Growing up, I was taught to value what I had, even the most minuscule possession. In other words, if my parents bought a new sofa, my mother would make covers and care for it, so, when we purchased a second piece, we had not one but two new sets. 

In hindsight, I realize I was being taught to be content with what I had and value my efforts as building blocks for a better future.

 During the COVID-19 pandemic, our behaviour is being shaped towards building resiliency; we do what we can with what we have. We are trying to create meaningful moments to bring joy into our day; social media is filled with these posts; helping the more vulnerable get their groceries or baking with our little ones.

 Despite these valiant attempts, mental health, in general, has deteriorated is a well-established fact. One of the many reasons is that people are reporting having less happiness in their lives as their fun-loving activities, meeting friends for dinner, vanished with the advent of the pandemic.

The pandemic has amplified feelings of guilt and failing to meet your family’s needs. Your little one wants to play, your teenager needs help with their homework, but you feel too tired and drained.  

You know that your circumstances or the external world will not change back miraculously to pre-pandemic days. So, cognitive reframing – or consciously changing how you feel when you are agitated or irritable – can help towards greater acceptance of what’s happening in your life.

You can beat the pandemic’s low mood by bringing contentment or an “I have enough” feeling.

The first step towards this mindset can be to look at your thinking pattern. Lockdowns and social distancing efforts have “lasted forever,” leading to catastrophic or all-or-none thinking patterns, which in this case is relatively accurate as you and your loved ones have all had losses: economic, emotional, social, and in essence, a loss of your routine.

Again, even when you think you’re relaxed and calm, you feel restless with busy thoughts, despite your best efforts like eating right and working out in your home gym to remain upbeat and positive. 

To feel better, you want to curtail this feeling of helplessness before it takes stronger roots. I find doing deep breathing helps as it serves as a distraction and gives a break from ruminating. It’s the technique I use during my first session with a client to have a more productive rest of the day, and their current functioning is maintained. 

In my last article, “Taking control of your momentary lapses,” I had discussed deep breathing. 

Here, I’ll be discussing how to make this breathing technique more effective by describing the process in more detail. 

  Find a comfortable, quiet spot; place your hand on your belly. Imagine you are breathing “through your navel,” your breath travelling upwards to your lungs, your throat, feeling the vibrations in your nasal passages and up to your forehead. With each exhale travelling downward, taking the same route, and exiting through your navel.

Continue with deep breathing until you feel calm; repeat.

You can combine your breathing with imagery, visualizing you are breathing in the golden rays of the sun and breathing out all the tension and anxiety.  

There is no ideal time to do conscious breathing. Do it as soon as you realize you are tired, have foggy thinking, constriction in your throat, sweaty palms, queasy stomach, neck and shoulder pain.

Every time you practice controlled breathing, end the session by rubbing your palms together,generating heat – bringing them to your closed eyes, and patting your eyes gently, your face, neck, shoulders – all enveloped in the warmth from your palms. This activity helps with your anxiety management as it calms your mind. 

You can set a mini- intention each time; a walk or a few stretches. 

Any efforts will be rewarding, as your mind will be taken off your worries, calming the fight-flight response. It helps in reframing your current circumstances, keeping you grounded and indirectly creating moments of joy.

You can create more such moments during your day by having a plan. I’ve worked with many incarcerated clients who plan for each day to maximize their time and have productive lives. These measures helped them to have a better night’s sleep and to prepare for the future.

Shaping behaviour by successive approximations or taking small steps towards staying calm will lead to greater acceptance of the current crisis. With clearer thinking, acceptance will help you sleep better, wake up refreshed, ready to take on the challenges of yet another day in the pandemic. 

This article was published in the Telegraph-Journal.

The picture is from Mind Matters A.S. Consulting;

 Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes and should not substitute for consultations with a qualified professional.