“Mindfulness can be described as the practice of paying attention in the present moment and doing it intentionally and with non-judgment.”
We live in unprecedented times – you have probably read already 100 articles starting with or containing this sentence. But it doesn’t make it less true. Since December last year, with the outbreak of COVID-19, our lives have changed forever. Even more so with the beginning of lockdown in Europe and now in the rest of the world as well. It is uncharted territory where we are right now and the effects of what we live today will remain for years to come.
Talking about mindfulness and how mindfulness could help at work would have made sense at any time. But in this very moment of our lives, it is even more important to be able to focus on the present moment and being able to suspend judgment. Because this is what our brains tend to do: wonder back and forth among present, past and futures, worries, hopes, fears and everything else in the middle. So, this blog post will take a bit of a different turn that what it was supposed to be and I will share with you some of the things that are keeping my mind sane in these difficult times. I hope they can be of help or inspiration to some of you.
Create your own new routine
I am a planner by nature but having my own routine has helped me tremendously in these past weeks. Of course, nobody will ever know if I spend all my days in my pyjamas, but I know it and I have consciously decided that I do not want to. So, I have created my new routine, which consists of getting up (later than usual); getting dressed (in tracksuits); working (with undivided attention for two blocks of three hours each); cooking lunch; getting some exercise in; reading; cooking dinner; meditating; going to sleep and repeat. I indulge a bit over weekends, and I am not always so strict with myself, but I try to stick to it as much as possible. Why? Because it grounds me; it gives me a sense of purpose and it reminds me that at one point it will be over, and life will be back to how it was.
Find your spaces
What I found helping a ton was to divide my space into the different areas of my life. I live in a 1-bedroom apartment, which is not exactly the palace of Versailles, so I had to make some small but effective adjustments. First of all, I bought some useful things for my “working desk” (AKA my dining table), like a lamp and a reclining laptop table. I have also decided that my dining space is the exact opposite of my working desk and that while I am eating my laptop is switched off. I have also consciously decided not to use my work laptop for my “after-work” time. So, I watch TV series on my personal laptop. It may seem minor adjustments, but it has really helped my mind understand what I am doing at all times. I know if I am working, if I am relaxing, if I am eating and I am present at all times accordingly.
Be kind to yourself and to others. This is a difficult situation and it is perfectly normal to be all over the place. So, be compassionate. If somebody upsets you at work, think of what they may be going through. Try to suspend judgment. And when it comes to yourself, you can do some journaling exercise to practice compassion towards yourself. Here is an exercise that may come in handy. When you are confronted with a difficult situation, you may want to journal about it as follows.
- Describe the situation with objectivity – you want to be very specific about the situation you are referring to, who is involved, who is doing what. You want to describe precisely the effects the situation is creating. Try to be as objective as possible referring first to things that happened and only at a second stage to your emotions and how that situation made you feel.
- Normalise the situation – you want to show yourself that you are not the only one living such a situation and that other people have had similar experiences. You want to use sentence such as “Everybody gets…upset/overwhelmed/confused” or “Other people feel…”
- Be kind – you want to connect with yourself in a kind and supportive way. Talk to yourself like your best friend would do.
Also, being kind to yourself means (to me) not deprive yourself even further. I do admit I indulge in a spoon of Nutella here and there. I do indulge in a dinner delivered at home (and with that I am also supporting local resturants!). I do indulge in spending one Sunday just watching TV and forgetting about the world. And I do indulge in online shopping. But I also know I have my routine, my boundaries and I know I won’t be caught up in my guilty pleasures.
Find time for yourself
Yes, it is counterintuitive. There is so much time for ourselves already, why should I find some other time? Because you want some conscious time for yourself. And you want to be fully present during that time. Time for yourself means doing some home workouts, just to move your body and not just sit there the whole day. Almost all gyms now provide lives on Instagram or Facebook and you can really find any type of class. Open a window and get some sun! If you have a terrace or a garden even better. Sunlight helps with basically everything, from improving your overall health, to improving your level of happiness, reduces stress and appetite (which is not real appetite, it’s boredom appetite!)… Also, meditate, or just take some time to think about your day. There are plenty of free apps that may help you start your meditation journey. If you are not into meditation, start with simple breathing exercises. Take some time to do something that make you feel good every day. Have a longer than usual shower; wear some fancy clothes; organise online apero or dinners; talk with your loved ones; or use this time to reconnect with friends you have not been in touch with for a while; make some art. There plenty of opportunities…
At one point this will be over. Hopefully soon. So let’s use this “pause” time to regroup, re-strategise and be ready for the “after”.
Stay safe and stay healthy!