New research published Tuesday reveals big benefits of mindfulness and compassion-meditation for coronavirus anxiety. [READ: Yoga / Meditation for coronavirus]
If you are one of the millions of people currently suffering from corona-virus related anxiety, you may wonder what to do about it. The threat to our health, combined with the constant barrage of news and self isolation, all add up to make this one very anxious time. Thankfully, meditation can help [READ: Meditation For Anxiety].
Using meditation to stop coronavirus anxiety
Science has recently revealed that arguably the best meditation for coronavirus anxiety is Loving Kindness Meditation.
Loving Kindness is well established as the best meditation for compassion. And compassion is being touted as one of the pivotal tools for overcoming anxiety.
Julie Brefcyznski-Lewis [research assistant professor of neuroscience at West Virginia University] says that “switching to compassion mode” may be one of the best ways to handle anxiety.
Brefczynski-Lewis is an authority on compassion meditation. She describes this technique as being a way to get out self-centredness (which has been linked to numerous mental health problems).
Loving Kindness Meditation cultivates feelings of concern for others and a sense of belonging and emotional inter-relatedness.
“When it comes to anxiety,” Brefczynski-Lewis says, “…switching to compassion mode is most helpful.”
Over the past few years there has been considerable scientific research that reveals the value of being compassionate. And this is truer today, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, than ever. ”[The fact that compassion helps with anxiety] is true in any situation,” says Brefczynski-Lewis, “but especially in a large-scale crisis [like the COVID-19 pandemic].
To practice compassion-meditation, Brefczynski-Lewis says, “You can start with a loved one or yourself and use compassion for your own anxiety or suffering as a springboard to think of the suffering of others in a similar situation. You can wish yourself and others happiness, freedom from suffering, ease or anything positive and helpful.”
Brefczynski-Lewis states that the mental health benefits of compassion meditation outdo the benefits of antidepressants. “A review of randomized controlled studies of compassion meditation has shown an effect size that even exceeds antidepressants,” she says.”
In this time where we are beginning to self-isolate, it is increasingly important to feel emotionally connected to others. One way to do that is through Loving Kindness meditation and similar techniques such as Buddhist Karuna, a technique in which we recognise the suffering in others and wish them peace and love.
Mindfulness helps with COVID-19 fear, too
While I was reading the research above, I also discovered an interesting article about the effects of mindfulness meditation on coronavirus anxiety.
The Belfast Telegraph spoke to Bridgeen Rea-Kay, an expert in mindfulness, who says that even though she sometimes experiences anxiety herself, she is able to stay calm by being mindful.
Bridgeen, who runs Immeasurable Minds, was a pioneer in bringing mindfulness to Northern Ireland more than 15 years ago. She also runs meditation retreats and workshops at Namaste Yoga Centre in Belfast (although, like many yoga studios, it has temporarily closed-shop due to coronavirus fears).
Bridgeen says she came to mindfulness after she read the essential Thich Nhat Hanh book Peace In Every Step, one of the best meditation books ever written.
Bridgeen states that “Our anxiety spikes when we don’t know what is going to happen and the default mode of our minds is to wonder about things and much of that thought is negative.” This is something we can all understand. Many of us are currently living with coronavirus anxiety, and it is easy to dwell on the possibility of getting the illness. But, as Bridgeen says, “All we really know is the here and now and if we can just be here in the present and realise we are both safe and well, that is enough to allow the nervous system to calm down.”
You can immediately see how this relates to coronavirus anxiety. Instead of dwelling on a future possibility, we should focus on now. Don’t think about the possibility of contracting the virus later. Think of the fact that you are healthy now. Live in the moment.
As someone who has had to close her yoga studio because of coronavirus, Bridgeen says she is feeling the anxiety. “I can’t teach public classes anymore. I would have a lot of older people come to my classes. They need to take care of themselves. So, I am looking at launching online classes.”
This echoes most meditation and yoga studios, which are closing their studio classes to move online.
What matters in this anxious time is that we have the right mindset. Panicking is not the answer. But neither is carelessness.
“People are panicking over coronavirus,” Bridgeen says. But she points out that “some people are not taking it seriously enough. We have to be mindful now more than ever and take care of ourselves.”
There is a fine-line between being too carefree about COVID-19 and having anxiety about it. Be too carefree and you might not follow the procedures necessary to stay safe. But if you dwell on it you are likely to develop coronavirus anxiety.
Mindfulness, Loving Kindness and other meditations can help us to find the sweet spot where we are cautious but also optimistic. And it’s been suggested by Harvard that yoga will help too.
How are you feeling about the COVID-19 situation? And how are you keeping yourself safe? Leave a comment and remember to subscribe .