Practicing mindfulness and meditation in any situation, whether routine or occasionally, can help keep our thoughts tamed. In times of uncertainty and stress, quieting the mind helps us cope and, in turn, as we become calmer and accepting, we help others become calmer.
The measures taken by our national and local governments may seem overbearing and may give us a sense of not being in control. It’s true. We are NOT in control. This is being clearly demonstrated by this pandemic. In times of peace and prosperity, we fight about elections and political positions and worry about what may happen twelve years from now.
A threat to our daily lives is here now. Control is an illusion. When things are going our way we have the illusion of being on top of things. When things fall apart from the norm we expect, we fall apart, relinquishing the only power we have: to give ourselves permission to feel what we need to feel, and then pause to contemplate what we can do about the situation we confront.
There is always a choice, even in times of despair and when we feel “trapped”. We may not have the ability or power to change the events, but we can certainly take a moment to pause, contemplate the situation with open eyes and open mind, and then ask ourselves who we want to be and how we want to act. In this pandemic, we may choose to remain in the panic zone, thinking of doom and fear. Or, we can move to an internal acceptance of our feelings, recognizing our shared humanity and the fact that we are all in this together. We can then choose the behaviors that will help us cope. Finally, we can move to a phase of growth, recognizing and accepting our common reality and finding meaning in both our response and what we may offer to others.
Mindfulness creates that pause, allowing us not to react or over-react to the events (Trigger), but rather create an action plan after contemplating with humility and honesty the facts and the role we may play to improve the outcome. The event may remain unchanged, but we always have the choice to work towards a better result. That is where control is regained - control of our response and our actions in unexpected circumstances, control over becoming more resilient, and control of positive intervention. In turn, we may find a renewed sense of meaning.
And finding purpose is an antidote to burnout.
Focusing on our own wellness makes us, in turn, offer solid ground to others who may need support.
There are many paths to mindfulness. Mindfulness is the simple awareness of the present moment. We can practice mindfulness by meditation, prayer, doodling, listening to music, going for a walk and truly being in tune with nature, etc. Staying still in our minds, when everything is so fluid, is difficult. However, as we practice, we are more connected to our inner selves, to our demons, and to our peace. The more we practice, the better we get at managing anxious thoughts of the future. And we call it a practice because it is exactly that - a process that grows with us. It’s a skill building process that brings our awareness inwards to ultimately have a transformative experience. Mindfulness brings us back and grounds us to the present moment. Being fully and authentically present for ourselves translates into wisdom when we are making decisions and creates open accessibility for others who may be falling apart.
As a pathologist, transfusion medicine specialist, certified life coach, and concerned citizen, I want to do all I can every day to foster an environment where we all can get through these trying times. Elective surgeries and procedures are starting to be re-scheduled. If you are able, please donate blood. Blood centers are not areas for congregation, but rather clean and safe medical manufacturing facilities. And, if you are a recovered COVID-19 patient, please become a COVID-19 convalescent plasma donor and help us fight this war.
Remember that fear is the core feeling of anxiety, and anxiety is the basis of future worries. Try to stay mindful and be in the present instead of imagining a bleak future.
Thank you for all you do! Stay well and safe!
We may not be in control, but we always have a choice of who we want to be and how we want to respond -- during these challenging times.
Marisa Saint Martin, MD, ACC, FCAP
7595 Centurion Pkwy.
Jacksonville, FL 32256