After the address by President Cyril Ramaphosa regarding our economic rehabilitation, and the update on the lockdown conditions in South Africa on Tuesday 23 April 2020, it’s understandable that as business owners and employees, we’re nervous about our future. We know that in order to flatten the curve, we’re going to need more time to recover, and for most there will be an uncomfortable feeling when we look into this uncharted and uncertain future. Finding ways to relieve anxiety is the best we can do for now, and we’ve put together three simple mindfulness practices to do just that, and to help you keep calm while in lockdown.

Before we dive into these three practices, we need to unpack the why, what, and how of anxiety. Having a solid understanding of anxiety is already a step in the right direction towards relieving its effects.

While depression is concern about past events, anxiety grows from having overwhelming feelings of stress, fear, and worry about the future. These thoughts and uncomfortable feelings can manifest into the following symptoms:

  • Raised blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Racing, or unwelcome thoughts
  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • Lack of concentration
  • Increased body tension
  • Irritability

Are you experiencing any of these symptoms?

Diagnosing anxiety disorders needs to be done by a trained health professional, and usually you should approach it from a holistic perspective when wanting to reduce the symptoms of prolonged anxiety.

This article in no way aims to provide an alternative to conventional medical intervention; however, through it we will increase your awareness of the symptoms of anxiety, and offer three simple mindfulness practices to relieve anxiety during this challenging time.

 

What’s Mindfulness?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”

Before moving into any mindfulness practices, please remember that it’s not about judging your thoughts, or trying to push them away. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s the non-judgemental observation of your thoughts; noticing the impact they have on your body and emotions.

This approach may sound simplistic, but it’s not. Mindfulness requires the constant and repetitive retraining of the brain from being involved in the thoughts and stories, to becoming a quiet and non-judgemental observer. This takes time, practice, patience, and self-compassion. However, there are many benefits of practicing mindfulness regularly.

 

Three Simple Mindfulness Practices to Relieve Anxiety During Lockdown

 

Practice 1: Pay attention to your thoughts

A strong starting point for relieving your anxiety is to become aware of the thoughts you have that cause anxious feelings. As humans, we think rapidly and continuously. This has served us in our survival as a species because it allows us to predict threats, and plan our escape. However, despite the power of the mind to think in creative and adaptive ways, most people stick with similar, familiar thought patterns. Our brains tend to follow the most used pathways, so, when you start to pay attention to your thoughts, you’ll notice similar sequences and patterns of reasoning.

This first practice of mindfulness is to notice the thought patterns that elicit an anxious response in your body. Start noticing the unconscious and unhelpful stories your mind is looping through. This is a powerful first step in developing your mindfulness practice.

 

Practice 2: Do what makes you happy

In unprecedented times such as these, we’re being given the opportunity to engage in activities outside of our usual routines. Being able to play, relax, laugh, read, or cook, has become more rare in society over recent years as workplace demands and digital communication have increased. However, during lockdown, we’re being given the time and space to remember what we enjoy doing. This in itself may require you to shift your mindset around lockdown. If you do more of the things you enjoy, you’ll not only have time to move more easily, experience more positive emotions, and feel a deep sense of accomplishment, you’ll also be actively, consciously relieving your anxious symptoms.

This second mindfulness practice we’re encouraging you to try is to engage fully in what you enjoy doing. Use this time to completely release any thoughts while doing it. This is the practice of flow; it allows you to become completely absorbed in what you’re doing, and performing it for the pure inherent joy of doing it, rather than its outcome. Take the time to remind yourself of what you enjoy doing, and do it often. This simple mindfulness practice will allow you to combat your fears and worries for the future by helping you to stay present. You’ll experience more joy and positive emotions in your day. Give it a try – you’ve got nothing to lose!

 

Practice 3: Be Grateful

Gratitude has, over the past decade, become a common household concept. From social media posts to art and spiritual teachings, gratitude has become increasingly more recognised as an important emotion to experience and express.

The feeling of gratitude has been found to have dramatic physical and psychological benefits, and requires relatively little effort to practice.

Our final mindfulness practice to relieve anxiety during lockdown is to take the time to acknowledge and appreciate what you already have. Whether it’s taking stock at the end of each day as you get into bed, writing letters or journal entries, or simply expressing it to your loved ones, taking the time to notice what you’re grateful for is a powerful antidote to depression and anxiety. It reminds us to be in the present moment, find meaning and pleasure in the past, and feel positive emotions and hope for the future. Whether it’s as simple as being grateful for your morning cup of coffee or the roof over your head, finding at least three things that you’re grateful for will help you to remain calm, and keep an optimistic focus on your situation.

If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, and the various techniques which have been developed to combat depression, anxiety, and stress, look into the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn.

 

In Conclusion: Mindfulness Practices Relieve Anxiety

During these challenging, isolating, and worrying times, it’s imperative that we find ways to manage our anxieties and worries about the future. While traditional medical diagnosis and treatment may be necessary to manage stress from this uncertainty, what we’ve provided are three simple practices to relieve anxiety during lockdown. Each practice is not only simple and practical to do, it will help you to experience greater ease with your current situation, and help you to grow and become more resilient as we step into the unknown future.

We wish you awareness, resilience, and perseverance during this time. Please reach out to us via info@4seeds.co.za with your questions and feedback.

The 4Seeds Team