Mind your Mind: A Guide to Surviving a Crisis-like Situation
The lockdown's made us anxious, frustrated, and helpless. And this is not a mere this-shall-pass fake-fluff blog post.
This is a post enlisting actionable steps that will guide you to help yourself through testing times.
Let's cut through the BS.
Are we ready? Let's go!
But first, here's an analogy:
The sea seems dreamy and beautiful until we see her wild, roaring side. Then, it seems dark. Scary. Condescending. We do know that the waters are sometimes mellow ripples, and some other times, raging in full fury. And it's easy to row your boat when it's all sunshine, la vie en rose. But, what when the seas get rough? The sensible ones will let the anchor down.
When the going gets tough, you anchor. And how do you do it? You turn your focus inward. Turning focus inward could mean both, engaging in spiritual as well as practical/worldly activities.
Before we even get started, notice that when we're stressed, our breathing becomes faster. This act helps us normalize our breath, and eventually, our state of mind. A brilliant anchoring technique, slow and deep inhalations and exhalations are the first step – you are now taking back the reins in your hands.
Level: Ok, I'm familiar with this
Eavesdrop on your thoughts
Mhm. Go all out creepy on your mind. Listen, observe. But don't judge. This is the next step. I learnt this technique in various schools, including during the 10-day Vipassana meditation. All you do is start to observe the thoughts that naturally pop up in your head. Let them come, and let them pass. If you engaged, you could go on a tangent and that would defeat the purpose of this activity. This technique is meant to train you to detach yourself from your thoughts.
Level: I got this!
Talk to yourself
This is where you start to have a rendezvous with your thoughts. Get familiar, get to know the workings of your mind. Sit with a pen and paper to keep you focused, and to help you trace patterns. Even solutions. Now, sit still and follow the previous two steps (progress to the next as you notice you've got a good grasp of a particular level). Observe the first thought, observe how it makes you feel – now write it down. Next, ask yourself why this thought is important enough for you to engage with – write the answer down. Ok, you have a reason; is it a strong enough reason to engage further? If not, chances are you're losing interest. If it is, then ask yourself how this thought makes you feel, does it help you succeed in your life (career-wise or even otherwise)/does this though or pursuing actions relating to this thought do you any good? If the answer is no, can you think of letting go of this thought or actions relating to it? If not, can you think of altering this to suit you? You do not have to act; just observe and keep taking notes.
Do this for a few days and simply observe, ask questions and note down the answers. The purpose of this activity is to just get you acquainted with who this person is on the inside – this person that you call "I".
Level: Winner winner, chicken dinner
Breathe. Observe. Repeat.
So. You do all of the above. Chances are, you're already into spiritual practices and know how to control your mind. Most days, that is. But, rock your boat aggressively and you're suddenly losing control? First, it's OKAY. Even the best of us have our down days or weeks or even years.
(Please get someone to guide you through this)
Now, this is similar to activity 3, only that this is something you train yourself to do when provoked – either by another person, or even simply by an unfavourable result to your own action. The absolute first step is controlled breath – deep, slow inhalations, and deep, slow exhalations. Yes, we know this, but, we'll go back to basics.
Then, observe which level have you slipped back to. Is breathing helping? Great. Do more of it.
If it isn't helping, do not panic. You will repeat this, but this time, get someone to guide you into breathing, followed by guiding you through the other steps. And then, finally...leave you with small, empty, quiet spaces, to test your mind. The guide will intervene every few (~10) seconds to check if the mind is wandering or has gone back to being agitated – if not, great! If it has, go back to step one.
What this activity does initially is the same reason a lot of schools of thought do not recommend (non-guided) meditation to those with anxiety – not just as a first step. You see, when there are enough quiet spaces given to the mind, the mind tends to run free – which is risky in case of someone battling depression, or even someone having an anxious mind. Guided meditation or activities take you through the necessary mental process of meditation or brain work without leaving scope for the mind to wander.
I hope these techniques help you through what feels like a situation of crisis. I hope you're able to get past the lockdown, and emerge mentally stronger, healthier, and definitely more resilient! ❤