• It's important to look after our mental health, not only our physical health, during the coronavirus outbreak. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Tips, suggestions and choose-your-own-adventure starting points for mindfulness during the coronavirus pandemic.
Samuel Leighton-Dore

12 Mar 2020 - 4:06 PM  UPDATED 12 Mar 2020 - 4:06 PM

It's an interesting time to be a self-employed creative living with anxiety on the Gold Coast; particularly one who has friends in the local film industry and is literally one-degree of separation away from the people's hero, Tom Hanks.

So, as I begin to minimise my contact with the outside world and keep a close eye out for possible symptoms, I thought it might be a calming exercise to write about mindfulness - and how invaluable it can be in reducing anxiety and panic, particularly during times like these.

Focusing on mental health feels particularly important at the moment, given the possibility of reduced access to mental healthcare professionals and potential shortages of anti-anxiety medications. I know that some psychologists are beginning to shift their clients to skype-based sessions, while I had to try two separate chemists to stock up on a month's worth of my daily medication (one that is notoriously difficult to taper off of).

But, at the end of the day, we're all in this together. So here are some tips, suggestions and choose-your-own-adventure starting points:

1. Meditation and mindfulness apps

There are so many new mindfulness apps that it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. There's Calm, Ten Percent Happier, Breethe, Headspace, and Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, just to name a few. Some of these are paid, others are free, others are pay-to-upgrade, so it's worth doing a little research to suit your financial situation.

2. Super zen calming YouTube videos

There are so many free talks, meditations and discussions about mindfulness on YouTube that you could literally spend your entire self-quarantine period letting them auto-play one after the next. But one part of being mindful is being deliberate in our actions, so instead I'll point you to a few keepers. This talk from meditation guru Tara Brach on learning how to 'respond, not react' is a personal fave. This talk from Eckhart Tolle about the essence of spirituality is another good one, although I can't tell if I find his words helpful or am simply hypnotised by his cute old-German-man voice. If ASMR is more your thing, this clip titled 'cosy night time whispering' comes highly recommended from yours truly, not least because the guy doing the cosy night time whispering is a straight-up hunk.

3. Mindfulness activities you can do anywhere

Mindfulness isn't something you have to pay for - and it's not something you have to leave the house for. That's why it's so popular with prisoners. One of my favourite easy-to-do mindfulness exercises simply involves listening to your favourite music, but resisting the judgements and thoughts that might normally come along with this music. Other exercises include finding a natural object nearby and focusing on it for several minutes, or doing a check-in with your different body parts (it's called a body scan!) while sitting comfortably.

If all else fails, you can always order an adult colouring-in book, or download these free colouring-in print-outs.

4. Do something creative

You'd be surprised how calming arts and crafts can be. Not oil paints, necessarily, as they get onto your hands and then onto the tap and then onto the kitchen bench and before you know it you're having a mental breakdown. But things like drawing, colouring in, cross-stitching, embroidering, or building something out of clay with your hands will force you to be in the moment, which is, at the end of the day, the core goal of mindfulness (but we don't call it a goal, because mindfulness and meditation shouldn't be goal-oriented!).

5. Animals

This might seem like an obvious one, but there is plenty of research to suggest that being in the presence of animals helps us minimise stress and stay mindful. So, if you have a pet, keep them real close. Give them a brush! Take photos and send them to your friends! But don't worry if you don't have a pet, because the internet has your back. YouTube is awash with brilliant pet compilation videos that should have you forgetting the word 'pandemic' in no time.

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