Less than a week ago I was the person saying, “What’s the big deal? The Coronavirus is just the 2020 version of the Swine Flu, Bird Flu, and Zika virus!”
Well, I now have to admit I am a bit concerned. Hard to say whether it was the hit to the world markets, recent death tolls climbing, closing of borders, my daughter’s worries, or watching kids knock elbows instead of shaking hands after a soccer game that got me so anxious. Regardless, when something like this impacts an entire planet to this extent, one is bound to feel it, either directly or indirectly. The challenge is to be able to look at the news that is hitting us from every direction and not succumb to the panic and fear that can so easily overcome us and grip us into such a gloom state.
Here come the darts:
I’m reminded of a metaphor that was first introduced to me by Rick Hanson. It’s about first and second darts. The unavoidable pains and difficulties of life are our “first darts.” The “second darts” are our thoughts, worries, reactions, and anxieties to the first dart. Most of our pain and suffering come from the seconds darts. And there are a hell of a lot of second darts flying around right now. This virus is here, it may be bad, and we likely won’t know the full impact for sometime, but our worries and anxieties are second darts and we do have some control over the extent to which they impact our lives.
For example, yesterday the Dow lost 2000 points, its biggest single day drop in 12 years. This is a first dart – I lost money. The second dart was me being consumed by thoughts of losing all my savings by the end of the coming months. My second darts continued as I ruminated about the impact on my small business, the impact on our family vacation (a first world second dart I know), the thought I could be travelling for work and then be quarantined somewhere away from my family, and what if we run out of toilet paper?
There is a very simple mindfulness practice that I use for all kinds of things, but over the last week I have found it very helpful for managing my second darts around the Coronavirus. It is called a Three Breath Micro-Practice and I use it any time I notice that I am triggered (i.e. when my son’s friend sneezes in my car, etc…) Here is how it works:
Three Breath Micro Practice:
- Take a slow deep breath in and as you exhale feel your body relax
- Take a second slow, deep breath in and as you exhale release areas of tension in your body
- Take a third slow, deep breath in and as you exhale ask yourself, “What is the most important thing for me to focus on right now?
For me, this practice gets me back to focusing on what I can control – that is the value of step 3, and I need steps 1 and 2 to get my brain here. It gets me out of my worrying mind, and back to a place where I can be productive. The reality is right now the only thing I can do is continue to wash my hands, and sneeze into a tissue, and by the way, shouldn’t we all be doing that regularly anyway?
I hope you find this practice helpful!
Wishing you good health, peaceful thoughts, clean hands and a Costco supply of toilet paper!
P.S. If you have younger kids who are fearful or anxious try taking a few Bear’s Breaths with them. Sit together like a big fat bear, close your eyes and inhale to a count of four and exhale to a count of six. Repeat this three to five times. The longer exhalation helps to trigger a relaxation response in the brain.
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