are imminent and constantly changing. Taking action every day to control your mind and focus on self-care can help in maintaining your mental health. And just like everything else, practice makes perfect.

Lisa Langer, PhD, is the author of Deeper Into Mindfulness: Next Steps to Sustain Your Meditation Practice and Find Inner Peace. Langer is a clinical psychologist in private practice, a clinical assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the Northwell/Hofstra School of Medicine, and the founder of PRACTICE Body Mind Soul company, a wellness center in Roslyn, NY, acquired by the Katz Women’s Institute/ Northwell Health System as their first ever Center for Wellness and Integrative Medicine. She has a 30-plus year history of training in mindful meditation and body practices.