Just as exercise, going to the gym and pilates, make your body strong, balanced and flexible, meditation does the same for your mind.
COVID-19 has had a major impact on all areas of our lives – professionally, socially, financially – upending everything from travel to how we work, live, eat, shop, communicate, think, feel and connect.
During the last four months, people have experienced many new sources of stress – and change in the form of grief, social isolation and worry. Fear, uncertainty, doubt and anxiety are more widespread.
As things start to settle – we can now slow down, and understand how we are feeling. In times of crises, different instincts kick in. We rise to the occasion. It is when things slow – that we can take time to understand how we really feel.
Like when we lose a loved one – we get through the first part somehow – perhaps in shock and with the support of other loved ones. But then afterwards when the changed reality sinks in, that is where the real work of accepting, letting go and rebuilding starts.
The British Medical Journal the lancet reported in April that the mental health consequences of COVID 19 could exceed the effects of the epidemic itself. We are now in this period where we are seeing that. In Ireland pre-COVID, 18.5 percent of the population had a mental health problem – or nearly 1 in 5. (2018) Future reports will likely show current rates are higher.
It takes a lot of energy to create new things and effect change. It is much easier and requires significantly less energy to maintain what we have. But when maintaining what we have is no longer an option, we have no choice but to move ahead which can also be daunting.
I notice a lot of people I am working with – got through COVID well – but are finding this current period more personally challenging – as the need to change and find new ways to doing things sinks in.
A regular meditation practice keeps you in touch with how you are feeling. It gives you the courage to sit with and look at yourself. It helps you understand how stress affects you.
We have all felt low, sad or down at some point. This is a normal reaction to a stressful event such as losing a job, or another loss or experiencing any other life struggle. A future stressful event – such as worrying about a job loss, or having an important conversation or paying your mortgage or other bills can also trigger a physiological stressful response in the body.
Our stress reactions are called the “fight-or-flight” response because they evolved as a survival mechanism which enables us to react quickly when faced with life-threatening situations. The boost in cortisol prepares the body to flee. The heart beats faster and your blood pressure increases. Over activation of the stress response takes its toll on the body. Research shows that chronic stress contributes to brain changes that contribute to anxiety and depression. Meditation has been shown to change the brain regions linked with depression.
While, meditation is not a panacea, it does help people effectively manage stress. It trains the mind to focus, and to be aware of your thoughts and feelings and see them without judgement – Whilst understanding you don’t have to act on them.
While more people are stressed – on a positive note, more people are comfortable talking about it. There is a lot more discussion and genuine concern for how others are. If you are feeling over-stressed, the important thing is to find ways of managing it that suit you.