From the desk of: Jill Dunkley

Mindfulness Tips During the Pandemic
Jill Dunkley
Health Promoter

Sharbot Lake Family Health Team (SLFHT) recognizes the importance of mental health care during these challenging times.  The COVID-19 pandemic is creating significant anxiety and stress for a lot of us.
During times like this, our capacity to stay calm, present and compassionate is more important than ever.  Mindfulness is the ability to be fully responsive to the present moment rather than being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s happening to us.  Mindfulness is a quality that’s already inherent in us you just have to learn how to access it. I’d like to share what mindfulness practices are most helpful to me during this time

I don’t pretend to have all the answers but here are some mindfulness techniques that are most helpful to me right now.

Coming back to the present moment
If I notice my thoughts turning to worries and uncertainties about the future, I try to remember that all we truly have is the present moment.
A simple way to do this is to spend a few minutes using my breath as an anchor.
I place my hands comfortably on my belly and begin to notice the movement of my breathing there.
It sometimes helps me to stay focused on my breathing by adding an easy count to my breathing.  “Breathing in….2, 3, 4…. Breathing out….2,3,4”.  Your comfortable breath count may be higher or lower than mine but see if you can find a comfortable, easy rhythm that matches the count on the in-breath and the out-breath.  I also invite any physical or emotional tension to let go on the out-breath.  I do this for just a few minutes and it’s amazing how it helps to relax me. If my mind wanders, I just watch it happen because that’s just what the mind does.  Once I notice my mind has wandered, I gently return my attention to the present moment using my breathing as my “home base”.

A lot of us have experienced grief and sadness with what has been disrupted, changed, cancelled or lost during this time.  It’s important to acknowledge this, and, even while doing so, I also practice turning my attention to what I still have in my life that can nourish me in the present moment.  Before every meal, I think about something I’m grateful for.   Gratitudes don’t have to be big and grandiose.  In fact, appreciating the little things in life goes a long way – a sunny day, seeing a bluebird, the food on my plate.  I am also sharing gratitudes with friends and family on the phone or on social media and it seems to magnify the positive effect when shared with others.

 Outdoor Walks
I feel very blessed to live in this part of the world.  The natural beauty of the season, with everything blooming and returning to life, soothes and calms me.  I find it deeply rewarding to spend some time outside walking while using appropriate safe, physical distancing away from other people. My primary intention is to just enjoy being outside and fully present to what’s happening around me through all my senses.  This practice helps me to “get out of my head” and into my body and feeling more connected to the world around me.  I always feel better after getting outside!

Mindfulness of Media Consumption
This is a big one.  It is important to stay up to date what is happening with COVID-19 locally, in Canada, and around the world, as the situation evolves so rapidly. At the same time, I find that I can reach a point where I’m saturated with “too much information”.  I try to find reliable information sources including Lake 88.1; Frontenac News; Leeds Grenville Lanark District Health; Kingston Frontenac Lennox and Addington Public Health; and, the CBC news.  If I start to notice I’m going down a “rabbit hole” scrolling endlessly on my phone, I decide to turn off the phone and computer and pick up a good book.  I notice I sleep better when I mindfully choose to do this.

 Daily Practice
I find routine in my day very stabilizing and grounding.  So in the morning, I do a movement practice to feel more strong and alive in my body.  That could be taking a walk as mentioned earlier, or it could be working out with light weights (guided on-line by a local fitness instructor), or a “stretch and relax” practice.  I like to mix it up but I always try to listen to what my body needs in the moment.  In the evening, before I go to bed, I do a seated meditation practice.  I’ve been doing this a while now, so my seated practices can vary.  There are many excellent free phone apps out there to help guide your practice such as Insight Timer, Calm or Headspace.  One of the practices I tend to return to when I’m feeling unsettled is Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion Break.

This is a three-step practice that includes

1)Mindfulness and awareness of the suffering that I’m experiencing.

2) Connecting with something greater than myself – sensing every being around the world that may also be struggling.

3) Offering myself kind words, as I would say to a good friend who is having a hard time.

May some of these mindfulness tips be helpful for you as we all endeavour to stay kind, calm, safe and supportive of each other.

If you are interested in more information about Mindfulness Programs at the Sharbot Lake Family Health Team, please visit our website at, email us at
or phone us at 613-279-2100.


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