Mindfulness: better than a 6-pack of Charmin

Opinion: Columns

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Angela Potaczek

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When we are mindful, we are aware, in the present moment, with intention and without judgment. In this COVID-19 era, it is easy to be swept up in the panic, fear, and the uncertainty all around us. Here are some practical suggestions using mindfulness to increase your awareness and feel more connected to your experience so that you can respond to this situation in healthy ways.

Limit your exposure to the news and social media. It's important to stay informed, and also to monitor your intake of information so that you don't become overwhelmed. Set a timer if you need to.

Know your signs of stress. Take care of yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually. Take time to notice if you are reacting or responding to a stressful situation. When we see other people panic, we tend to join in. Notice when you are panicking; take some deep breaths and ground yourself.

Practice generosity and loving kindness. Give to others in need and help those who need it. Be kind and considerate of others when shopping for food and supplies. You probably already have more toilet paper than you need. Express love and compassion to others.

Practice beginner's mind. Experience people and situations objectively and with a sense of curiosity and awe. Allow yourself to take in people with your fullest attention, looking into their eyes and really being with them, as if you just met them and your heart is filled with openness. As we spend more time with our families and pets at home, it's also important to recognize and respect each other's boundaries. Take advantage of this relationship. Reset. 

Spend time in nature. Research has shown that time spent outside in nature can provide a wealth of benefits for our mental, physical and spiritual health. When you are outside, take the time to just be. Notice the sights, sounds and smells the plants and wildlife provide us. Use this time to reconnect with our roots to other living creatures and the natural world. Be mindful of the changes in season: the lively green shoots emerging from the ground, the birds chirping, the earthy spring aromas. All of this will continue to go on.

You will discover that mindfulness can be a trusted multipurpose tool we can utilize in all life situations, especially during times of stress, anxiety, and the unknown. We can choose to interpret these unprecedented times as a teacher, the guide who leads us back to our universal human sameness and allows us to reconnect with all living beings. To me, that's worth more than a six-pack of Charmin.

Thrive Counseling Services is offering phone-based counseling and medication management to address our community's needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Crisis Intervention Services are still available by dialing 708-383-7500. Our Front Desk team is ready to assist you as well, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with requests for referrals or new services and to reschedule or cancel an appointment. Just call 708-383-7500. Angela Potaczek, MA, LCPC and Art Therapist, is a staff member at Thrive.

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