Mindfulness is a practice I promote both in therapy sessions and on a personal level on a daily basis. On some days it feels like a struggle to stay in the moment, while on others it flows with less resistance. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally”. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to decrease anxiety, stress, chronic pain, and depression among other things.
The act of being mindful is something we are born with but quickly forget. The labels we place on our everyday experiences influence our emotions and our interpretation of the world. Focusing on the past and future can create intense sadness and anxiety for people.
Since the beginning of the quarantine, I have been providing video-therapy for my clients and I have seen an increase in clients seeking treatment for anxiety and depression. I listen to people’s intimate feelings and thoughts as they cope with their entire world being “turned upside down” as one client put it. About four weeks into the quarantine, I noticed something interesting. People began saying, “I cannot plan for more than just today. Everything is so uncertain.” People were being forced into mindfulness. Clients initially expressed extreme anxiety regarding this realization. Then something happened. For one group of clients, depression hit after the anxiety settled. For another group of clients, a sense of calm emerged. I noticed some general differences between my two groups of therapy
clients. Those who struggled the most had a difficult time staying in the moment. They displayed resistance to giving up control of their environment. The “shoulds” were prevalent in their dialogue. They displayed frequent catastrophizing- imagining worse case scenarios. Their dialogue was filled with judgment of everything including themselves. In contrast, the second group was coping well in the midst of this epidemic. These individuals were focused on the here and now. They were focused on what they could control in this moment and were not thinking about future plans. They had stopped resisting what was happening. There was an overall acceptance of what is and not what should be. They released making plans and practiced gratitude daily. They practiced self-compassion. What the quarantine had taught them was how to release what was not serving them. Many of them had spent years struggling to become more mindful. Now that their world had “turned upside down” it appeared they had stopped battling to control everything. There was a newfound realization that all they had attempted to control prior to the pandemic was not really that important. There was a discernment of what really mattered. Acceptance of the moment had granted them some of the inner peace they had been seeking. The future was out of their control and that was OK. As we continue to ponder the meaning of all that is happening in the world, let us all be aware of our thoughts and how they are making us feel. This too shall pass and some will find they are better equipped to remain calm when the storm has passed.
Story by Dr. Eleni Boosalis
Dr. Eleni Boosalis is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and the co-owner of Del Ray Psych & Wellness, LLC. She is passionate about working with people who are seeking to heal and evolve by using a holistic treatment approach.
As published in the May 2020 Issue of VIP Alexandria Magazine