With difficult news on COVID-19 now part of our daily experience, and our vast NYU community now limited to screen-only connections, it's more important than ever that we continue to engage, together, with the tools that have always helped us navigate uncertain times. All of MindfulNYU's programming has moved online for the spring semester, so you can now sit in a group mediation or take a yoga class through Zoom, or even schedule a virtual meeting with a chaplain. And on this page, we'll share a few quick tips from experts Melissa Carter and Yael Shy to try each week.
We'd also like to hear your ideas, experiences, and questions about navigating self-care during this difficult time—so feel free to email us at?[email protected]. Also, if you post a picture of your favorite activity tagging @MindfulNYU and using #selfcarenyu, we may post your photo on this page to share stories of inspiration with our greater community.
Notice all the things that are literally and figuratively supporting you right now. The ground.? Whatever you are sitting on. Your phone or computer. People who love you. Become aware of how many things and people in the world are helping you in your day-to-day. Let your body sink into the experience of being supported and your heart feel the warmth of the love in your life.
Are you drinking enough water? Water improves memory, cognition, eases the joints, and helps with sleep. During these difficult times, make sure you are keeping hydrated. A reusable water bottle or cup near your work space helps.?
As you go to sleep each night, a great practice is to name one thing you want to celebrate from the day. Any wins—small or large—count! Write it down in your journal or put it up on a whiteboard.
Close your eyes and put your hand on your heart. Feel your heartbeat under your palm. Feel your breath move under your hand. Observe as life moves through you. Notice this aliveness today, and this week, and the trillions of forces that conspire each day to keep you alive.?
Endless zoom calls can be hard on your eyes and typing all day can be hard on your hands. Take extra care to stretch your hands (forward and backwards at the wrist), and massage the skin between fingers as you type. Massage your eyes with the base of your palms and shake out your hands. Repeat several times a day!
Get in touch with nature - even if it is just to listen for birds, tend to a plant, or take a (careful, socially distanced, masked) walk around the block. Nature does wonders to turn around a difficult mood.?
Rest your mind. The brain is not wired to be constantly inundated with information. Taking breaks from trying to be productive, from studying, from scrolling social media, and from performing is crucial to one's well being as you navigate this pandemic. Timed rest—for you and those in your household—could be a nice bonding experience. Sprinkle 20 minute breaks, every couple hours, to do the exact opposite of your current task. Giving your brain a chance to relax from repetitive actions is a way to not burnout and to come back to the task at hand refreshed. It's also a great way to get curious about a potential new activity you may enjoy. What's something simple and new you have been wanting to try?
Our bodies were designed not just to move, but also to digest. Fueling yourself with healthy foods and water will help keep your tissues and joints lubricated throughout the day, and will help keep your immunity up. When eating, can you turn everything else off and be present with your meal. Savor each bite by chewing slowly, and maybe even describing what your food tastes like to those around you. Focusing all your attention onto your food with gratitude and love is a great mindful way to nourish the body and spirit.
Bookend your day with gratitude. Every morning take three deep breaths before you get out of bed and reflect upon three things you are grateful for, and then repeat this exercise as you lay down at night. At night, make your three offerings specific to the day now behind you. Research shows that a gratitude practice is a great way to make yourself feel better psychologically during a time of crisis, and to relax the nervous system.
Give up the multi-task and time your productivity. Focusing one task at a time supports the nervous system from becoming overwhelmed or overloaded. It is normal to become distracted in times of stress. Be gentle with yourself when you do and simply pause to re-center yourself with three deep breathes before going back to what you were focusing on. If it’s hard to do this, trying timing the task for 20 minutes. Once the timer goes off take a mini break that has nothing to do with your current task at hand for 5 minutes and then go back for another round of 20 minutes. Repeat.
Take on a small movement challenge within your household or virtually with friends! Write down different movements on slips of paper that you are all able to do—think squats, sit ups, wall push ups or even just stretching arms up overhead. Then place the slips of paper in a bowl. Every two hours, pick one out of a bowl and do five rounds of 10 reps before going back to your work or studies. This will keep you from getting stiff from sitting and ignite a boast of energy. Send text high-fives to your movement buddies throughout the day to hold each other accountable and celebrate one another.
Make a playlist of uplifting music that may remind you of your faith tradition or favorite family memories—or choose songs that empower you! Take music breaks throughout the day. Put everything down and just enjoy.
The NYU community came together (virtually) on April 20 to reflect on the power of resilience, to offer tools to support one another, and to share gratitute for the University's essential workers.?
Meditate! MindfulNYU has experienced teachers leading live classes nearly every night of the week. And NYU has a partnership with the 10% Happier app that enables us to get most of the content for free. You can also just focus on taking deep breaths for a count of four, and then releasing slowly for a count of six. Do that a few times over and poof—you are meditating!
Some very simple stretches during the day can improve your focus and your mood. Try a standing forward fold (it doesn’t matter how inflexible you are) to let some of the tension release out of your neck and back, rolling up out of it very slowly, vertebra by vertebra. If your body allows it, lie down on the floor and put your legs up the wall. Do neck rolls to ease the tension in your neck, and shoulder rolls to relax your shoulders. Put a timer on for five or ten minutes in between tasks and take a stretch break. Your body will thank you!
Spirit: Where is an opportunity for kindness today? Can you donate money to someone who is struggling, or offer to bring groceries (with safe drop-off procedures) to someone who is isolated? Even a kind word to someone you admire or a check-in text with a friend helps spread love in a time of tremendous difficulty and fear.
Enlarge your frame in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Fear and anxiety have a way of crowding everything else out of the frame of your mind. Can you widen it around your anxiety?
Try this mindful "senses" exercise in which you notice five things you can see right now:
Dropping into your senses helps you see and experience the world as it is happening now—not just in the fear state of your imagination.?
Dance parties do wonders for your mood and can be an awesome way to get exercise when cooped up in your apartment! You can have them solo or with friends via FaceTime or solo—what are your favorite songs to get DOWN to?
Keep a gratitude journal. Write down five things you are grateful for every night before you go to sleep. It is scientifically proven to bring more happiness and cultivate more joy, even during hard times.?
Create a compassionate “discernment dialogue” with yourself. Experts estimate we have 60,000-80,000 thoughts a day. They can’t all be true to what is. In moments of tension or anxiety ask yourself: “Is this thought helpful? (Answer honestly.)? If it is helpful, keep following it. If it does not support your sense of peace and calm, take a deep breath and offer that part of you love and compassion as you let it go and focus on breathing in a mantra or word that brings you a sense of calm. We are in a confusing and emotional time right now and should all be gentle with ourselves as we move through it.??
Gamify your daily water intake for you and your family. Put a note on the fridge that can be checked off every time someone drinks at least an 8-ounce glass of water. Try and check off at least 8 glasses a day. Whoever gets to 8 first wins! Staying hydrated will help regulate your body temperature, produce more cognitive clarity, stabilize energy levels, and keep needed nutrients in your cells.
Now is a great time to nurture your relationship with your community and your faith. Offer yourself time everyday to touch and visit with your faith either through prayer, meditation, listening to your favorite faith leader online, a nature soundscape,?an inspirational podcast, and/or joining a faith group study. Get creative and make your spiritual hygiene part of your daily routine. Staying connected to your spiritual health is one way to stay grounded in faith and connected. If faith isn't your thing, committing to daily reflection around your needs and inner world can be a great source of comfort as you find balance in these difficult times.
Set up a daily routine or schedule for your daily tasks and self care. Having a routine can help alleviate stress and anxiety.? It offers you more agency throughout your day as you create new habits in a time of uncertainty.
MOVE with a timer!? Take movement breaks throughout your day.? A 20 minute break to stretch, dance, walk, jump on the bed (just be careful!) offers the mind time to rest and be at ease.?Sprinkle in some movement breaks throughout your day with music or a virtual talk with a friend! It will move around stagnant energy within the body helping you to regulate your nervous system.?
Set up “Spirit Virtual Check In dates” with someone that reminds you of your innate goodness, compassion, and humanness.? Being real with yourself and others in a time of uncertainty is crucial to feeling supported and a sense of peace. Setting up regular check-ins with someone you trust and can be your authentic self with nurtures connection, community, and a space to share ideas on how to uplift oneself and others.?