A couple of weeks ago, I had no inkling the world would completely change, and everything would be turned upside down.

Things I took for granted, like popping downstairs for a quick coffee, going to yoga or the movies, were suddenly swiped off my table. In a flash, my business, my income and – I might add – my ability to go shoe shopping, were all potentially gone!

It was the speed of change that shocked me the most. I know I was warned, but I didn’t really believe it would come to this. Did you?

Now, home alone in my bubble for one, my life has been reduced to going outside for exercise only, or food shopping (and I despise food shopping).

This current life in no way resembles my old one. And I liked that one very much…

However, I am well aware I’m much better off than many people. And the things I once took for granted, like a walk along the waterfront, I’m now extremely grateful for. Getting out of the apartment for exercise is keeping me sane.

This morning as I strolled along Oriental Parade, I did something wildly out of character. I’m not sure what came over me, but I took off my shoes and paddled my pasty white feet in the sea.

Perhaps it was feeling the touch of the sand, the cool water, or the sheer joy of connecting with something other than my laptop but it felt madly liberating and I shed a few tears.

Until then, I don’t think I’d realised what an impact this whole pandemic thing has had on me.

Some days my emotions have floored me.

Do you find yourself struggling or reeling from the sudden change and uncertainty?

If you’re feeling anxious, scared and fearful you’re not alone.  Maybe depression has reared its ugly head, or like me, you’re grieving your old life and wondering if things will ever get back to normal.

At times like this, I’m extremely grateful for my meditation practice. It helps me manage my anxiety and prevents my mind from catastrophising (making mountains out of molehills) and getting lost in worst-case scenarios.

It can help you too.

It’s not a cure-all or a quick fix. And it’s certainly not intended to stop you feeling your emotions (as comforting as that may sound).

Mindfulness weaves its magic by creating a bit of distance between you and your emotions because it simply isn’t helpful ‘living’ in an anxious hypervigilant state day-in-day-out!

You can’t control what’s happening, but you can manage your response to what’s happening. And that’s the power of mindfulness.

Learning how to recognise and shift challenging emotions before they ambush you, can stop you from yelling at the kids, snapping at your partner, or spiralling into a free-fall about your overdraft.

Mindfulness gives you a ‘press pause moment’ so you can respond wisely.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you will always respond perfectly, but your odds are much better!

Whenever you notice you’re feeling triggered ask yourself  ‘is this helpful?’ If the answer is ‘no’ you’ve already made great progress because that momentary pause provides you with more choice over how you respond.

Take it a step further and name the emotion if you can. “Oh, here’s anger, here’s frustration, annoyance…” While it may sound naff, naming emotions puts your prefrontal cortex back online.  FYI – that’s the smarter part.

Which is why building a formal meditation practice is so important.

Meditation trains you in knowing what your mind is up to moment by moment. With mindful awareness, you have a choice. Without it, you don’t.

In my opinion, there’s never been a better time to start a regular 5-10-minute practice.

You can download The Mindful at Work app (free) or I suggest trying out Awakened Mind.

Remember, we’re all in this together. Your mood is contagious. When you look after your own mental health, you’re in a much better position to look after others.

Stay well.

About Kerene Strochnetter:
Kerene is the Managing Director of Mindful at Work – a business that delivers workplace programmes across New Zealand – to build resilience, lift engagement and create healthier work cultures. She’s also the author of ‘Crazy Busy – If busy is the new stupid, then mindful is the new smart’.