Stay Present

Written by Tami Boesiger, counselor at The CORE

It’s a strange and jolting realization every morning as I wake up, “Oh yeah . . . we’re in this weird coronavirus crisis.” As each day goes by, the news worsens. More cases, more closures, more weeks of isolation. Uncertainty stirs doubts about security. Stress rises. Fears creep in.

Will we recover financially? Are we being told everything? Are the kids going to miss important learning? Is my retirement plan toast now? How long will my employer be able to keep me on? Is it unsafe to visit my mother? Which is worse, risking possible exposure or the effects of extended isolation? And why are we hoarding toilet paper?!

So many questions. How do we stop worrying without knowing how or when this will end, when there’s no business as usual, when every hour brings a new level of discomfort? How do we stop the whir of our brains and wrangle the anxiety?

We live where we are, focusing on what we can do today, not on the “what ifs” of the future. We stay present. Noted psychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel, who has studied the brain extensively, says science proves being present leads to happiness. Being where you are, soaking in the good of the moment, and not getting too far ahead of yourself, leads to happiness. This is a skill we call mindfulness. Staying mindful of the beauty, the sweetness, the safety of now calms our anxious brains.

Don’t know where to start? Begin with your five senses. What do you see, hear, smell, taste, touch right now? What do you notice about today, about this moment? What is enjoyable about forced time at home? Become a professional observer and hone those skills of awareness. Can you feel your feet touching the floor? What colors do you see in your kitchen counter top? Does the silence have a sound? What adjectives describe the way your dinner smells? What might the color purple taste like? Mindfulness forces us to be present, distracting us from what we can’t control. Mindfulness is a choice to revel in the good of today and be thankful.

So when your coronavirus worries start to get the best of you, friends, challenge yourself to stay present. You’ll do your brain and your mood a favor. We will get through this. One day at a time.