Kindly Remember: You are responsible for your own actions in all respects.
Always follow the protocols and rules of your government health departments, hospital, clinic or practice.
Advice by an experienced psychologist and trauma counsellor. Read more Here. (this will open in a new tab.)
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Throughout uncertain waiting and vital focus during emergencies, you may at times vaguely become aware that you feel vulnerable, unsettled, scared and groundless. However the groundedness you need is not in the space around you, but in the space within you. Start just there. That is where love, wisdom, grace, and compassion reside.What will keep you going throughout is to lean in often with open honesty about your difficult experience, but lightly…and to acknowledge your experience with grace and kindness for yourself.
Breathe in… lean in… and go…
1. Short & Easy Deep Breathing
- This deep breathing exercise is a more oxygen per breath exercise.
- Do this exercise as it comes to you (maybe every now and then when you wash your hands).
- If you can, sit or stand up straight, but body posture does not matter.
- Take a slow and deep in-breath until you feel the air in your neck.
- Hold for a moment, and exhale deeply and slowly through your nostrils.
- Do this for a few times. Notice the flow of breath and how your upper-body feels when you breathe very deeply.
- After the last exhalation, swallow the saliva in your mouth.
2. A Healer’s Mindful Walk
- You are walking to wash your hands, or to attend to the next patient.
- For one or two seconds, pause and try to shift your focus from your mind’s overthinking, to your body posture.
- Take a deep breath in, and when breathing out, relax your jaw, your neck and shoulders and your stomach.
- Just for the first few steps, become aware how you lift your foot and put in down in front of you – first your heel and then your toes.
- If you want to, do this short mindful walk for your previous patient. Every time you breathe out, let go of everything that is not yours to carry.
3. Putting On or Taking Off Healers’ Protective Gear
- Just before you put on or take off your protective gear, pretend that you have a pause button on the palm of your hand.
- As you “press” this button, remind yourself: “I am here for me now”. Try to be just in this moment.
- Breathe slowly in through your nose, and out through your mouth.
- While putting your gear on or off, try to do this a little slower than usual. Become fully aware of each bodily movement, each action.
- Do this knowingly with loving kindness towards yourself.
4. A Short Grounding Exercise during Chaos or Trauma
- When it is safe and possible, withdraw from the situation for one or two minutes, physically or in your mind.
- When you breathe in, think of the number “one”. When breathing out, relax your forehead. When you breathe in, think of the number “two”. When breathing out, relax your neck and shoulders. When you breathe in, think of the number “three”. When you breathe out, relax your stomach. Repeat if possible.
- Become aware of your surroundings, as if for the first time.
- Remind yourself: “I can be anxious/tired/upset and still deal with this situation.”
- Repeat your chosen mantra such as: Every day in every way I am becoming better and better .
5. Taking a Break while Handwashing
- Just before you start washing or disinfecting your hands, take a few seconds to give yourself acknowledgement for the reason why it is necessary: You tried to help, or heal. Make sure to give yourself a smile.
- While you focus on washing your hands, become aware of each part of your hands. Try to become aware of thankfulness – that these hands can make a difference.
- Before you go again to help with these hands, hold your left hand for a moment with your right hand while reminding yourself: “With these hands I am doing the best I can, and that is more than good enough.”
6. Being Able to Take a Mindful Rest during COVID-19
- Do a quick Breathing Howzit Exercise: Lean in lightly, and become aware of your thoughts, pleasant and unpleasant feelings, as well as your bodily sensations. Do this without trying to change them or judging them. These difficult feelings may just remind you that what you are trying to do is important to you.
- On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being the most difficult moment ever and 10 being the best moment ever), where are you now? Try to accept wherever you are with no judgment or expectations. You are doing the best you can.
- Then, return to mindful breathing. Breathe in through your nose for 3 counts, pause, and breathe out through your mouth for 4 counts. Do this for 3 to 5 minutes if possible.
- Become aware of your surroundings: what sounds can you become aware of… without having an opinion about them or judging them.
- Do the free Breathing Mindfully session which you can access HERE at 360Smartly.com if possible.(This will open in a new tab.)
7. Dealing with Difficult People during COVID-19
- Colleagues, clients or family of clients may act unfairly in these difficult times. Try not to make it about yourself. They are just desperate, worried or tired.
- Do the Mindfulness BOLD-exercise:
- B- Breathe consciously (three times in and out)
- O- Observe your difficult thoughts and feelings (“This is unfair. I did my best.” “I am so disappointed that they can’t see that I did everything I could.”)
- L – Listen to your values and needs. (I am usually professional and caring. I need some support or breathing space.”)
- D – Do what you need (not want) most! (Forgive. Focus on the task at hand. Give reassurance. Take a break. Seek support.)
8. Dealing with sleep deprivation during COVID-19
- Take a power-nap wherever you are- a few minutes of sleep will heal. Do one of these exercises before you you take the nap. Be the Mentalist.
- If this is not possible, when you can’t go forward, remind yourself: “I just need to give one more step.”
- Be aware that sleep deprivation can interfere with your mood and thoughts. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Remind yourself: “I am just tired because I am helping and making a difference. This is temporarily.”
- Any form of conscious resting will help: Three conscious breaths in- and out; relaxation exercise; prayer; being creative by means of drawing, journaling, etc.
9. When Isolated from Loved Ones and their Support during COVID-19
- It helps to remember during your struggling in the midst of necessary isolation, that your brain will keep on reminding you that connection with others helps you dealing with stress. Longing for loved ones is a good thing. Thank your brain every now and then for this reminder, even if it is uncomfortable.
- Every time you feel alone, breathe in reminding yourself: “I am not alone”. While breathing out, remind yourself: “We all are doing this…”
- When you feel isolated and alone, make sure to make some notes on what you would like to share if you connect with loved ones again. Make voice notes, write down high lights and challenges. Keep photos of loved ones on your phone or in your purse. Keep a journal if possible.
- During your every day, show yourself gestures of kindness: hold your own hand, or give yourself a hug.
- At the end of every day, write down three things you appreciate about yourself in doing this for yourself and our common humanity.
Take good, mindful self-care. As many times as you may need it, make the choice to stop, breathe, be, walk slowly, and keep on deciding to show up. You are in the thoughts and prayers of millions of people.
Trust your journey.
Mariki Smith (MA PhD Psychology)
Drk Joubert (Attorney and Mediator)
Rules Learnt whilst “locked down” with a tough, but mindful Teacher on a Survival Course
He took us boys down the rugged coast for a week without food. Maybe 80 kilometers. He taught us along the way about life and spirituality without saying much.
Rule 1 – Live Mindfully
The foundational survival rule is to live mindfully -fully satisfied in the moment, fully aware, full of compassion for yourself and others and therefore with acceptance and without judgement.
Any other way, any other thought, will lead to a waste of precious energy and resources.
In other words, do not make too much of an issue of your circumstances. Acceptance is good.
Rule 2 – Keep to routines
As far as is possible en where possible, keep to your normal routine.
Rule 3 – The Third Day
If your survival course is a week long, by Wednesday you will experience the lowest point psychologically and physically. You will feel bad in all respects. But this point comes to everyone in a unique way, so we just say that you will have your “third day” when you really feel miserable- from that point onwards, however, things should improve.
Rule 4 – Drink a lot of water
You can survive a week without food, but not water. Within a short time your stomach will shrink and you will not be hungry – believe it or not. However, since you are not really on a survival course, keep on eating. This is just an illustration of your endless capabilities.
Rule 5 – Keep Energy Bars in the bottom of your Back Pack
That is what the assistants on the real survival course did.
Keep a little bit of the difference somewhere.
Rule 6 – Always under all circumstances maintain good Hygiene
As a barest minimum, brush your teeth regularly. Look neat.
Rule 7 – This is where you meet Your God
Open yourself up to it. Do not fight the spiritual awakening. Accept it. Sitting in the veld or in the garden helps. Or just in the sun in your room. Mindfully aware and without the normal clutter of civilization.
Rule 8 – Light and darkness are one
Accept each in an equal manner with equanimity. Night follows day. It serves no purpose to fight the night. Accept it and learn from it. Then there will be a daybreak.
Rule 9 – Take everything Step by Step
He took us without food down a rugged coast. Rugged. Along the rocks. Fording rivers. Finding paths far above the high tide. Running before the tide. Roughing it badly. Sleeping in hollows.
There is only one way to do this, and that is step by step.
Rule 10 – Lean in
This is another fundamental rule, there is no turning around. There is no escape route. Back is bad, forward may be better.
There is only leaning into the future.
Rule 11 – Respect Nature
Have you noticed how nature just continues on its journey even though we are locked down in home shelter? There is irony here and a lesson to be learnt.
Respect nature and her abundance of resources. We do not have a right to it, only the privilege. We must respect nature.
Rule 12 – Work Together
It was tough learning how to work together with boys you do not know. We came from a lot of places. Thrown together. A rough mix.
It was made tougher because we did not know how to survive. The teacher did not help, but he did talk about the Rules (excluding 5), not calling them rules, but discussing the themes.
Otherwise he just pointed forward, asking us to Lean In.
Always a Decade of Hope and Resilience, being Mindful
The decade will always be with and about Hope and Resilience. This is 1. because we believe in the power of finding joy in the present (being mindful), and 2. because up to the outer edges of this decade and beyond are immense opportunities. In short, we have time, if we stay safe now. You can read that post HERE.
Mindfulness, Uncertainty and Covid-19
In this post, which you can read HERE, we wrote that “…we must have a clear knowledge that we are robust enough and have the resilience to survive this and thrive. We must know this on a personal level and as a common humanity.
How we think about this virus is extremely important. We must know that we are robust and resilient enough to survive if we follow the basic advice of washing hands, not touching our faces and lowering our expectations- what we have, where we are, for now, is good enough.“
Dr Émile Coué – an aware and compassionate man ahead of his time
How we think about how we are now, is extremely important. Dr Émile Coué, French pharmacist and psychologist, (about whom you can read more on the Wikipedia Page HERE) “…when asked whether or not he thought of himself as a healer, … often stated that ‘I have never cured anyone in my life. All I do is show people how they can cure themselves.’
Coué believed in the effects of medication. But he also believed that our mental state is able to affect and even amplify the action of these medications. By consciously using autosuggestion, he observed that his patients could cure themselves more efficiently by replacing their ‘thought of illness” with a new “thought of cure’ “. (Wikipedia)
Coué’s mantra was “Every day in every way, I am getting better and better.
Mindfulness and getting Better and Better
Modern research and approaches support Dr Coué. Dr Mariki Smith writes in her mindfulness course, Six Steps to the Joy of Nowness, (you can learn more about that HERE) in the chapter on Compasssion:
“Self-judgement, or criticising the self, is something we all do. For some reason we use it as a way to motivate ourselves. But … research shows that it doesn’t work.
If I “attack” myself with words like “you’re useless… you will get nowhere in life…” I am tapping into my reptile brain. My brain recognises that there is a fight which it experiences as dangerous, and as a result releases cortisol and adrenaline. When I am in fight-or-flight mode, I put my body in constant stress. My body then tries to protect itself, shuts down, and I become depressed. This kind of motivation obviously doesn’t work.
On the other hand, mammal babies are very dependent on their parents, and have to stay close to them to be safe. We are programmed to respond to a gentle voice and soft touch. If I recognise my negative self-talk, and I change to motivating myself from the mammal-brain, If I receive compassion from myself and others, I release oxytocin and opiates, which are the good-feel hormones.”
The Mindful Way to Healing
Have pro-active compassion with yourself and with others. Be nice to yourself. If you feel unwell stay nice to yourself. Tell yourself often that you are getting(feeling/being…) better (stronger…) and better (…) every day.
Do it often, every time you wash your hands.
Be nice to other people. I they feel unwell, stay nice to them. Tell them often how well they are doing. Teach them the Coué mantra and how to use it.
Teach others that a simple self-compassion exercise such as this has immense benefits.
Do not stop using prescribed Medication.
“Every time we are truly mindful, we nourish the precious intention to care for ourselves and for other people.” (Teasdale, Williams and Segal).
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama
“Mindfulness is difficult, not because it is hard, but because it is elusive.” (Dr Stephen Hayes, Get out of your mind and into your life, the New Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, New Harbinger Publications)
Mindfulness requires guidance in the beginning. Other than the resources here at fsmindfulness.co.za, there are resources on our learning platform HERE.
Our short sweet experiential course on Breathing Mindfully, which you can find HERE, is free for the time being.
Stay safe, trust the journey…