How Mindfulness Can Help with Pandemic Stress

How Mindfulness Can Help with Pandemic Stress

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. 

 

Mark Fornasiero is the co-founder of ACE Coworking and the creator of The Clear Insight Program. An avid practitioner of mindfulness meditation, Mark also provides professional consulting to entrepreneurs looking to launch and operate their own independent coworking spaces. 

New Year, New You? Reinventing “Reinvention”

New Year, New You? Reinventing “Reinvention”

by Catherine Harrison

Happy New Year to all our ACE members and to visitors to our ACE Coworking Blog. We hope this post offers you a fresh perspective on goal-setting and transformation as you launch into your new year plans. Wishing you much success in 2021!

This is the time of year, even in ‘normal’ years, when news feeds and media articles focus on New Year’s resolutions and reinventing oneself.

We’ve all heard stories of people who have reinvented themselves – done a radical overhaul and sold everything, shaved the head, quit the job, moved across the world and joined a Bhutanese convent. Maybe it’s the story of someone you know personally or of a celebrity like Madonna, Diddy, Arnold.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘reinvent’ as: 1. to make as if for the first time something already invented; 2. to remake or redo completely; 3. to bring into use again. 

When we hear the word reinvention, most of us think of definition number two. But what if we challenge ourselves to reinvent the notion of reinvention? I’d like to encourage us to think of smaller, more accessible shifts rather than “complete” do-overs. People often shy away from the concept of personal transformation because reinvention sounds massive, cumbersome, and overwhelming. 

You’re already invented! You’re already a complex, fascinating creature, made up of lots of experiences, talents, preferences, thinking styles, skills, and ways of noticing, interacting, and expressing yourself. 

A more accessible notion of reinvention is reconnection. Reconnecting to different parts of yourself that may have been lying dormant or crowded out by the noise of the daily grind. 

Reinvention is the outside job – what it looks like to other people. 

Reconnection is the inner work that is then manifested and reflected on the outside. 

A healthy snake with access to good nutrition and a balanced ecosystem sheds its skin on a regular basis, around once a month. This process, called ecdysis, is how a snake grows. Same goes for lobsters. As they grow, they shed their rigid exoskeletons, and go through a period of significant vulnerability while the new shell sets in place and hardens. Then they live comfortably in the new shell until they outgrow that and go through ecdysis once more. 

I find this so symbolic of how we, as humans, go through change and adaption – we live, learn, fail, go through discomfort, and re-establish a new sense of self. We grow into ourselves. And as with everything in nature, some basic needs (for humans: nutrition, rest, social interaction, love) are necessary for the regular re-growth to occur. 

In my book Three Colors, Twelve Notes, I include reflection questions at the end of each chapter. These are invitations to consider tiny bits of reinvention. What if we all did reinvention reflections regularly and not just once a year? What if we decide, like the snake and lobster, to conduct a regular process of shedding, reorganizing, shifting, settling in, and expanding so that our lives take on a fluidity, a joyfulness, and a more fully expressed experience? 

Taking time to reflect and reconnect to parts of yourself, to things that are interesting to you, to a sense of exploration and curiosity, to your values and aligned actions, allows you to be more present in your life, at any stage, in any activity, through any challenge, within any opportunity. 

It might only take a few minutes a day, a few small choices a day, a few micro habit changes to shift over time. You might identify, activate, integrate, and sustain what’s working and discard the bits that aren’t. To begin, invest 20 minutes and answer the following: 

  • What is the one thing you’d like to reconnect to this year?
  • Why is it important to you?
  • Have you done it before? When, where and with whom?
  • What resources do you have? What might you need to get?
  • Who can you recruit to be on your team? Is there already a group you can join?
  • Is there someone you can ask for support, encouragement, guidance?
  • What will you gain by reconnecting to this thing, this activity, this practice?
  • How will it support your forward momentum in life?
  • What might you have to give up in order to get it? What might that loss feel like?

This year, especially this year, after all we’ve been through, consider taking an inner inventory and celebrating all that you already are, and then identify which bits need to be given a little more energy to shine bright moving forward.

Our guest blogger, Catherine Harrison, is president of Purple Voodoo, an Oakville-based performance and behaviour change consulting company with a focus on mindfulness, adaptability, and accountability. Catherine is the author of Three Colors, Twelve Notes, an innovative book that invites readers to reconnect with themselves and with others by getting clear on what really matters—and realizing what is possible.