By Dr. Wong Kit Chan & Dr. Phang Cheng Kar (Psychiatrists).
With the coronavirus spreading, the danger growing, and our daily routines being affected, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought much devastation to humankind. Luckily, we have mindfulness practice to help us cope with this challenging moment and gain valuable lessons from the outbreak.
5 Mindful Vitamin For Healthy & Happy Mind
One of the mind tools taught in the MINDFULGym mindfulness program is ‘Mindful Vitamin.’ The five vitamins are mantras, i.e., short phrases which we can employ to aid us in developing a more positive mental attitude while facing stressful moments.
The mantras are composed based on mindfulness and related principles of well-being such as wisdom, non-self, compassion, gratitude, and impermanence. Exercising these mindful vitamins can help us develop a more positive, healthy, and helpful mindset to make peace with the formidable virus threat.
The 5 Mindful Vitamin:
1. What Have I Learned?
2. I Am Not Alone
3. It Could Have Been Worse
4. What Can I Do Now?
5. This Will Also Pass
1: What Have I Learned?
During this pandemic, we are reminded of humility. We are all equal, regardless of age, race, religion, political affiliation, occupation, and financial status. This disease treats us all equally, so why can't we treat ourselves equally?
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We are all inter-connected, regardless of where we originate. This virus, which affects one person, affects other people. Similarly, the outbreak in one country affects other countries.
In this Covid-19 health crisis, our values as humans and as a society are tested. We are challenged to bring forth the goodness in us, to be selfless, generous, kind, and thoughtful.
This virus 'opportunity' serves as a wake-up call for us. It reminds us of how precious life is, a gift we often take for granted until it is being threatened. It is telling us all the little things we have taken for granted. It is teaching us the forgotten virtue of gratitude, contentment, and appreciation.
This period is the time for reflection and understanding. It is time for us to remember all the essential lessons in our lives that we have somehow overlooked and neglected.
2: I Am Not Alone
As this crisis unfolds, painful feelings will surface; fear, anxiety, sadness, guilt, loneliness, frustration, anger, confusion, and so much more. They are natural and understandable. Try to remember that you are not alone with these feelings. We can always reach out to others to share how we feel, and for them to do the same.
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Breathing in, I feel the loneliness with kindness... Breathing out, I am aware that I am not alone... Breathing in, may we be safe and healthy... Breathing out, may all of us be at peace...
The upheaval caused by the microscopic coronavirus is substantial. But we are in this together, and we will get through this together. Slowly but surely, we will emerge stronger than before.
3: It Could Have Been Worse
The Malaysian government has just extended the Movement Control Order (MCO) for another two weeks. We are advised to stay at home, and violators can be fined RM 1,000 (it is worse in Singapore; S$ 10,000, equivalent to RM 30,492). Many complain of being forced to stay at home, work from home, deprived of outdoor entertainment, and social gathering. Let us be aware that many people:
do not have proper food to eat and clean water to drink.
do not have a safe place to stay, rest, or sleep.
do not have access to appropriate medical services.
do not have jobs or only work enough daily wages to survive for the day.
do not have family or are not able to return to their families (e.g., studying overseas or being quarantined).
do not have a choice to work from home and are exposed to a higher risk of contracting the virus (e.g., healthcare frontline workers).
do not breathe easily as they are infected by the virus, staying in the ICU, and breathing with a ventilator to survive.
Hence, no matter how tough things are right now, how stuck you feel, how distressing this seems like, try to gently shift our attention to the little blessings we have to handle the infection. Remember - it could have been much worse.
4: What Can I Do Now?
Many of us may feel powerless in the face of this adversity. We are not omnipotent but we have some power to make positive changes to ourselves, others, and the world.
We do not have much choice on our emotional reactions; it is typical to experience some fear, anger, and sadness. But we have the power to choose how we act and relate to the misfortune - with wisdom and compassion.
Regular and proper hand-washing, social distancing, wearing a mask if you have respiratory symptoms, avoiding crowds, and working from home. All these are examples of wise actions that can be taken to protect others and ourselves. It is heartwarming to see our colleagues sharing resources to bring free counseling services to the healthcare frontline workers and community. These praiseworthy actions are all within our capacity to carry out.
It is when adversity strikes that we have to act calmly as much as possible. Worrying and blaming will not help. Focusing on what we can do right here, right now, is the best guarantee for a better future. Focus on preparedness, stay grounded, support one another. These positive actions will help us wade through the stormy period.
5: This Will Also Pass
With this scary pandemic, our world has ground to a halt. We have no idea how many more deaths will the world report. We do not know when we can restore the global economy.
Nobody can predict how long more this notorious virus will continue its threat. But if we try to live mindfully, every moment in every way, we will discover beautiful ways to cope better.
Amidst the looming panic all around, let us remember - this will also pass. And when it does, we shall restore, redeem, and renew. It will never be the same again, but not necessarily worse if we know how to respond kindfully and wisely.
Breathing in, I see mud... Breathing out, I recognize imperfection... Breathing in, I see lotus... Breathing out, I recognize the impermanence & awakening...
The practice of mindfulness is not a panacea to cure the escalating global crisis. It does not necessarily protect us from the Covid-19 disease, but it can minimize our mental dis-ease.
What it can do is help us to navigate through this uncertain time with greater emotional resilience. Ajahn Brahm often says, "You can't always cure, but you can always care." So, let us take good care of our mental health by feeding the mind with the nutritious mindful vitamins regularly.
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