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Mindfulness and Mindlessness

Hey there, all you cool cats and kittens!

As I have found myself saying on a daily basis, life is just bizarre right now. Medicine and science are inherently full of uncertainties, but we are used to having some kind of endpoint in most of our timelines. The uncertainties of our current situation are particularly stressful for me, and perhaps this is the case for many of you as well. One way to manage this anxiety is to accept that while we have no control over most of this chaos, we can control our response to it.

I have for quite some time been aware that practicing meditation and mindfulness is a good idea. Compared to say, hoarding toilet paper, this coping mechanism could actually help us form a healthy habit that will be useful even after this crisis.

Why hadn’t I done this sooner? Well, given my type-A/multitasking nature, sitting still and breathing for several minutes sounded difficult, and potentially like a waste of time. I am aware of how silly that sounds, but I also suspect it is a familiar sentiment for some readers. I found that my assumptions about meditation were wrong. You don’t need to have a mantra or make any sounds. You don’t necessarily have to sit or hold your body a certain way, and you don’t have to block off a huge chunk of time. Meditating for just a few minutes helps me move on to the next task with more clarity. Mindfulness can be practiced in short moments throughout the day. There are many ways to use these principles and incorporate them into your routine if you are open to trying!

There are several great resources out there to give you a more complete introduction to mindfulness and meditation. I suggest**:

  • Headspace (www.headspace.com/health-covid-19). This app/website offers guided meditations for stress, sleep, and more. Health care providers can get a year of access to Headspace “Plus” for free.
  • 10% Happier. Check out their “Coronavirus Sanity Guide” in addition to www.tenpercent.com/care. This app will teach you about mindfulness and provide short guided meditations. It is also free right now for health care providers.
  • Stoicism Mindfulness dovetails very well with Stoicism. Check out my previous intro to Stoicism if you have a few minutes. If you like what you see, sign up for free emails and a seven-day Stoicism “starter kit” at dailystoic.com

If you find that you just can’t sit still, the internet is full of 10- to 15-minute yoga videos. Yoga (or any stretching) can also be a form of mindfulness. It can help us find where we are physically manifesting our tension and try to let it go. On the other end of the spectrum, I am also a huge advocate for the escapism of mindless television. I had a group of friends in residency who would get together for takeout (typically sushi or Thai food), wine, and bad TV. “Tiger King” would have fit well in our lineup. I have not done it yet, but apparently there is even a way to virtually watch Netflix with friends.

I am wishing all of you the best right now. Be kind. Breathe. Stay limber. We can do this!

**I am not receiving any compensation for recommending these resources. These are just resources that I personally find helpful.