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Mary is one of our young professionals. As a family and adolescent counsellor, she has witnessed the impact that COVID-19 has on her clients’ mental health.

Here is Mary’s short reflection on the power of mindfulness and coping during this time of social distancing.

Mindful or Mindflu?

Mindfulness as the key to surviving the COVID-19 lockdown

Since the tightening of COVID-19 restrictions, I increasingly hear family members, friends and clients saying “I can’t wait until this is over” or “I can’t wait to be able to do this… or that…” This caused me to contemplate on the need and value of mindfulness now – and possibly more so than ever.

Mindfulness is purposeful awareness of the present moment. To be mindful is to pay close attention to your present experience and environment, with a spirit of openness and non-judgment. It is difficult to practise mindfulness and anchor ourselves to the ‘here and now’ when we remain attached to past experiences or future plans. The latter has proved more challenging during this lockdown period as we often find ourselves living for the day when we’re free to return to our ‘usual’ lifestyles and ‘normal’ routines.

The issue with this is that preoccupying ourselves with what we’ve lost, often prevents us from being grateful for what we still have and distracts us from experiencing the simple joys and comforts of the present moment. Furthermore, looking to the past doesn’t provide much consolation or comfort either as we often compare our current experience to past memories where our sense of control and freedom were not tested or disrupted. They say that “comparison is the thief of joy,” and I see its relevance here.

Dwelling too much on the past or future robs us of the opportunity to appreciate what we do have in the present moment – the gift of time.

Time to sit with your family for a meal, time to reconnect with a friend over the phone, time to finish last minute projects for work, time to catch up on study notes, time to create a motivational Pinterest board, time to redecorate or clean your room, time to declutter your home, time to remove any unused apps on your phone, time to learn a new language, time to read a story to your child before bed, time to learn how to make your favourite meal or dessert, time to ride your bike around the neighbourhood, time to write a letter to a friend, time to camp in your backyard, time to check-in on a classmate or colleague, time to have a guilt-free sleep in, time to read that dusty novel on the bookshelf, time to perfect those lunges and squats, time to go for a walk, time to take up a new hobby, time to work on removing a bad habit, time to listen to a podcast, time to refine your self-care routine, time to get out the Monopoly board, time to meditate, time to feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, time to walk the dog, time to plant some flowers in the garden… a time to slow down, a time to be grateful and mindful of what we still have.

The question we often find ourselves asking is “When will this be over?” or “How long will this last?” but I propose an alternative question: “When that moment arrives, will you look back at this time as having counted the days or making the days count?”

Making your days count is a choice you can make each day. You can choose to be grateful and mindful for the things in your life that are not bound by space or time. Offering kindness, hope and a sense of community to others, is one opportunity and joy we have not lost. We may just have to be a bit more creative with our approach, but the opportunity is still there. For the remainder of this lockdown period, I would encourage to “let not [your] longing slay the appetite of [your] living.”

When you begin to see this time as a gain and not a loss – reframing this lockdown period from a ‘time of vulnerability’ to a ‘time of opportunity’ – you will see the four walls that once served to confine you, soon collapse.

This article was originally posted on KYDS Youth Development Services Facebook page.