April 16, 2020

The 10 Practices of Mindful Quarantining: Advice From the Experts.

Check out Elephant’s Continually-updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon

Is anyone else asking themselves what the heck is going on?

Whew. Me too!

Right now, there is so much fear and uncertainty swirling around us, and as much as I want to go into my spiritual bubble and trust that everything is okay, I have my moments when I spiral.

It’s day 21, and I’ve been isolating at home alone. Some moments, I’m calm, cool, and collected—and meditating, journaling, practicing yoga, walking, and FaceTiming with friends—and other moments I’m battling vertigo, curled up on my couch, and eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

I wasn’t a big television watcher before this pandemic, but now I fear to turn on the TV, just as much as I fear a trip to the supermarket, which eerily feels like I am in a scene right out of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

I know this is a stressful time—because I am living it with you. I am trying to help ease stress by offering virtual meditations, yoga classes, and workshops. And I also thought I would share a few tips that can help us all stay mindful during a pandemic.

First, my friends, is a recommendation to breathe.

If you’re feeling anxious, pause, sit down, put your hands over your heart, and take a few conscious breaths. I suggest putting your hands on your heart so you connect the body with the mind, which will cause a sense of oneness or harmony. Then, inhale through your nose and sigh it out your mouth. Do that a couple of times.

If you want to take it one step further, start inhaling and exhaling through the nose and simply try and observe the sensation of the air going in and out of the body. Try doing that for about five minutes. If you can stay longer, great, but even five minutes can calm the nervous system.

I asked Julie de Lagarde—a pranayama and breathwork instructor, to weigh in on the importance of breathing, and she offers some valuable insight:

“Depending on the type of conscious breathing you are doing (which includes chi gong, pranayama, and breathwork), you will awaken usually untapped areas of awareness and consciousness. This can also result in greater peace of mind; enhanced overall mental, emotional, and physical well-being; and even strengthened immunity.

Breathwork makes the unconscious conscious and involuntary voluntary. It is a powerful practice that allows us to both observe and alter our breathing, otherwise an autonomic physiological action, and to consciously work with the breath. In doing so, we alter every other system in the body.

When you’re watching your breath and working with the breath, your attention becomes absorbed in the sensations of the air moving through your body, the flow of this movement, the taking in and releasing of air, and Prana, and the counting of the various rhythm focuses the mind entirely in the present moment.

This is the simplest, most powerful mindfulness exercise I know and can be done anywhere—several times per day, even—for any duration of time.”

The second tip is to practice your practices.

Just because the world is on pause doesn’t mean we have to pause entirely, but what it does mean is that we may have to modify.

If you are a runner, run, but if you can’t get outside, try taking a virtual cardio class online. If you weight-train, try and find some weights, even if they are soup cans. If you have a yoga practice, get on your mat and take a virtual class. If you are a writer, write.

The point I am trying to make is to try and continue to practice what makes you feel good, because you will likely feel better by doing so, and you will likely feel more grounded, and perhaps a semblance of normalcy.

I asked my friend and yoga teacher, Tiffany Russo, to share her thoughts on how yoga can help during a pandemic:

“The importance of daily practice is maintaining routine in times of uncertainty, staying grounded when the world feels unsteady, and closing off the outside if even for a moment, to connect back into our true selves. It’s so easy to get glued to the media and what’s happening in the world to try and stay aware of constant changes, but moving our bodies and breathing is when breath can get smooth and our bodies can feel alive. And most importantly, go gently and be kind with yourself every day.”

Third tip: express gratitude.

I know it may be hard to think of expressing gratitude when the world seems to be falling apart, but I truly believe that there is always something to be grateful for, and I suggest trying to find a couple of things that you are grateful for each day.

And there are many ways to express gratitude. You can speak them aloud, recite them silently, jot them on Post-Its, and display them around your home, or write them down in your journal, which is my favorite.

Remember: a grateful heart is a magnet for miracles, and the vibration of gratitude attracts more positive things into your life.

Fourth, try and get a good night’s sleep.

With all this idle time, we may get restless, and it may be difficult to fall asleep, but getting a good night’s sleep is so important for everyone.

I have a bedtime ritual every night, and I’m usually out cold by 10-something, but that’s easy for me to do because I live alone. But, for those who have children, I asked Amy Kaye, a behavior and sleep training expert, to weigh in:

“The importance of being rested is so great for the entire family. I think the biggest mistake parents make is that they put their kids to bed too late. Now that we have all been forced to slow down, it’s a great opportunity to try to consistently put your child to bed earlier.”

The fifth tip is to eat mindfully and nutritionally, but indulge and feel zero guilt.

I am a firm believer in balance, so I have been eating healthy for the most part. But I have my moments of indulgence, and I am A-okay with that.

Yet, I was curious if my approach was justifiable, or if I was justifying the pints of ice cream, so I asked Sarah Pachelli, a nutritional chef and well-being counselor, to share her thoughts:

“Give yourself a nutritional break. These are unprecedented times. We can’t expect our normal diets to suffice under these circumstances. While we need to be conscious of sugar consumption, we also need to forgive ourselves for a ‘slip up’ if we eat the cookies or ice cream or store-bought cake. When we punish ourselves for eating ‘bad’ foods, we cause stress on a cellular level—which, in turn, slows down digestion and lowers our metabolism. Doubt anti-whammy. So, if we’re collectively participating in a healthy dose of ‘eating our feelings,’ let’s do it from a place of pleasure. Let’s enjoy the food quelling our anxieties. There will be a time, in the future, where we can all dwell in the luxury of our diets again. That, and: eat all the herbs! Herbs have tons of antiviral and medicinal qualities. Add fresh culinary herbs to every dish you make—triple what you’d normally use.”

Sixth, donate or volunteer.

I abide by a saying that it is in giving that we truly receive, so I recommend finding ways to give right now. Some examples of that would be to donate, or volunteer.

If you decide to donate, I would pick an organization that would make you feel good. I would choose Oceana, The Red Cross, or Stand Up to Cancer, but GoFundMe has a list of the top 25 organizations to donate to should you need a reference. Aside from donating money, you can also donate supplies or blood.

If you would like to volunteer, you can volunteer your time virtually. A neat way to do that would be to call a senior center and offer to (virtually) read stories, or teach a movement class.

I asked Nathan Firer, founder of Megilla—an online video storytelling platform for families and older adults—to share his thoughts on virtual sharing:

“Now more than ever intergenerational bonding (the relationships between parents, adult children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren) is a uniquely precious opportunity for learning and social connectivity that benefits both parties, helps keep stories and history alive, and creates a sentimental sense of mutual respect—and there is great value in connecting with someone who isn’t your exact peer because you learn how to respect differences and appreciate others in unexpected ways.”

Seventh, get quiet.

You may be asking yourself, how much quieter can it get? But now is a great time for introspection, so even sitting in silence for a bit and witnessing your thoughts may be a great way to get in touch with some dormant feelings, which in turn can be a great opportunity for healing.

Eighth, dance!

I’m a big believer in movement as medicine, and although I like to shimmy about to Madonna with my Swiffer, I am not a professional dancer, so I asked my sweet friend Jaime Shannon, a professional dancer, to weigh in on the power of dance during these times:

“For seasoned dancers and novices alike, I recommend setting aside some time each day and putting on some music in your home (perhaps an old favorite song or something that just happens to suit your current mood). Start with the music as inspiration and allow yourself to move freely. Take note of what ideas or emotions come to the surface. Dance is often like dreaming; abstractly, it brings out our subconscious wants and needs. Using a different style of music each day can also bring out movements and ideas you never knew were buried in you. Movement is very freeing and very honest. It can connect your mind and body and unlock all kinds of inner desires…if you allow it to.”

Nine, use your tools.

Now more than ever, I suggest using your mindful tools. Break out the sage to smudge and cleanse your space of any negative or stagnant energy, or burn palo santo to purify your space. If you like essential oils, use them wherever and whenever needed.

And, our number-one recommendation is to grab your mala beads and meditate with them, or wrap them around yourself, or display them around your home—and I recommend doing the same with your crystals. Earthlings, which are gemstones, stones, or crystals, all carry energy and vibrations, so use their energy to invite some positive vibes in and around you. 

And, last but not least, love thy neighbor (from a distance).

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