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Practicing Mindfulness During the Pandemic

washingdishesLiving through the Covid-19 outbreak here in Westchester County has many of us talking with our friends, debating online, shopping for supplies and otherwise preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best. And while making plans now that schools are closed and stocking up on toilet paper are important steps to take, during this stressful time it is also important to remember to try to keep our bodies and minds as healthy as possible.

While we know that stress has negative effects on our health and well-being, there are a plethora of ways doctors recommend combating stress and strengthening our immune systems. Some of these recommendations include making sure to stick to a regular exercise routine, eating healthily, getting enough sleep, and if you haven’t started a mindful practice yet, there is no better time than the present!

According to the University of Washington, a regular mindful practice routine “Reduces stress and its consequences...and can lead to less intense stress responses. This has many health benefits, such as lowering your blood pressure and strengthening your immune system.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, defines mindfulness as an “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” With this definition in mind there are numerous ways to practice mindfulness, including but not limited to, sitting down to a traditional mindful meditation. There are however, lots of other easy ways to practice mindfulness throughout your day and even while you are on the go. Consider practicing mindfulness while you are brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, or shampooing your hair!

If you choose to try mindfulness say, while washing dishes, simply bring your focus and attention fully to the activity at hand. Notice the physical feelings: the warm water, the sudsy bubbles, the weight of the dish in your hand. Bring your attention to the sounds you might hear: clinking dishes, running water, sopping sponges. And also try to take note of how your body feels and what emotions you are experiencing while you are performing the task. Although it is pertinent to continue to pay attention to the present moment, it is also inevitable for other thoughts to creep into your mind. When this happens, simply treat the thought like a passing cloud in your mind. Don’t try to hold onto the thought, or admonish yourself for having the thought, merely let the thought go and bring your attention back to the present moment.

Another great way to practice mindfulness for stress-reduction comes from the University of Minnesota where they suggest that “STOP is an easy way to practice being mindful in the face of stress. When you notice something has triggered you and you are about to react, follow the steps below:

-Slow down

-Take a breath

-Observe: what are you feeling in your body? What are you thinking? What other possibilities exist?

Proceed, considering multiple possibilities.”

So while we prep, make contingency plans, and wait to hear what actions to take from our local government...perhaps a little mindfulness is just what we need to get us through. For more information and for access to guided meditations please click here

Wendy MacMillan is a former teacher and a proud mom of two children. While her background is in psychology and education, Wendy was recently trained in mindfulness at Mindfulschools.org. She has long been passionate about wellness, and as an active member of the Scarsdale PTA, Wendy helped to bring mindfulness to her children's elementary school. In addition, Wendy helped establish and is an acting member of the school's Wellness Committee. For more information about mindfulness check out this site: mindfulschools.org or watch the video of Jon Kabat-Zinn explaining what mindfulness is ... or contact Wendy MacMillan at wendymacmillan@gmail.com.

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