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Written by Dawn Bradly
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Are you the mum who turns up every day for her daughter who has anxiety over the schoolwork that she’s missing?
Are you the dad who turns up every day for his kids who are desperate to talk and play with you, even though you still have that report to finish and those emails to send before your day is done?
Are you the daughter who turns up every day for your mum who is sitting lonely and scared in her home, waiting for the day that she can get out and join the world again?
I was asked this question on how I would like to show up for other people on a Mindfulness webinar and it really struck me how valid it is, especially in today’s world. We are in a sea of change at the moment; with how we work, with how we have been thrown into being with family 24/7. Or on the other side of that coin, how we have been torn apart from our family by this pandemic.
So, how would I like to show up for others today? I want to be a good mum, a good partner, a good daughter, a good friend, a good sister and a good work colleague. Wow! That sounds like an energy-sucking, overwhelming list of people I want to show up for. And what helps me to show up in a positive way for everyone I care about? My mindfulness practise supports me in this endeavour. And I’m so glad I have it in my life.
Mindfulness helps you avoid being overwhelmed
At the beginning of the pandemic, I felt overwhelmed with all the information and news coming at me, and it was my mindfulness practice that kept me firmly grounded, instead of having thoughts run amok in my ever-busy mind. A quick 3-minute breathing exercise stopped me from feelings of overwhelm and got me back to focusing on one thing at a time.
The feelings of overwhelm continued throughout the first lockdown and it was my mindfulness practice that reminded me that I couldn’t do anything about what was outside of my control, but I could choose how I responded to it.
And it’s why, as this year has unfolded with its trials and its setbacks and those curved balls that life throws at us, that I made the decision to show up as best as I could, every day, in whatever little way possible for everyone I knew. BUT also remembering to take care of me first and foremost. Does that sound selfish? Well, I was aware that if my mental health went downhill then I couldn’t be there for anyone else. How often have you listened to the safety talk on an aeroplane about putting on your own mask first before helping anyone else? It’s definitely a lesson worth remembering.
When my mind started to wander and spiral into worry and negativity, I would anchor myself back in the present by focusing on my breath. I reminded myself daily of all I had to be grateful for. Yes, this first and foremost was gratitude for my family and for our health, but it was so much more than that. It was gratitude for the birds that came to feed in my garden, it was for the flowers that I planted to bring colour and fragrance into our now shrunken world. Indeed, it was gratitude for having a garden. It was getting out of bed every morning and starting off my day with just me, a cup of coffee and my spaniel. No social media, no emails, no news. Just setting the tone for the day ahead, whatever that might look like.
Get out of auto-pilot and into the moment
My mindfulness reminded me to be in the moment and not on autopilot, as we so often are. It reminded me to be alive and aware of everything around me. It was hearing the voices of children playing in the garden as I went on my daily walk. It was noticing the trees and the blue sky, empty of aeroplanes, which was mesmerising in itself as I’m so close to Heathrow airport! It was feeling the sun on my face or the rain as it dripped off my hair. It was noticing and not being in my head thinking of all that was happening or all that might happen next week or next month.
All of this meant that my sense of wellbeing was positive and this in turn affected how I showed up for others. I kept in regular touch with friends, especially those who were feeling high levels of anxiety at this time, I made regular phone calls to a friend who was struggling with a mental health issue, made worse by the pandemic as she could no longer see her crisis team face-to-face. I sent little ‘care packages’ to my sons and to my friends and family who were a distance away. I chose to be as positive as I could while still acknowledging when I was having not such a good day myself, because mindfulness helps us to accept how we’re feeling right now and to accept that we may be feeling sad, or lonely or anxious. It’s not about denying those feelings or burying them so we can stoically carry on!
My mindfulness reminded me to show kindness in little ways; so, a smile as I passed by someone on my daily walk, knowing that might be the only human connection they receive that day, or taking up knitting and sending baby hats to premature baby units, which helped me to feel useful and gave me a sense of purpose. We have all had a challenging year with ups and downs. I’ve had good days and not such good days, but what has been my constant companion in this pandemic year has been my mindfulness. My mindfulness and the knowledge that I can choose how I respond to those days. So, how would I like to show up for other people today? With a sense of awareness and a sprinkle of positivity, kindness and gratitude for having them in my life.