Each week, the Osher Center will bring you a new post with tips and tools for using integrative medicine practices to deal with the current COVID-19 outbreak. We will feature ideas for dealing with stress, coping with uncertainty, and supporting immune health.
This week, I spoke with Christina Luberto, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist, mindfulness teacher, and mind-body researcher. She is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School and Staff Psychologist at MGH. She teaches mindfulness stress management courses to employees at BWH and patients at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, where she is a graduate of the Osher T32 Fellowship. She offered her expertise on how to stay centered and connected while dealing with the current global health crisis.
Stress and anxiety are appropriate right now. We are in a time of disruption and uncertainty and may have realistic concerns about the health and security of ourselves and our loved ones. When stress becomes overwhelming, a great first step to calming the body and mind is to reconnect with the breath. Practicing a short, guided meditation when you’re feeling overwhelmed can help you get centered, grounded, and settled, so that you can choose to react from an informed and calm place, rather than out of anxiety. Watch Dr. Luberto explain the benefits and next steps of this practice and try it for yourself.
Another benefit of mindfulness right now is that it can help you focus your attention in more constructive ways. Dr. Luberto suggests to focus on what is currently within your control. She advises, “this is where we can take preventive steps to stay healthy, following CDC and WHO guidelines, such as washing hands and practicing physical distancing. This is also where regular health behaviors come into play: getting regular sleep, keeping up physical activity, and eating a healthy diet are all important ways to take care of yourself and reduce stress. Knowing that you have done what is within your control to take care of yourself can help release the worries that creep in.”
While we are lucky to have social media to stay connected in isolation, the cycle of information can often be a source of anxiety. Dr. Luberto suggests staying connected virtually by “being intentional about reaching out to others. Schedule specific times to get together by phone or video and be mindful of what topics you discuss, setting limits for the amount of time you talk about the COVID situation (e.g., 10-15 minutes) and focusing the rest of the time on having meaningful conferences about other things. Mindfulness can also help you to stay present with other people, really being with them during these interactions rather than off worrying about other things.”
One of the hardest parts of this pandemic is the stress we carry for our loved ones. Isolation can cause feelings of powerlessness that deeply impact our mood. An evidence-based mindfulness practice that can help combat this is loving kindness meditation. According to Dr. Luberto, “this practice involves offering loving statements to the self and others. You can practice this in a formal meditation or you can get creative – repeating loving kindness phrases (“may we all be happy, may we all be healthy, may we all be safe”) a few times while washing your hands might be another way to get those 20 seconds of hand-washing done, while also building positive emotions for yourself and others.” Listen and follow along with the guided meditation below.
For more, click here to download Dr. Luberto’s Mindful Stress Management Strategies for Coping with COVID and visit her website at https://www.doctorluberto.com/
Follow @HMSOsherCenter on twitter for updates and stay tuned as we continue to provide practical integrative medicine practices to help cope with the disruptions of CODIV-19. May you be happy, may you be safe, may you live with ease.