Working and Breathing Through
We’ll be mixing up our format somewhat over the next few weeks to provide you not only with mindfulness techniques and examples, but also resources to support you in getting through this experience calmly and with an increased sense of purpose and meaning. And maybe even a little fun. Today we’ll be interviewing Work2Live’s social media manager, Melissa Sims. She’s homebound with school-aged children and we’ll have a chat about how it’s going and what her strategies are in home-schooling the kids, working from home and staying mindful, which is another way to say to keep from going a little crazy. We’d love to share your ideas and stories, too. Drop us an email if you’d like to be interviewed on the podcast and we’ll be in touch. Before we get into that, a couple of reminders. Please stay home if you can. In the coming weeks, we’ll be discussing how to cope with isolation, cabin fever or loneliness, but I can’t stress enough that right now, the difference between this being an unpleasant, scary, frustrating experience and this being a major tragedy is physical distancing. So stay home and protect yourself and others. The other reminder is related to shopping. I’m seeing people line up outside of Costco at 3am and have heard from grocery store workers that the same shoppers are going every day to buy the maximum quantities of products allowed. The more you hoard, the more you’re harming others. Please stop over-stocking. We can’t get back to normal until you do. Don’t be a hoarder so we can return to order. As we enter the first full week of what is basically a lock down here in California, we’re all feeling a variety of emotions. Fear, anger and frustration for sure, but also a lot of compassion and love. While people behaving erratically may make the headlines more than good news, there is a lot of good happening out there. If you’re going to watch a screen, watch that.
But back to emotions. Mindfulness does not exempt us from feeling uncomfortable emotions. It allows us a path to observe them and if we choose, to respond to them. I woke up Sunday morning and felt no motivation whatsoever to get out of bed. I propped my pillows up so I could sit and lean back and just check in with what was going on. I’m normally a leap-out-of-bed-and-get-started kind of person, so I knew right away that something was off. Was I depressed, scared, irritated? I closed my eyes and monitored my thoughts for a couple of minutes. It turns out, I wasn’t feeling any of those emotions. I was simply tired. Last week was a giant roller coaster of non-stop activity, highs and lows, exciting news for the business and the sad news of sending staff home. I had not stopped for six days straight. So Sunday, my body was telling me enough. I needed a break. This is an excellent mindfulness practice. Just pause several times a day and notice what you’re thinking. Our thoughts create our emotions, so consciously paying attention to what we’re thinking is a very effective way to get our emotions more under control. We’re all having a lot of wild thoughts right now. Like many of you, I’m concerned about toilet paper, or rather my lack of it. There’s a real panic feeling that starts in my stomach every time I think of it. I start wondering if I should go out in search of it before I’m completely out, which is only days away now. But, because I do practice mindfulness, my thoughts start to override themselves with very little effort on my part. Is it worth getting exposed to the virus for toilet paper? I won’t lie, maybe at some point. But for now, I can take deep breaths that calm that feeling in the pit of my stomach and wait. I know sooner or later, the shopping mania will subside. I know sooner or later, the stores will be restocked for more than 45 minutes. I know I’m not going to die without toilet paper and that I can’t say the same thing about going out in public right now. Toilet paper is certainly a great equalizer, isn’t it? I’ve heard politicians complain that they’re out, it’s clearly causing one of the biggest problems at the stores, and restaurants know it’s a huge draw to their take-out business, adding a roll to each order. It’s become such a national obsession there’s already a website to help people calculate how long their toilet paper stock will last. True. It’s howmuchtoiletpaper.com and you can enter how many rolls you have and how many bathroom visits you conduct a day to determine how long your supply will last. I spent some time pondering why our reaction is so strong toward something we definitely take for granted under normal circumstances. I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but I realized that for me, it’s a dignity issue. Not having it feels uncivilized and my mind is desperately searching for signs that we are civilized. Civilized equals safe, normal, orderly. Right now, I want order! We can’t always have what we want though, at least in this moment, so I remind myself that I can’t control external events. I can only control how I respond to them. Each time today that my thoughts drift to toilet paper, I’m simply going to remind myself to focus on whatever it is I’m doing in that moment, not the future event of running out of TP. That’s also a key mindfulness practice. Bringing the mind back to the present instead of rehashing the past or worrying about the future. As of the moment of this writing, I’m absolutely fine. I’m safe, I’m healthy, I’m able to continue my work, and I’m able to socially connect with loved ones, friends, staff and clients online. So I’m very, very grateful. I recognize, too, that I’m very, very blessed that half of my work is online. Our office was already set up for remote work and I have all of the services and equipment to ensure that we can keep going without a lot of changes and no downtime. I also don’t have small children at home, so it’s pretty easy for me to adapt work-wise, to what’s happening. That’s certainly not the case for most of you. When the schools starting closing and we suspected a broader shut-down was coming, we quickly developed a webinar on how to successfully telecommute, thinking that some people might have no idea how to go about shifting from going into an office all day to suddenly working from home, with kids underfoot no less, and figured it might be useful to at least a few people. The response has been almost overwhelming and we’re still adding sessions to accommodate all of the people who want support in making this transition. That leads to our guest today, Melissa Sims, Work2Live’s social media manager, yoga instructor and mother of two.
And again, a shout out to our listeners – we’d love to share yours, too. We have an enormous collective wisdom. Let’s use it supporting each other through this event. I discovered a few things this week that might be useful. A great activity for yourself or to do with kids is go to Google Arts and Culture. You can take virtual tours of national parks, the worlds’ museums and more. It’s a great way to stay cultured and to relax. Playbill is offering plays and musicals online. And movies theatres are offering brand new releases directly to streaming, so check out your favorite theater or Fandango and have a movie night with the family. The cost is around $20 which is a lot less than it would cost you to go to the movies with a partner or kids, so it’s a good deal, too. The most important thing to remember is that none of us are alone. We’re all going through the same thing and we can be supportive, compassionate and loving, to ourselves and others.
Let’s all take in a deep cleansing breath, in through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Take in another deep breath and see if you can feel the breath all the way down in the belly. Hold for a couple of seconds and then slowly exhale through the mouth. Sit comfortably straight, feel flat on the floor and hands resting on the thighs. Close your eyes or gaze down at the floor. Take this brief time to relax your body. Start with your forehead. Allow it to relax. Stretch your neck side to side. Allow the tension to slide out. Drop your shoulders. Release any tension in your arms or hands. Relax your back. Notice the weight of your body on the surface you’re sitting on. Let go of any contraction in your thighs, calves and ankles. Feel the surface under your feet – your connection to the earth. Breathe normally, noticing your breath. Is it shallow or deep? Is it warm or cool as it goes in and back out? No effort is required. Just breathe. Breathing in health and safety. Breathing out stress and tension. In and out. Slowly bring your attention back to the space you’re in. Take in one final deep breath and blow it out through your mouth. Be well, be safe and be kind.