Welcome to our Youth Talk Blog, a section dedicated to youth lived-experiences with mental health and wellbeing, with weekly blog posts from diverse young people’s perspectives. This is a positive, fun and resourceful space, showcasing young people thriving and connecting with healthful activities, resources and support. This post has been written by Jess, our Community Education intern, who is a 23-year-old psychology student.
COVID-19 restrictions, as we all know and has been constantly established, have brought about extreme and exceptional circumstances, which naturally come with new challenges. There are many strategies and activities which can be done to make this time easier, and this has been outlined in other blog entries on this site. On this article however, we will be going over mindfulness, and how this can contribute to enhance our wellbeing. Mindfulness is the human ability to be fully present, being aware of where we are and what we are doing. Mindfulness is something we all naturally have, however it's more available to us the more we practice on a daily basis. Being mindful involves bringing awareness to what you are directly experiencing through your senses or to your state of mind through thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness is available to us everywhere, whether it is through meditation and body scans, or through mindful moments such as taking time to pause and breathe when the phone rings instead of rushing to answer it.
Mindfulness can be an effective method to enhance wellbeing generally, and so in circumstances such as lockdown, when we are confined to the few walls in our homes and limited people, our thoughts and everyday worries can become more intense through having more time to worry about such things. Mindfulness involves being aware of your thoughts, feelings and body sensations as you experience them. So this can help one notice when there is tension building and when you may need to take a break, whether it be from work or social tension in the house. Mindfulness is great for helping reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. From my own experience in lockdown, I have found there are days where I feel particularly overwhelmed, and this usually derives from myself overthinking many things, bringing down my mood significantly. So I decided to start practicing mindfulness; going for a walk, and standing on a hill that I normally visit, and to just stand and look at the view, feel the wind, hear the birds and focus on my breathing. This helps completely clear and reenergise my head and spirit. After this I feel considerably lighter and my mood becomes more positive.
Another way to practice mindfulness is to unplug, taking for instance 30 minutes away from electronic devices - phone, computer or television. In this time, notice any impulses you may have to check these devices, notice any thoughts and sensations that come up and any emotional reactions. Do you feel irritated, relieved or sad? In this time, you can become an observer of your experience. I struggled to get used to it initially as I am connected to my mobile for much of the day. However, getting past the initial discomfort, I found it very refreshing, and enjoyable being present and participating in activities such as painting and talking more with the people around me. Managing our emotions and supporting one another can be challenging in the best of times, this is why now more than ever, we need to be doing the best we can, to take moments to pause, and be proactive in looking after ourselves and others. Mindfulness is an easy, free, natural way to boost your anxiety coping skills, and can help with our ability to manage our emotions. During COVID-19 restrictions, where we may have extra time on our hands, we can take the opportunity to begin or strengthen our mindfulness practice.
References and resources
Calm - App for Mindfulness, Meditation and Sleep
Headspace - App for Mindfulness and Sleep