We need to be mindful of our own mental health during the best of times. During times of social isolation, quarantine, and global pandemic, we need to be intentional about our own resilience. Our wellbeing is not only the way we stay happy and feel safe, but it helps us maintain our immune system and stay healthy. Practicing mindfulness during quarantine can help us do just that.
We can incorporate simple behaviors into our daily practices that can enhance our ability to be strong and to overcome. These are activities which many of us do instinctively. But doing them in a more mindful and intentional way will help them have more impact. And if you find yourself having a hard day, reflecting back on these practices may very well help you bounce back.
Who am I connecting with today?
Relationships are essential. We are social creatures. And in these days of social isolation, we are not able to share in those relationships as we might like. We need to find new ways of connecting in relationships on a daily basis. We can engage in these connections as easily with the person across town as we can with the person across the country.
There are virtual everything out there, not only virtual happy hours and virtual book clubs. There is virtual bowling, virtual marathons, virtual bible studies, or you can take a virtual walk or hike with someone.
How am I taking care of my body and mind today?
Our minds and bodies both need regulation. The act of regulating our minds is finding ways to declutter our minds, focus, and manage our thoughts and feelings effectively. This makes our emotions more manageable and our thoughts more clear. At the fundamental level, regulating our bodies is about how we eat, sleep, and exercise.
We need to take care of our bodies as best we can, while still having realistic expectations for ourselves during these tough times. Our eating and sleeping patterns have changed, therefore our bodies will too. For all of us who are homebound, our access to the kitchen has never been greater.
People across the world are reporting changes in sleep and vivid dreams. Gyms are closed and opportunities for exercise are limited. But our bodies crave movement. Our bodies also seek rhythm to stay healthy. Spending time outside is a wonderful way to help our bodies stay strong and research shows its contribution to our resiliency and health. Likewise, science shows us that listening to music releases endorphins in the body, helping us feel pleasure.
What am I doing well today? What am I learning today? What am I creating today?
This set of questions is about our competence and self-esteem. Part of feeling good about who we are is feeling good about what we do. We need to accomplish something. We need to create and learn.
Make sure that on a daily basis you can bring to mind the good that you bring into your own life and the lives of others. This can be reading a book, working on a puzzle, cooking a meal, or tending the garden. There are things we do every day that can answer these questions.
By bringing it to mind and being intentional in our activities, we multiply their impact on our lives. All sorts of things can be done from home, including virtual cooking classes, virtual music lessons, virtual dance lessons, and even virtual potty training lessons.
What am I grateful for today?
Gratitude is an amazing thing. There is a myriad of research on the science of gratitude and positive psychology. We become the perspectives that we hold.
Being thankful for what we have and who we are helps us not only see the glass as half full, but know that there is always good in the world. This is not, as Brené Brown calls it, to “silver lining” the bad things. Phrases like “it could be worse” and “at least I’m not…” aren’t part of gratitude.
Gratitude is a celebration of the good things. When we are mindful of the things we appreciate in ourselves, in our lives, and in others, we open our hearts to the good.
What am I looking forward to?
Paired with gratitude is a need to hold hope. We need to have hope that the struggles of today don’t have to be the struggles of tomorrow. We need to have the vision that tomorrow has good in it. Many things are outside of our control. Hanging your hope on miracles and unrealistic wishes can leave us vastly disappointed.
No matter our struggles today, we need to be able to throw a rope around something in our future and pull ourselves towards it. In these days of limited stimulation, it can feel like we are running on a hamster wheel. We need to see beyond the now and into the future.
Each day we are one day closer to the end of the pandemic, to being able to socialize, to hugging our friends and family, to feeling safe in public, and to learning what our new normal will be.
We are each amazing people who do amazing things. We all make a difference in this world. We all have something to give, something to share, something to heal, and something to teach.
We are each our own best resource in the world. We each have opportunities to care for ourselves and to care for others in these critical moments of our world experience.
Find ways to stay strong today and to be your best for tomorrow. If you find yourself in a funk, in a dark place, go back to these five questions and use them to make sure that you are taking care of yourself.
John Richardson-Lauve is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience working in the field of community mental health. He is committed to the support and strengthening of individuals and communities that struggle with adversity. His experience includes work with chronically mentally ill adults, substance abuse, residential youth care, foster care, and outpatient mental health. He has worked with homeless veterans in New York City, in a hospice home for those with HIV in the early stages of the AIDS crisis, and 6 years living together with his wife in a home with 8 teenage girls in foster care. He is an experienced trainer, lecturer and keynote presenter. He is the Director of Mental Health and the Lead Trauma and Resilience Educator at ChildSavers, an outpatient mental health clinic that has served children and families in the Richmond community for over 90 years. He and his wife have a 12-year-old son and have worked with over 50 children in foster care in their home.