NEW YORK—Governors across the country are issuing stay-at-home orders to combat the rising cases of the CCP virus in the United States. This has been a cause of stress for many Americans as they adapt to the changing circumstances, but an expert says meditation may help people destress.
While nearly half of the country off work and told to stay home, uncomfortable thoughts and feelings may arise such as fear of the unknown, anxiety about finances, and aggression toward people we live with. Meditation can help alleviate these negative mindsets by helping us stay in the present moment and better manage our thoughts, according to a meditation coach.
“We practice being okay with these uncomfortable emotions, and we breathe through them,” says meditation coach and founder of the Breethe App Lynne Goldberg. “When we breathe, we’re actually activating our rest-and-relax response. We are able to activate that part of our body that says, ‘It’s ok. You’ve got this. Everything’s under control right now.’”
In uncertain times like these, fear can become an overwhelming emotion and lead people to panic and make poor decisions, according to Goldberg. She said meditative breathing helps us handle this emotion and not let it overwhelm us.
“The greatest superpower we have right now is the ability to stay calm and take care of ourselves,” Goldberg said. “By staying calm, we are actually increasing our immune system, we’re not making poor decisions, and the easiest way to do that is just to breathe.”
Research shows that stress can weaken the immune system, according to the American Psychological Association. Goldberg said staying calm can help our physical well-being.
With several states issuing stay-at-home orders, Americans are spending more time cooped up at home. Goldberg said this can cause people to feel trapped and anxious, but meditation can help us respond rather than react.
Mindfulness can help us interact with each other better, but it can also allow us to be present and let negative thoughts pass by simply observing them, according to Goldberg.
“Instead of feeling that we need to protect ourselves, we can listen with a much more open heart and we can communicate with our loved ones in a much calmer, more rational way,” she said. “Not getting ahead of ourselves, but staying present and really watching our thoughts, watching where we’re going, watching our ‘what ifs’ … and really staying with our breath is a really important tool for keeping us out of that panic mode.”
She noted that while meditation isn’t a panacea in and of itself, it is a useful tool in dealing with anxiety from job loss, financial troubles or other burdens caused by the pandemic.
“It doesn’t take away the trying times. It just gives you the tools so that you have the calm within you so that you can handle what comes up,” she said.
Calmness is important because if we panic, that may bring bad things to ourselves, according to Michelle Wang, who meditates as part of the mind-body practice of Falun Dafa.
“It’s like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so worried I’m gonna get this.’ And in the end, you may get it because you’re so worried about it,” Wang said.
“But if you’re in a state of calmness, peacefulness, like everything is going to be okay, like, ‘I believe in my body, I believe in the world, the universe, whatever is going to happen,’ then I feel like your body and this immune system and everything, it’ll do what it’s supposed to do,” she said.
“Continue to work on being truthful and being compassionate and kind to those around us, and I feel like it’ll be okay,” said Wang.
Goldberg said having compassion for ourselves can help us navigate through such a hard time. She emphasized the importance of “being really gentle with yourself right now [and] really, truly going easy on yourself and doing as much as you can to make this less hard in whatever way you possibly can.”
And yet according to Goldberg, this difficult situation does have a silver lining—having the chance to teach your children to meditate since families are home together.
“I wish I had learned as a kid and it will certainly put on a nice layer of calm throughout the household,” she said.
Goldberg said meditation gives children the tools they need to calm themselves down when they are overwhelmed by certain feelings.
She added that “it’s really a beautiful thing to do as a family” as well.
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