If we all weren’t juggling enough between the many hats we wear as parents, spouses, professionals, and friends; now we have the added stress that has come with the challenges associated with COVID-19 and social-distancing. It is entirely reasonable at this time to feel anxiety over the uncertainty and trying to juggle the never-ending list of responsibilities without everything falling apart. While the list of things to do appears never-ending, practicing mindfulness, even if it is for 5 minutes during short breaks throughout the day can help reduce anxiety.
First off, what is mindfulness? While it takes practice, it is not complicated. It can be done easily while doing our everyday activities such as eating, showering, and even washing the dishes. Jon Kabat Zinn, one of the leading researchers and proponents of mindfulness, defined mindfulness as “The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” There are several reasons why now, more than ever, practicing mindfulness is important. Given the current stress associated with COVID-19 or just in our typical everyday lives, we are left multi-tasking, trying to do it all and do it well. If you are on a conference call, helping your child with homework, and starting dinner, it is impossible to be in the present moment and attentive while doing all of those things. We do not have the bandwidth to keep that up all day. Also, with the added responsibilities that social distancing has challenged us with, it can be extremely difficult to be non-judgmental, not only towards others but towards ourselves. For example: putting on an additional ‘teacher’ hat may make it challenging to not judge ourselves if the kids have a little extra screen time while you focus on one thing for work, or if you look on social media and see others running a fantastic home-school and you feel accomplished that you got your kids dressed for the day. Be kind to yourself and others, and steer clear of judgment. By practicing mindfulness, you can focus and pay attention to the present moment, not what has happened already or the uncertainty of the future. That does not mean your thoughts won’t drift while you are trying to be in the moment, it just means you practice bringing your attention back to what you are doing in the present.
There are several easy ways you can incorporate mindfulness throughout your day for both you and your family:
- Waking just 10 minutes early before everyone else to enjoy the silence and a cup of coffee.
- Go for a walk outside and take in your neighborhood. We are often on auto-pilot driving home or to work, take in what you see, hear, smell, around you.
- Mindfully take a shower taking in the smell of your shampoo or temperature of the water.
- Listen to music and focus on one specific instrument or beat throughout the song.
- While eating, take in the smell, textures, and tastes of the food. Often we eat while being on auto-pilot, never really taking in the tastes of the food.
Some great ways to incorporate mindfulness with your family:
- Have them take in their environment using their senses by describing (non-judgmentally) 5 things they see, 4 things they can touch, 3 things they hear, 2 things they can smell, and 1 thing they can taste.
- Go for a walk or bike ride and notice things you see. Challenge yourselves by noticing one new thing each time. Another way to practice awareness as a family is to pretend you are on a safari and attempt to find as many animals as you can by paying attention to your surroundings during your walk.
- Try yoga with your kids. Cosmic Kids Yoga is a great resource. It can be great to exercise as a family.
- Do a short meditation or mindful breathing exercise before bed with your kids to help calm their minds before they go to bed. Several good apps for this are Calm, Headspace, Mindshift, Stop Think Breathe Kids, and Smiling Minds. Practicing body scanning and focusing on breathing are two easy activities all kids can do.
- Schedule a time to be in the moment as a family. Practicing gratitude around the dinner table can be a great way to be present and think of the good things, especially during these uncertain and stressful times.
- Blow bubbles and bring your attention to the shape of the bubbles and the way it moves in the air.
- Coloring can be a great activity to do as a family. Mandalas are great to focus on the intricate designs and staying inside the lines.
- Completing a puzzle as a family.
There are so many simple and easy ways to incorporate mindfulness into our everyday lives. Practicing mindfulness can help with managing emotions and feelings in stressful situations to decrease anxiety. Given the uncertain and stressful times, we find ourselves, it is important to take the time to be present and non-judgmental, especially with ourselves. If you or your child are having a hard time with the uncertainty we find ourselves in or feeling overwhelmed by all the changes recently, please reach out and our team of psychologists can help.