People all across the world have been subjected to unprecedented circumstances amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This has created and exacerbated stress and anxiety for many people during these uncertain times. Stress and anxiety present itself differently for different people. Some may experience minor symptoms, such as discontent, racing thoughts and feelings of unease. For others, these feelings of anxiety may be more severe. Symptoms may include, shortness of breath, fast heart rate, sweating, nausea, and an impending feeling of dread or doom.
It is important to remember that during these uncertain times, you are not suffering alone and many people across the world are experiencing exactly what you are feeling. Another important thing to remember is that there are at-home strategies you can implement. One of those strategies, which is an important aspect of holistic health and the Ayurvedic practice is mindfulness.
Awareness is the key. If with curiosity and wonder, we can become acutely aware of all of the aspects of our mind and emotions, we can develop an openness towards them, a compassion and an understanding that will allow them to rest comfortably within our wisdom mind.
Mindfulness can be defined as the practice of being present in the moment and doing it intentionally and with non-judgement. Mindfulness is a component of meditation. Mindfulness meditation refers to the deliberate act of regulating attention to the present through the observation of thoughts, emotions, and body awareness. Mindful activities include, awareness of breath, body, feelings, emotions, and thoughts, typically in a meditative state. Mindfulness works to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as make you more aware and present in your current state. It transmits the thoughts and emotions into wisdom and connects us to the ever present peace and stillness that is the background of all thoughts. As we begin to identify more with this unchanging background, without struggling against the thoughts in the foreground, intuitive wisdom emerges from that source of stillness. This intuitive wisdom allows us to understand that all thoughts are pointers back to the ground of stillness which is unity.
Chaya~Sharon Heller stated “when we are one with ourselves, we are one with the world around us”. Mindfulness allows you to become one with your thoughts, feelings and emotions, helping you become present with yourself. This, in turn, helps you become present in your environment, making you one with the world around you.
The Ayurvedic practice emphasizes self-awareness and mindfulness as a key to meditation and living a healthy life. Five thousand years ago, in the north of India, the oldest and most sacred texts were written: the Vedas. It was in these texts that yoga and mindfulness were expounded upon. Yoga was, and still is, a spiritual experience that sought to train the mind to help alleviate suffering and achieve enlightenment, awareness or self-realization. The ancient medical system of Ayurveda was first recorded in the Vedas, that states that our thoughts heavily impact our realities. By implementing mindfulness during this time of uncertainty aids in awareness and stress relief for those suffering.
In a recent live stream with Chaya, she demonstrated the practice of specific breathing and relaxation techniques that create the stillness for greater awareness. When we are mindful, we focus on the present moment and become aware of our feelings and thoughts. When we do this, we begin making more conscious choices that foster our greatest well-being. In Chaya’s live stream, she exhibited how to properly develop your breathing and mind for deep relaxation. Like Chaya demonstrated, implementing these practices, promotes relaxation and stress relief.
You can introduce mindfulness in your life using several techniques. First, try to be quiet or meditate for at least five minutes a day. This allows you to distance yourself from your troubling thoughts and feelings, centering yourself in the present. Second, take a mindful stretch break. Instead of checking social media on your work break, try mindful stretching instead. Follow your body cues; slowly and intentionally stretch the parts of your body that need to be stretched. Finally, implement healthy eating practices and eat without distraction. Chaya has compiled some of her own Body Intelligence Tips (BITS) about healthy eating and lifestyle practices. Some of these include eating in a calm, settled atmosphere; never eat when you’re upset, always sit down when you eat, and sit quietly for a few minutes after your meal. Although there are more BITS Chaya has listed, these are imperative to implementing mindfulness while eating, which while improving your digestion will also improve your mindfulness practice.
In these uncertain times, it is hard to not let anxiety and negative thoughts control you. When you do find yourself feeling this way, it is important to remember that you are not alone and practicing mindfulness can aid in relieving a large portion of the stress you endure. To help get your started, set small achievable goals, like 5 minutes a day or at a meal, making the commitment to show up for it on a regular basis, and through practice and implementation, achieving this small, achievable goal, can bring the mindfulness and stress reduction needed to continue.
How we respond to these unprecedented times, will play a part in the next steps or outcome of our lives. Many want to escape this reality and diminish fear, however, when we attempt to remain present and mindful, we may no longer wish to escape our uncertain reality, rather, accept that life is always changing, and our present for a vehicle for growth, being grateful for what we have and what it will teach us and contribute to who we become and the legacy we create.
By: Guest contributor, Sarah McWilliams, UF Public Relations and Journalism Major and Chaya~Sharon Heller