Behavioral Health

Coronavirus: Finding Mindfulness and Gratitude in the Midst of Quarantine

By: Geeta Nangia, MD

With each added day of quarantine due to coronavirus, I’ve noticed that parents and children are becoming more anxious.  I want to share with you the most common underlying reason for anxiety that most people are feeling during this time, and what can be done about it.

As parents, we are accustomed to what I call “forward-thinking and planning”. Meaning, we are in the habit of always focusing on what’s next.  When life is going on normally, we ask ourselves, “What has to get done today?”, “What can I do next?”, and “What will I do when I am finished?”.

Mindfulness in Quarantine

Now, being in quarantine, our minds are still trying to think the same way. Even though we are physically limited at the moment, we are still thinking about how we can start planning for the future.

We are asking ourselves,  “What will I do with my kids tomorrow to keep them occupied?”, “How will I help my child get everything done for school, and still get my own work done?”, “How will I get bills paid?”, “Will my business survive this pandemic?”.

We live in a culture where this mindset is pervasive, and it becomes part of how our children learn to mentally operate as a result.  Our children are stir crazy right now.  They are bored, asking what they can do next, when things will re-open, and when they can see their friends again. For better or worse, we’ve trained them to be like us!

So, why the added anxiety? Coronavirus is a literal wrench being thrown into the gears of our mind that are used to rotating and working a certain way. We can’t forward think and forward plan like we used to when things were more certain.

It is like our minds are trains that were running steadily along a railroad until an obstacle suddenly landed on the tracks, and we are now forced to make a choice.  We can make a decision to become consumed with anxiety and continue spinning our wheels, feeling stuck, and asking forward-thinking types of questions. Or, we can choose to accept that planning has come to a screeching halt, and we can decide to live in the present by slowing down and enjoying the beauty of what this quarantine has to offer…

An opportunity to be mindful of who we are and what we have been given. A space for gratefulness to overwhelm us instead of fear and anxiety.

But, how do we become mindful and grateful? How do we teach our children to embody these characteristics? Mindfulness means being in the moment and being aware of your surroundings, your body, your thoughts, and your emotions. Mindfulness leads to being thankful in the moment for who you are and where you are, which enables you to then put aside worries, tasks, and expectations.

How to Be Mindful

Here are some practical tips on how to be mindful during this season and help your children to do the same:

  1. Practice being aware of your surroundings.  Step outside daily and engage your five senses. Breathe deeply. Pause and listen to the birds chirping, look at the leaves blowing in the breeze, and smell the fresh cut grass. Watch as Spring blooms in front of you. Take in the fresh air, smell the flowers blooming, and feel the soft grass under your feet.  Take a walk and observe the natural beauty around you.
  2. Keep your thoughts in the present by focusing on where you are right now.  Ask yourself, what am I grateful for today? Express thanks for what you are grateful for. Center your mind around those things.
  3. During your day, take a deep breath from time to time and remind yourself to be present and centered.  Know that even when things become frustrating or overwhelming, this is a time when you and your children can connect in the simple things.  Perhaps there is a game you can play together, a new activity to try, a  new show to watch, or a different path to walk on.  Carve out ways to enjoy your time differently and with more simplicity.
  4. When boredom comes knocking at your door, remember that having nothing to do is a privilege.  It brings with it a quietness of thought, an opportunity for focusing on what is important, and the luxury of loving one another without distractions.

If all else fails, try to remind yourself that anxiety is worrying about the future. The best remedy for anxiety is gratefulness for the present.

Until next time,

Dr. Nangia

Parkside Behavioral Health Provider, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, and unashamed Red Sox fan

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  • Behavioral Health