Staying Sane in a Pandemic

Everyone is aware that we are in a time of a pandemic due to a novel coronavirus (COVID-19). I have had anxiety related to the illness. For the most part, I’m remaining calm. I attribute this to my morning meditation. It’s only twenty minutes every morning, but its effects last throughout the day. The best part is that I can do a short meditation any time during the day to renew the effect.

If you want to try meditation, please set aside your preconceived notions first. It’s not as hard as we imagine it to be.

  1. Sit in a good chair with a comfortable seat that has a straight back.
  2. Relax. Do this in any way that works for you.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Take three deep breaths exhaling long and completely each time.
  5. Breathe normally, and concentrate on the feeling you get in your nose from the breath. You may feel the breath right where the air enters your nostrils, or you may feel it higher up in the nasal channel.
  6. Your mind is going to wander. Don’t get upset. This is your mind’s job. Simply recognize that your mind is wandering, and gently return your concentration to that feeling of the air entering your nose.
  7. Your mind is going to wander again. Once more, don’t get upset. This is completely normal. Once more, return your concentration to the feeling of the air in your nose.
  8. Do this over and over again for an amount of time that you decide is right for you. My meditations are about twenty minutes long.

This is all meditation is. It’s so simple. I promise that it gets easier over time. In the beginning, I struggled not getting upset that my mind wandered. It really is not a problem that your mind is wandering. Recognize it, and return your thoughts to your breath.

Give it a try. It works.

Off Kilter

I’m sad today. It’s not an unreasonable response to events in my life over the past few months.

It could devolve into panic, so to allay that, I’ve taken some medicine to help me stay calm. It’s working.

I had a good meditation this morning, but my mind is not quiet right now. It’s restless. I think that’s the best way to describe it.

I’m not having negative thoughts exactly, so there’s no reason to use the STFU tool my therapist and I came up with. However,  I like that tool. I’m thinking of expanding its use.

Ugh. I just want to shout, “Ugh!”

I know this will pass. Something will come along to cheer me up.

I went out and got some exercise this morning, even though I really didn’t feel like it. That’s two days in a row. Yay me!

This post is rambling like my thoughts.

Again, I know this will pass. I just wish it would hurry up and do it.

Panic upon Waking

I realized yesterday as I was carefully going through my day that I’ve been waking in a panic often the past six or seven weeks. It’s just a sign of the trauma my parents caused by disowning me. I know I have much to be thankful for even in that awful experience. I know that I am better off without their judgmental attitudes in my life, but I cannot escape the ideals that I hold inside.

I have ideals that American culture gave me about how parents and children are supposed to relate to each other. They’re part of my core. I can’t get rid of them, but I can hope to soften them with time and education.

Last evening, I meditated before bed, and I did not wake up panicking this morning. I have no idea if there’s causation there, but I’m going to keep doing it.

Today, I’m back at work, and I’m being very careful what I allow into my scope of consciousness. As my best friend put it, “curate” your experiences. I’m choosing what I’m giving my attention to. I’m open to surprises – I have to be – but there’s a lot I can control about what I give my time to. This is more of being gentle with myself.

My meditation this morning was medium length, and it was good. I used the guided visualization again like I’ve been doing, but it led me to a quiet place where I could sit and just breathe. It’s so healing.

If you think you want to try meditating, it’s not as difficult as most of us imagine. You don’t have to be a guru. Here’s how:

Sit in a chair with a good back. Close your eyes, and relax as best you can. Breathe in deeply, exhale forcefully three times. Then just breathe normally. Count your breaths. An inhale and its exhale are one breath the way I count.

Now, your mind is going to start wandering and maybe even bombarding you with thoughts. Don’t get upset. That’s the mind’s job. Recognize the thought. Actually give it thanks for the reminder. Then return to counting breaths starting at one again.

A new thought will interrupt your counting. This is not a failure. Recognize the thought, thank it, and return to counting breaths. Do this over and over. You may want to set a timer. Start with five minutes. Over the course of weeks or months, you can increase the time. Do what feels right for you. This is not a race. You are not in competition with anyone.

Eventually over the course of months, you can stop counting and just breathe. I’ve been meditating for years. I still get thoughts in the middle of breathing. I recognize them, thank them, and quietly return my attention to my breath.

That’s it. That’s all meditation is. It is incredibly helpful.

To keep it honest, I have to tell you that I’ve returned to using a guided visualization technique in my morning meditation because of the traumas I suffered in January. I need the structure to help me keep my mind focused and still.

A long time ago for meditation, I created My Happy Place. I wrote about it on this blog ten years ago. You can read about it here. Basically, it’s a place I can go in my mind that is required to always be pleasant. There are elements in it that allow me to refresh myself, and there are other elements where I can pass through gates, over bridges, or through doors that allow me to gradually become even more relaxed and gain more focus.

You can create your happy place and furnish it just exactly as you want. Give it a try. It’s incredibly refreshing. I always feel better after imagining a visit there.