A Life Less Analog, Science, Technology

How to practice mindfulness amid the coronavirus crisis

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In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to take better care of our mental health. Now, more than ever, we need to learn how to practice mindfulness.

Thankfully, online community Mindful Manila is helping people deal with the stress of living in this urban jungle. Coping with anxiety has become even important in the age of social distancing and the enhanced community quarantine.

Stress and the city

Mindful Manila creator Niña Terol emphasizes the importance of learning how to practice mindfulness
Mindful Manila creator Niña Terol emphasizes the importance of learning how to practice mindfulness

“I love the idea of being able to gather like-minded people and kindred spirits in a single space, even if it’s online. And now we’re proving that we can converge, converse, and connect even if we’re physically miles apart,” Niña Terol, the creator of Mindful Manila, shared via email.

I’ve known Terol for years through the advertising as well as the tech industry, and was pleasantly surprised to find out about Mindful Manila. I saw on Facebook that she was hosting a live chat on “Anxiety & Mindfulness in the Time of COVID-19”.

This was part of the #MindfulMonday Live Chat Series that Terol launched in March. The chat series has proven timely, as shortly afterwards the government placed Metro Manila under community quarantine.

Why did Terol decide to put up Mindful Manila?

“I created Mindful Manila in September 2019, at the height of incredible stress at work. I work in the tech startup space, and I often tell people that, ‘Startup years are like dog years.’ It’s incredibly fast-paced, there’s tremendous pressure to perform, and when you love and care for what you’re building, you really pour your whole self into it.

“So in September, I was in the middle of product development and launches for two startups, and there were days when I couldn’t sleep—I’d wake up at 2 AM panicking and thinking about my deadlines—and I’d feel like my head was about to explode. That’s when I said, STOP. Take a breather, step back, and just do. not. think. about. work.”

Serenity and serendipity

“And here’s the part where serendipity plays a role: I decided to just browse aimlessly on Instagram to let my brain breathe, then I saw a new Instagram account called Basically Borrowed. It’s an online shopping platform for women who want to give pre-loved premium clothes a new lease on life to support the circular economy, and I thought it was a brilliant idea. I really felt a strong urge to connect with its founder—and I did. In a couple of days, I met Jessie Jiang over tea, we connected really well, and it got me thinking about everything that I care about outside of work and how I’d like to make space for it in my own life. I also loved how Jessie used alliteration in Basically Borrowed’s name, and it was that which actually inspired me to brand this, ‘Mindful Manila.'”

What Terol realized is that all the things she valued—wellness, sustainability, life design, yoga, meditation, healthy eating—boiled down to living more mindfully. And so she created Mindful Manila as a safe space online for people who would like to learn how to practice mindfulness.

Luckily, I caught the “Anxiety & Mindfulness in the Time of COVID-19” live chat on March 23. Terol’s guests were Dr. Robert Buenaventura, a psychiatrist at the UERM Hospital, and Cathy Babao, a mental health advocate and grief coach.

Maintain a routine

Dr. Robert Buenaventura
The pandemic has disrupted our normal rhythm, says Dr. Robert Buenaventura

“Is it normal to feel a bit disoriented, like you don’t know which day it is? Or you sometimes feel detached, or disengaged?” I asked the resource speakers during the live chat.

Buenaventura said this is natural because staying home has interfered with our rhythm. He and Babao agreed that it can cause us to lose our sense of time and space. For instance, you might even forget which day of the week it is.

“One suggestion is to maintain a routine [and] develop schedules,” Buenaventura said.

“But still be spontaneous. If you just want to be still and chill, that’s fine. We don’t have to be doing anything or everything at any given point in time. But the thing is having a routine or schedule can help maintain that degree of organization.”

Buenaventura also shared additional tips for coping with anxiety.

Live one day at a time

Cathy Babao
We need to be kinder to ourselves, says Cathy Babao

Babao agreed that it would be good to have some semblance of structure.

“Like every Wednesday, I’m gonna do this. Or like every Tuesday afternoon, this is something I’m gonna do for the next three Tuesdays. Because we’re living in stressful times. Extraordinarily stressful times.

“These are not normal times. So you are allowed to cut yourself some slack and be kinder to yourself. We’re gonna get over this. But in the meantime, while we’re in it, let’s just take one day at a time. For me that’s the best approach,” Babao said.

Making mindfulness matter

On March 30, Mindful Manila will live stream “A Celebration of Womanhood Amid the Pandemic” at 8 PM. This live chat will feature Lily of the Valley Founder Camille Escudero, Rags2Riches President Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, and People Ignite Chief Igniter JV Wong.

According to Terol, she will continue the live chat sessions virtually, even after the pandemic is over.

“I would love for Mindful Manila to be known as a community where individuals from all walks of life can drop in at any time, feel welcome, and get the inspiration that they need to live more mindfully,” she said.

Terol said she would like Mindful Manila to become a platform to connect people who care about mindfulness. This will include supporting existing mindfulness practitioners and promoting their events.

“When schedules and collaborations allow, I’d love for Mindful Manila to also organize its own specially-curated events, to bring all of these people, ideas, and products into the same physical space. That might be a more medium-term plan for now, but it won’t hurt to dream!”

So, want to learn how to practice mindfulness in your life? Make visiting Mindful Manila a habit now.