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Published on May 19, 2021

How To Better Prepare Yourself Mentally For the Life After COVID-19

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How To Better Prepare Yourself Mentally For the Life After COVID-19

How unpredictable our lives indeed are? In the last year, life, as we know it, has snowballed at a rapid rate into the unexpected, uncertain, and unimaginable chaos it is today. So much has changed for people across all walks of life since March 2020, and with the skyrocketing daily cases reported in India’s second wave and the accompanying rise in deaths, it looks like we have a long battle ahead of us. It’s becoming harder to imagine a life after COVID-19.

The widespread nationwide lockdowns, system-wide complacency, and the lack of healthcare infrastructure have caused irreversible damage and unimaginable horrors. Markets are crashing, and businesses are floundering. Families struggling to find necessary medical intervention or just to keep food on the table are bitter realities we are forced to face today.

But there’s an invisible crisis unfolding that’s hardly spoken about. While everyone is busy dealing with the gross physical consequences of the pandemic, there is a hidden impact that could cause a heavier toll over time. That is the crisis of deteriorating mental health during the pandemic—a concern that’s only worsening with negligence as the battle against COVID-19 prolongs.

The Effects of COVID-19 on Everyone

The current pandemic could leave generations mentally scarred for the rest of our lives. Frontline workers who took the oath to treat the ill to the best of their abilities face trauma like no other. From dreaming of saving lives to triaging and deciding who gets to live, these COVID warriors will carry a heavy emotional burden even after the pandemic.

For our parents, this is a fearful time. COVID-19 and the news of death all around them act as a constant reminder of their own mortality. The world they knew and the people who gave them familiarity is shrinking.

On the other side, it is a lethal cocktail of overwhelm, anxiety, fear, and insecurity for the younger working-class professionals. Most professionals are at the edge of their sanity with endless paranoia about job loss and its consequences. The fear of what tomorrow will bring and the uncertainty make them lose their sleep today.

And for those reasonably secure about their jobs, there’s a constant sense of overwhelm, dread, lack of inclination, focus, and concentration to deliver on their responsibilities. How much does what most of us do as work really matter when there are more pressing life-threatening issues to worry about?

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For entrepreneurs and risk-takers, the pandemic is a grim reminder of the fragility of their enterprise. The levels of uncertainty, the mounting pressure to support their employees and suppliers, continuously changing statutory rules and regulations—all leave a business owner gasping for air as they run around and manage multiple responsibilities with little or no support.

For children growing up in this climate, their innocence is lost much earlier than it should have. Children mature faster in these times. Moreover, children today are growing up wholly cut off from peers and could grow up to be even lonelier a generation than today’s Gen Z.

Young adults with a memory of a pre-covid world are in no better position as they struggle with the uncertainty of their future life after COVID-19. With universities shut, job market opportunities slim, and continuous peer pressure thanks to social media, the last 12 months have been taxing for these youngsters.

We Are in It for the Long Haul

While no one can say how many more waves COVID-19 has in store for us, the emotional toll of this pandemic is becoming costlier with every passing day. Vaccines might buy us some time in the interim. However, it looks like COVID-19 is here to stay for a few years until scientists find a foolproof cure for all possible virus mutations.

In the meantime, emotional resilience is the need of the hour. Adults need to be continuously mindful of their mental health and take action or preventive steps to damage control and provide necessary love, attention, and emotional support to near and dear ones to limit the consequences.

How to Mentally Prepare for a Life After COVID-19

Here are a few ways we could build emotional resilience and better prepare ourselves mentally for life after COVID-19.

1. Acceptance of the New Reality

To begin with, all of us need to grieve the loss of life as we knew it and bury the dreams of what we had planned for the next few years. We need to confront the new reality and accept it totally. Complete acceptance requires letting go of thoughts like “what if,” “I wish,” “if only,” “it should be,” or “must have been.”

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We need to accept our new reality as is—a reality filled with uncertainty, fear of infection, and a sketchy future. A lot of us believe acceptance as meek, passive, and an act of the weak, but it’s quite the contrary. Acceptance requires tremendous courage to face the harsh realities of the current circumstances.

2. Process It, Don’t Numb It

We all love running away from our emotions. We’d rather overlook, neglect, ignore, or numb the feelings because, let’s be honest, we don’t know how to deal with them.

Today, we are dealing with a tsunami of emotions, and we have no idea where to begin. How does one work through the pile without crumbling under the weight of all these emotions?

And so we look the other way. We pretend that these feelings do not exist. We binge-watch Netflix, or worse, turn to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain. But that doesn’t resolve it. It’s only temporarily forgotten like the waves crashing and receding back to the ocean. But the waves return, and so will these emotions—they will come back and come back with more force than ever.

So, don’t neglect it, process it. Share what you’re feeling with friends and family who can provide a non-judgmental ear. If not, reach out to mental health helplines, counselors, and therapists to process the emotions and ease the pain.

3. Seek and Provide Emotional Support

Make sure to check in with how your loved ones are doing. Go a few steps beyond “How are you doing?” to really know if they are doing okay. Ask them how their mental health is in these times. Are they sleeping okay? How are they coping with the uncertainty and fear?

If they open up to you, hold space and lend a listening ear without judgment. Don’t rush to share your stories or offer unsolicited advice. Let them know you’re there for them and that it’s okay to seek professional help if they cannot cope.

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However, remember that this is not a one-way street. While you make yourself available for your loved ones, make sure you seek help and support when you need it. Don’t try to be a super savior neglecting your needs.

Like Bill Wither’s song goes:

“Lean on me, when you’re not strong,
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on…
For it won’t be long, Till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on
Please swallow your pride, If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill, Those of your needs that you won’t let show.”

4. Stay Connected With Your Tribe

I firmly believe in the power of the collective. Whatever your tribe is—whether it’s a subgroup of work colleagues, an art class gang, workout buddies, fellow entrepreneurs in a networking group, or the extended family of friends and cousins—support and seek support from the collective and find some solace during these times.

There’s a great relief in knowing you’re not alone, particularly when we are distanced from the people we love and restricted from doing things we love.

Leverage technology to at least keep the conversations going. Zoom sessions to the rescue! Be it creating art together or coming online to break a sweat and burn those calories, make sure to stay connected with your tribe, especially as you envision life after COVID-19.

5. Make Time to Create Moments of Joy

While the battle against the virus might feel disheartening, it is essential to cultivate practices that give us joy—whether it is that meditation in the darkness and quiet before the sunrise, that cup of coffee on the balcony, journaling thoughts and emotions, completing a crossword puzzle, a Schitt’s Creek or Office watch party, Facetime video calls with the family, or the weekend zoom game nights with friends.

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Engage in activities beyond the constant COVID talk that give you moments of joy even in these times of crisis. It might be the little things, but they can help preserve your sanity and restore mental balance.

Is It All a Loss?

We all stand to lose something as we defend humanity against this deadly virus. Many of us will grieve the loss of loved ones and seek to fill a void that can never be filled, and almost all of us will leave a part of ourselves behind because life will never be the same again.

As the saying goes, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

But it’s not all bad.

Final Thoughts

I firmly believe that the pandemic will also be a time of awakening, where we finally open our eyes to what truly matters as we long for life after COVID-19.

Maybe, once the pandemic is behind us, we will find more joy in the everyday things we took for granted. The morning rush to get kids ready for school, the commutes to work, boring office parties, conversations by the water cooler, and weekends.

We will probably be more grateful for the freedom to hang out with friends, visit our parents, or take a vacation. We will be more present and create lasting memories from simple birthday celebrations with friends to our big fat Indian weddings. We will love more, laugh more, and cherish more.

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Featured photo credit: Kate Trifo via unsplash.com

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Shwetha Sivaraman

Entrepreneur, Self-Awareness Coach, and a Podcaster at Being Meraklis

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Last Updated on November 8, 2021

How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

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How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

Do you often feel stressed for most of your day? Maybe you always feel a burden that you just can’t get rid of? Focused meditation might be your answer.

In this article, I’ll explore what focused meditation is, how it differs in the pool of many styles of meditation, and how to implement and start this practice today. Likewise, I’ll highlight the benefits of a focused meditation practice for your overall health.

What Is Focused Meditation?

Meditation is the practice of becoming self-aware through breath and attention to connect the mind, body, and spirit.[1] Meditation as a whole can change the structure and function of our brain. That being said, focused meditation or a guided meditation for focus is by far the best one. Meditation for focus and concentration can come in different forms. Experienced meditators use the following:

  • Mindfulness – this meditation involves us to be focusing on your breath and observing thoughts. This allows us to focus on our feelings without becoming too absorbed in them.
  • Concentrative – a meditation that gets us to focus on a particular point; be it a word, breath, object, or a point in the space you’re meditating. This is meant for us to pay attention to that point and prevent our minds from getting distracted.
  • Moving – this meditation involves gets us to focus on slow and repetitive movements similar to yoga or tai chi. The goal is again to be focusing on your breath while relaxing your body and mind with the movements.

Focused meditation, also known as concentrative meditation, is the practice of meditating and bringing your attention to one single object. This object can be something practical and tangible, such as a mandala painting or a candle flame. It can also be something abstract, such as a phrase (also known as mantra) or a sound (such as Om).[2][3]

Whatever you settle your attention on becomes the focal point. None of these object examples are better than others—they are simply choices depending on what you’re looking to get out of your practice. For example, practitioners will choose candle gazing to interpret the images the flame makes in the shadows while others will choose a mantra because that particular phrase or word empowers or heals them.

How Does It Differ From Other Meditation Styles?

All meditation styles and practices overlap and build on each other. Their basic foundation is the same: to bring the practitioner insight and introspection.

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There is no right or wrong way to meditate, however, the various types of meditation can enhance particular qualities. Based on your personality and needs, one type of meditation may be more useful to you than the other. The 9 types of meditation are:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Spiritual meditation
  • Focused meditation
  • Movement meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Loving kindness meditation
  • Visualization meditation

Focused meditation, specifically, is the practice of focusing on one single object for the duration of the practice. How this differs from other meditation styles is that it gives the practitioner something tangible to do: focus. It’s almost like giving your mind an action to perform—listen to this sound, repeat these words, watch this flame, etc. This is also one of the reasons why this particular meditation style is great for beginners!

One of the biggest challenges in any meditation practice is that the mind gets carried away and we lose ourselves to random thoughts. This “obstacle” is actually a style of meditation in and of itself called Vipassana.[4] However, in focused meditation, we give the mind something to do so that it’s not simply left to its own devices. This type of meditation is beneficial for beginners and for practitioners who prefer some structure and guidance to their meditations.

The Benefits of Focused Meditation

In this style of meditation, what you’re really doing is exercising your mental muscles. Your brain is highly affected by dedicated and concentrated meditation practice.

Scientists have performed countless studies on focused meditation and have found that active meditators have more gray matter volume in their brain and, therefore, offsetting the cognitive decline that comes with aging. So, not only does practicing focused meditation help you learn how to focus better on certain tasks, but it also improves similar functions, such as memory. [5]

Likewise, it helps in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which our society is currently crippled with.[6] By settling your attention on an object, you are essentially building your ability to observe your thoughts and sensations from a place of objectivity. This allows you to detach from negative self-talk that is often the breeding ground for depression and other mental illnesses.

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From a guided meditation for focus to practicing it yourself, daily meditation for focus comes with several benefits:

  • It’ll reduce stress
  • Help you to control anxiety
  • Enhance your self-awareness
  • Improve attention span
  • Helps you to focus on the present moment
  • Increase your creativity and imagination
  • And boost your patience and tolerance for things.

How to Practice Focused Meditation

Here are six tips to help you practice focused meditation. Based on your availability and interest, these tips may change and evolve. That’s the point: to create a structured practice that caters to your needs.

1. Find a Comfortable Seat

As with any meditation practice, comfort is truly key. The physical body responds to meditation practice by alerting you to whether it is comfortable and supported or stressed out and in pain. This is best observed in practitioners who tend to slouch and lose the tall, supported spine that is essential to meditation practice.

A simple rule in meditative sitting is to ensure that your hips are higher than your knees. Therefore, choosing to sit in a chair instead of on the floor may be a smart decision or perhaps propping yourself up on a cushion. For meditation techniques overall, it does not matter how you sit. All that matters is that you are supported and comfortable sitting for some time.

2. Choose Your Object of Focus

Every meditation training session is going to be different because no single day is the same for any one person. Therefore, experienced meditators know that choosing an object is more about listening to what you need at this time versus following any doctrine or “rule.”

If you’re not sure and have a hard time deciding, make focusing on your breath and pay attention to the inhale and exhale is a good option. Then, assign each inhale and exhale a number, and once you reach 10, start over. This is one of the simpler methods of keeping your mind occupied—by giving it a task. This also trains your mind, and over time and with practice, your mind will easily focus on an object without too much effort.

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3. Set Your Desired Time or “Go With the Flow”

If you have a structured routine and would like to stick to your schedule, by all means, set a gentle timer for how long you’d like your meditation to be. This is also your opportunity to throw out the notion that any meditation has to be a certain length of time to be correct—it does not.

Likewise, if you have the time, you can also listen to your body and come out of your meditation when you feel it’s right to do so. This is often a beautiful practice of listening and tuning in.

4. Relax Your Body as You Focus on Your Meditation

Typically, when we are focusing on something, we tend to tighten our body. Observe this next time that you’re concentrating on something: your jaw will tighten and your shoulders will squeeze up towards your ears.

As you sink into your meditation, keep this in mind and check in with your body every once in a while. Let your shoulders sink down your back and release any tension through your jaw and face. Lastly, relax your brow and let your eyes be heavy in their sockets. Then, return to your object of meditation. Observe if your meditation changes at all by relaxing your physical body.

5. Return to Your Breath and Object When You Get Distracted

Notice that I didn’t say “if you get distracted.” That’s because you definitely will drift off with random thoughts or get pulled away from your object of focus. In meditation, distractions are almost guaranteed. Therefore, it’s your opportunity to practice detaching yourself from feeling guilty or inadequate to continue.

Over time and with practice, you will find it easier to stay with your object of focus. In the meantime, however, notice when you get distracted. Pause and take a big breath in and out. Check in with your physical body and relax. Once you’re ready again, return to your object of focus. Meditation is simply one long cycle of wandering and coming back to yourself.

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6. Journal Your Experiences

When your meditation practice has ended, another powerful practice is to jot down any experiences that you felt. There may have been insights and “downloads” that you acquired during your session that you may want to record.

Likewise, you could write about any challenges that you faced. These are great lessons that will continue to show up for you, and it’s nice to keep a journal of them to see how they evolve and progress over time (and they will). Lastly, you can write about what works and what doesn’t, as far as picking your objects of meditation go. This way, you can learn what you most associate with and feel comfortable with.

While these steps are simple, it’s easier said than done. Whether you’re starting out with a guided meditation for focus, loving kindness meditation, or transcendental meditation, anticipating failure the first time you try these things is healthy. Furthermore, congratulate yourself for even making slight progress like noticing and returning to the present moment and noticing the sensations you experienced.

Final Thoughts

If practicing meditation causes you to feel distracted and unsupported, give focused meditation a go! With the help of an object to bring your attention to, it structures your meditation time and offers guidance and support.

Dedicating yourself to this style of meditation will help increase your memory, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better cognitive function. Even though any style of meditation is a powerful way of taking care of your mental health, focused meditation gives your mind a tangible task with which to grow and strengthen.

More About Focused Meditation

Featured photo credit: Lua Valentia via unsplash.com

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