This is a guest post by our coach, Jane Marie Chen, the original post can be found on her website here.
Most of us are feeling increasing anxiety around Coronavirus, especially in light of the recent lockdowns. But the best thing we can do right now is to stay positive so we can keep our immune systems strong — both for our own sake, and for the sake of all those around us. 80-90% of illness is caused or worsened by stress. Mindful activities elicit the relaxation response, the body’s counterbalance stress. When you relax, the parasympathetic nervous system comes online, which invites the body’s self-healing systems to ramp up. This helps to create resilience to the virus.
During this time of social isolation, while we’re not racing from one place to another, we have a chance to collectively pause, center and reflect. Rather than stressing out about things we cannot control, we can engage in mindful practices to help us find a deep feeling of inner peace and safety. This is an opportune moment to find stillness, to practice positive thinking, gratitude and generosity — and to reflect on how we truly want to live our lives.
Here are a few tools that might be helpful during this time:
Meditate, breathe, and do yoga. Meditation is the best tool to lower stress and reduce anxiety. This is a great opportunity for those who have been wanting to get into meditation but haven’t had the time. You can start with Calm or Headspace, or this is one of my favorite 10 minute meditations from Ram Dass on loving awareness. For those who want longer meditations, I like Joe Dispenza’s Space/Time meditation, or Lisa Whatley’s “Relax, Heal and Manifest Your Dreams,” meditation on Insight Timer.
Mindful breathing is also super helpful to relax our nervous systems; it can help lower our heart rate and blood pressure. A simple breathing technique is to take a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds). As you do this, if your mind wanders, just gently bring your attention back to breath. This is a short resource for mindful breathing.
I’ve done yoga for many years, and it’s been one of my favorite tools to relax and reduce anxiety. My favorite teacher in the world is Stephanie Snyder, and you can find her classes online (for all levels, including beginners) at Glo. You can also find her guided meditations and yoga philosophy lessons here.
Be aware of your thoughts. In this time of uncertainty, choose thoughts that are empowering. I like Gabrielle Bernstein’s “Choose Again” Method for positive thinking, which has 3 steps:
Notice your fearful thought. Be aware when the coronavirus story is on a loop in your mind, especially when you’re feeling fear. Be gentle with yourself about having the thought: “Okay, there it is. Of course I’m having it.” Let yourself be present with the thought, and identify where you feel it in your body.
Accept the thought. Rather than judge yourself for having a negative thought, simply accept and honor it.
Proactively choose a better-feeling thought. Maybe the original thought is something like:
“I’m going to get the coronavirus and I’m terrified.”
“I’m scared because somebody was coughing.”
“I can’t sleep because of these stories.”
Once you’ve witnessed it and accepted it, you can choose a different thought, like:
“I’m healthy right now.”
“I’m taking proper precautions.”
“I have what I need in this moment.”
Reach for the thoughts that make you feel better and guide you out of panic. We don’t want to create more momentum around fear, so let’s bring positive energy to this issue.
Practice Gratitude. Many studies have shown that gratitude is key to well-being. Despite what’s happening, we have so much to be grateful for — especially those of us who have our health, financial security, and our communities. For years, I kept a gratitude journal, but I have found it’s more effective to visualize the moments in your life you are grateful for. Feel those moments in your heart and body, rather than just thinking about them. Tony Robbins has an awesome 5 minute guided visualization I use often, which you can find here.
Give to others. Rather than getting caught up in our fears, how can we be loving towards others? Studies have shown that generosity can improve your mental and physical health and also promote longevity. Rather than hoarding all that toilet paper, can we give it to those who are more needy? This pandemic will disproportionately affect those who are older, who have compromised health, and whom are economically disadvantaged. Contribute to a food bank, call your grandparents or your friends to check in on them, or do something loving rather than being trapped in this cycle of fear.
What’s one thing you can do to help someone else today?
This might be a great time to step back and think about the things you really want — are you living a life that’s authentic to yourself? What are some dreams or intentions you might have, that you haven’t had the headspace to truly think about or were maybe too scared to imagine?
I used to think vision boards were super hokey. Then, a few years ago, a friend showed me a different approach. When I focused on the things I wanted, I tried to get out of my head and instead, feel those things with my body and my heart. By the end of the year, I had done everything I put on my vision board. Now I update my vision board every few months. You can do your own vision board with the following steps:
Get a bunch of magazines and find images that inspire you. Don’t think about the images, just choose the ones that get you excited, even if you don’t understand why.
Put the images on a board.
Imagine what it will feel like when these images come to fruition in your life. Imagine they’ve already happened — how will you feel? How grateful will you be?
The more you can feel into this exercise (and combine it with gratitude), the more you will attract those things to you.
Learn to say “no.” In 2018, I took a sabbatical after ten years of running my company. I was totally burned out. For years, I felt exhausted from taking too much on. I didn’t want to miss out on opportunities or disappoint others. As a result, I felt like I never had enough time – which eventually led to me constantly getting sick. During my sabbatical, I focused only on the things I really wanted to do and said no to everything else. Before committing to anything, I would consciously ask myself if it was in line with my top priorities. If not, I would say no. It was a tough practice at first, but in learning this skill, I am the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been.
Given the current situation is forcing us to cut out many activities, this is a great time to think about streamlining your life to find more balance and presence. What are things you can say “no” to moving forward? What are your most important priorities, which cutting out unnecessary activities would allow you to give more energy to?
Read. These are some of my favorite books from spiritual teachers that have helped me to be more present, to connect with myself & the universe, and to choose love over fear:
When Things Fall Apart (Pema Chodron)
Be Love Now (Ram Dass)
Return to Love (Marianne Williamson)
15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership (Diana Chapman and Jim Dethmer)
Power of Now (Eckhart Tolle)
Surrender Experiment & Untethered Soul (Mickey Singer)
Outrageous Openness (Tasha Silver)
Inner Peace for Busy People (Joan Borysenko)
Seven Spiritual Laws of Success (Deepak Chopra)
While this is a scary time for us all, it will eventually pass. Instead of being in a state of panic and fear, let’s use this time to ground ourselves, to practice gratitude and generosity, and to be more mindful about how we want to live our lives — for the collective well-being of us all. These are things that will help us to be healthier & happier, long after Coronavirus has subsided.
Read the original post on Jane’s blog
About the Author
Jane Marie Chen is a TSL coach and the co-founder and CEO of Embrace, a social enterprise startup that aims to help the 15 million premature and low birth-weight babies born every year, through a low-cost infant warmer. The Embrace infant warmer costs about 1% of a traditional incubator and is estimated to have helped over 300,000 babies to date. Prior to Embrace, Chen worked with nonprofit organizations on healthcare issues in developing countries. She spent several years as the Program Director of a startup HIV/AIDS nonprofit in China (Chi Heng Foundation) and worked for the Clinton Foundation’s HIV/AIDS Initiative in Tanzania. Chen received her MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business, and her Masters in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She received her BA from Pomona College. She is an avid surfer and meditator, and writes a personal blog and a column for Forbes about life lessons learned through surfing and entrepreneurship.