This phenomenon is global. Some countries will be more affected than others, and those with the least resources may likely be affected the most.
There is also a high potential cost on our family relationships and emotional well being. Many families are juggling crowded abodes, and parents who still have paid work are trying to work while supervising homeschooling. School students are studying from home when their brains lack the developmental maturity for this way of learning. Teens are not getting the peer group contact they require in the way they most need it. On a societal level, across the globe, rates of domestic violence are increasing.
Others miss the emotional and physical support that social closeness can bring. In prison, physical isolation is considered a punishment, not an act of care. When we have less social connection or fewer demands on our time, we may become more aware of our overly busy minds.This can be uncomfortable.
The virus is contagious, and as social creatures, our thoughts and emotional states are also contagious. When under pressure, our fight/flight/freeze is system is activated, and we become reactive. That means we are not good company to ourselves or others and often cannot take in or offer appropriate support. We infect others with our mood. I’ve noticed this in myself and the public sphere, with our toilet paper debacle.
These new and challenging experiences are providing an unusual opportunity to notice our reactions to what life is throwing at us. When we can pay attention to our inner experiences such as thoughts, feelings and sensations, or our tendency to distract or avoid in an accepting way, we have a chance to respond rather than react. If we respond mindfully, we are more likely to be able to navigate the difficulties wisely and to care better for ourselves and others.
Research supports the benefits of formal mindfulness training (meditation) in increasing emotional responsiveness rather than reactivity. There are a plethora of mindfulness offerings online to help you in this, including podcasts and guided meditation practices. I have discussed many of these benefits and resources in prior blog posts.
Perhaps what I can add here are some of the reflections from students in my last MBSR course. I moved the 8-week HeadRest MBSR course to Zoom in Week 5.
- This is the ideal course to be doing at this time
- I would not have managed as well without my developing mindfulness practice.
- Talking about the impact of these changes on our lives and how to respond mindfully, rather than focusing on the virus, is invaluable.
- The support of the group and the shared experience is helpful.
- They were sad to end the course and would return, along with past course graduates, to connect online on Tuesday evenings to meditate and reflect together in the MBSR way.
Mindfulness training is not a fix-all and will not change reality. It is training that takes time and practice, and COVID19 is offering more time to some. Mindfulness training is training for being in the present, dealing with what is difficult and enriching well being. It is training for living a life that will bring its fair share of joy and distress, the bearable and the unbearable, whether this is COVID19 or something else. It may be something you would like to explore.
HeadRest has a day and evening course beginning online in May. The next day course begins Monday, May 4, 12.00-2.30 and the evening course begins Tuesday, May 12, 6:30-9:00. The course price is $475.00, and prices can be flexible to meet your current economic circumstances. Please pay the full fee if possible, to help subsidise those who cannot afford to pay and to keep my business afloat. Booking details are on the website or call me on 0431842950 or email email@example.com
I am Tienne Simons and teach the HeadRest MBSR courses. I am an experienced teacher and also work as a therapist in private practice in Marrickville, Sydney.