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In my previous posts I explored subjects such as choice and taking care of oneself. For now, my thoughts are moving in the direction of change. I am thinking about a changing world and our own change, which extends beyond, albeit still incorporating kindness and compassion. With the world as we once knew it changing at a rapid pace, courtesy of COVID-19, we are going to have to adapt by changing the way we engage with it, each other and ourselves. Now for some of us the thought of change may be rather scary, whilst others may find it quite exciting. If you are thinking that change is not for you, that you hate change and can’t change, well then, I have a little surprise for you, as our lives are indeed about change.

In life, change is inevitable, it is evident in our transformation from infancy to toddlerhood, to preadolescence, adolescence and adulthood. We are constantly evolving, growing and learning and- eventually change even leads to old age and death – nothing is permanent. Change constantly occurs in our bodies mostly without any conscious interventions from ourselves. Within our bodies change is largely protective, if change did not take place, our bodies would not be able to heal broken bones, cuts, bruises and infections. Even in times of great stress or threat our bodies respond in either fight, flight or freeze mode and once the ‘danger’ has passed our bodies return to a state of homeostasis.

Of course, change in our bodies can also be negative e.g. if, amongst other things, we abuse our bodies by the excessive intake of alcohol or prohibited substances or by limiting food intake (anorexia or bulimia) or if we fail to curb prolonged excessive levels of stress resulting in excessive biological wear and tear.  When our minds and bodies have been stretched to the maximum over a long period of time chronic mental or physical ill health can result. This is where change can make a difference, where we have some control and where we can exercise our power of choice.

Knowing that change is part of our being and that our minds and bodies are adaptable should be hugely encouraging when the subject of embracing change is broached in the context of adjusting to a new world order associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

How we experience this pandemic will depend on how we perceive change itself. The definitive impact on our physical and mental health from the prolonged experience of negative stress will depend largely on how we adapt to the rapid on-going changes whilst still preserving our own personal equilibrium. Adding to the impact of the prolonged experience of negative stress will be our beliefs about the world and ourselves, the meanings we assign to occurrences in our daily lives, our awareness or lack thereof of our reactions to situations and our mindlessness tendencies.

High achievers are often thought of as resilient because of their ability to endure on-going high levels of stress – they just grit their teeth and push through. However, if they fail to see the positive side of stressful situations, eventually when faced with sustained challenges and disappointments they too wither and succumb to ill-health.

So how, even if we are resilient, can we keep changing whilst still preserving our own inner equilibrium and sense of wholeness?

One way of maintaining our own inner balance is to be mindful of our perceptions, behaviours and lifestyles, it is only when we have some awareness of (have insight into) our own blunders, gaps and blind spots that we can, if necessary, effect change.

Keeping in mind that our perceptions become our reality, so if we perceive the impact of the pandemic to be extremely stressful, this will be the reality we respond to.  Alternatively, if we perceive this stressful situation in a positive light and an opportunity for new growth and learning this will be our reality. Do you remember, when times were tough, your parents’ saying the following: ‘when life gives you lemons make lemonade’ or ‘turn that knot in your tummy into a beautiful bow’ they were encouraging you to look on the brighter side of life. If it is difficult for you to look on the brighter side, you may wish to try the following when you notice yourself making a negative comment, immediately back it up with 3 positive ones – eventually you will change your mindset. If you are unaware of how your perceptions impact your actions, ask a family member or friend to point out these moments to you. You can also reciprocate this gesture if the other is open to it so that we all start a positive rather than a negative spiral in changing our perceptions.

Being mindful of our behaviour requires us to slow down, pause, be still and honestly and openly reflect on our actions towards ourselves, others and the environment. Some questions to consider: Do we respect ourselves, others, nature and our environment? Are we kind, caring, compassionate, charitable, empathic? Are we tolerant, understanding and patient?  Do we nourish and nurture ourselves and others? What difference are we making in this world?

Being mindful of our lifestyle involves appraising whether we are: getting sufficient sleep and rest; managing stress appropriately; considering our food choices carefully in relation to a healthy diet, appropriate nutritional supplements and avoidance of harmful substances; balancing training, exercise, recovery, work, recreation and fun activities; engaging in healthy relationships; seeking and providing appropriate emotional support; making use of physical and psychological therapies; engaging in sustainable practices; – and last but not least engaging with formal (mindful breathing, eating, movement, etc.) and informal mindfulness practices (noticing habits and routine daily activities).

Another way of maintaining our own inner balance, especially when the going gets tough is to spring into action to take care of ourselves in the best way possible in this moment.

Generally, when one is grounded through the practice of mindfulness, the most adept way to deal with difficult and stressful situations is to remain mindful, i.e. pause, breathe, consider what one can and can’t control. If the circumstances are out of one’s control, allow them to resolve themselves, whilst taking care of the things that one can control. Sometimes, however, especially in very difficult times when one feels down, very stressed, exhausted and anxious the wisest thing to do, instead of moping and feeling sorry for oneself, is to effect change i.e. get into action – drive (motivation) follows action, i.e. just do it!!! Even if you don’t feel like it, don’t think about it, just do it!!! When you start, the motivation will follow. The best action at this point is to do something that brings you great joy and something that leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and/or fulfilment. Lastly, whatever you do, do it mindfully – ask yourself: is this necessary, is this helpful, is this kind and am I making a difference?