Lockdown – Reopen – Stay-at-Home Order – Reopen – Emergency Brake – Reopen…. over and over. How does a business owner cope?
Our current predicament feels like it may never end. The goal posts seem to move every time we get close to “the end.” You can sense the anxiety, tension, and sadness in the people around you, and you may be feeling some of these emotions yourself. If you’re running your own business, or expected to lead a team and it’s your job to chart the path forward through this mess, the consequences of carrying this negative energy around are amplified even more.
So, how do we cope?
Getting outside and moving certainly helps. Eating well and sleeping well are beneficial too. It’s also a great time to start a mindfulness practice if you haven’t done so already.
What is mindfulness and how can it support you during this pandemic? When we practice mindfulness we simply focus and observe the present moment, usually by paying attention to the breath and how it feels in our body. When we do this, we start to notice how agitated the mind is, the stream of racing thoughts that we seem to have no control over, and how these thoughts affect the sensations in our body. This agitation, or restlessness, feels very much like the anxiety we sense in our communities now during the lockdown.
You may be wondering how “just” focusing on your breath could possibly be helpful. Or you might worry that noticing your anxious thoughts so carefully will result in you feeling even worse! These doubts are all part of the process. Mindfulness practice will train you to observe the present moment without judgement.
When practicing you’ll notice the thoughts arising, the related sensations in your body, and observe them simply for what they are: fleeting images and feelings that arise and pass away. You will also notice that, try as you might, you cannot turn off the torrent of thoughts generated by your mind. This points to the universal truth: all things simply arise and pass away. Thoughts, sensations, events – even our lives themselves – all simply arise and pass away.
There is an amazing amount of freedom and balance to be found when you allow yourself to truly accept this reality. Everything will arise and pass away, even this pandemic. You will also discover that we also have no control over much of what happens to us. (Just as we have no control over those thoughts in our minds.) To train the mind to accept this truth requires practice, though. It’s called a mindfulness “practice” for a reason!
Wouldn’t it be great to develop a sense of calm, focus, and balance to help cope with all these rolling lockdowns, confusing messages, and the tidal wave of negative reporting swirling around us? Here’s a simple way to start:
- Find a quiet place to sit. (An ordinary chair is fine.)
- Set a timer for just 5 minutes.
- Close your eyes and see if you can simply notice your breath as it gently comes and goes. Your mind will wander almost immediately; that’s okay, it’s what the mind does. Just keep coming back to your breath. Over and over again. The more you fight the desire of the mind to wander, the harder this will feel. See if you can relax and simply observe the thoughts coming and going. Remember: no judgement!
As you develop the capacity to simply sit and observe the rising and passing of your breath, as well as your thoughts and the way they make your body feel, you are slowly training yourself to take a sense of calm and focus with you everywhere you go.
Mindfulness is a wonderful skill for helping you to cope with the ups and downs of the pandemic – which, by the way, is one other thing that will surely pass.