Mindful tips during anxious times

Admittedly, during the last week or so with the increase of hate crimes around our country and even in our local neighborhoods, I’ve had a hard time being mindful and have been very worried about the future of our country and my children.  However, I’ve realized that this anxiety is not productive.  And in fact, it’s extremely critical to stay present and positive during this time.  This is a work in progress, but I wanted to share some mindful tips that I’ve started applying during these anxious times:

Modulate fear through meditation: One of the primary ways to regulate emotions and fear is through mindful meditation.  As Dan Siegel points out in his book, The Mindful Brain, “fear may be learned limbically, but its ‘unlearning’ may be carried out via growth of prefrontal fibers.”  This growth can be enhanced through mindfulness practices and we can unlearn fears through formal or informal meditation. I found that after just a few months of a daily meditation practice, feelings of fear were profoundly reduced.  If it’s hard for you to start a formal meditation practice, here’s a post I wrote with some tips.  And if formal meditation is never going to be your thing, then you can find informal practices that can have the same effects by tuning the mind into the present-moment.  Here’s some activities you can do with your children at home.  

Tune into the heart through deep breaths: When we feel anxious, we hold a lot of tension around our heart.  One of the fastest ways I’ve found to release this tension is through deep breaths.  With each breath in, you can think a positive word like “hope” or “peace” and with each breath out, you can release your fear or your worries.  Finding a couple of minutes for some mindful breathing can be really beneficial.  And the best part is you can do this simple practice anytime, anywhere.

Reserve “media” time to dedicated hours during the day:  I think one of the reasons I was getting caught up in the frenzy of negative news is because I couldn’t help but check in to social media throughout the day.  In the process though, I was doing myself a disservice because with the constant barrage of unpleasant stories, I had no opportunity to give myself any reprieve from it. I do think it’s important for us to be aware of the changes that are happening in our country, but for my own sanity, I think I need to just reserve a dedicated time during the day to check in.  I also need to remind myself that even with the increased negativity, there are still more positive things happening in our world everyday- doctors saving lives, children volunteering, strangers helping each other- and we almost never hear about those positive stories.

Spend time outside and get fresh air: Even if it’s just in your own backyard, spending a bit of time outside getting some fresh air can really help relax the mind.  Here’s a great article on the topic: Why Getting Fresh Air Is So Good For You.  Certain scents like lavender, jasmine and pine trees have been shown to reduce stress.  And even a bit of sun exposure can help lift up spirits.

Focus on the power of positive thinking: In the short pamphlet: Applying the Power of Positive Thinking, there is an excerpt that reads:

“A negative attitude limits us in whatever we try to do.  In India they say that when an elephant driver wants to temporarily leave his elephant, he ties the animal to a post or stake with a straw rope.  When he comes back later, the elephant is still securely tethered to the stake.  The elephant thinks he is tied fast and can’t get away  because of this little rope, but it is only straw- he could break it with just one jerk of his neck and be free.  That is the way we are sometimes: tied down by doubts and all sorts of negative thoughts, ideas and attitudes.  These convince us that we can’t improve our situation.  But we can. All we have to do is change to positive thinking.”

I don’t want to let myself be tethered down by negative thoughts.  I will remain optimistic and positive, and practice daily affirmations.  I have also started harnessing my energy into positive causes.

Channel your energy into positive causes: We can channel our energy into doing good by practicing kindness, teaching empathy and focusing on meaningful positive causes.  A couple of friends and I have started organizing mindful community service projects.   Additionally, we are hoping to organize peaceful demonstrations in our community to stand up in solidarity against local and national hate crimes.  We are also planning on hosting fundraisers in the coming months to raise money for causes that we believe in- causes that will promote a more peaceful tolerant future for of all people of any race, gender, religion and sexuality.