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7 tips for staying sane during the pandemic

Practicing mindfulness not only improves your emotional and mental well-being, but your physical health as well

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Meditation and other mindfulness techniques build resilience and alleviate stress. They can also mitigate symptoms of PTSD.


COVID-19, deadly and invisible, scarcely understood, is present throughout our communities. The stress of it is here for the foreseeable future.

A comprehensive review of international quarantine studies published recently in The Lancet shows that stress often lurks long after quarantine is lifted. It leads to increases in substance abuse, violence and mental health problems. This affects public safety personnel doubly, as they will feel the stress themselves and be called to resolve other people’s trauma too.

One excellent and positive way to reduce stress is mindfulness practice. Here again, the scientific literature is clear: Meditation and other mindfulness techniques are effective not only in building resilience and alleviating stress, they can also mitigate symptoms of PTSD. It’s also been shown to increase awareness and concentration and improve peak performance. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has been shown to improve physical health as well.

So how do you do it? Follow these seven steps:

1. Sanctify a current routine

Chances are you already have a mindfulness routine, even if you don’t call it that. Maybe it’s a walk after work or powerlifting that grounds you in the present moment. Recognize the power and sanctity of these habits and give them their due, with full intention and attention.

2. Remove what’s unnecessary

There’s a tendency to stay glued to the radio or smartphone or newsfeed during tough times. We justify this as keeping informed, but often we’re simply avoiding feelings and dividing our attention. Turn off the smartphone and leave it behind when you can. The same goes for the T.V. or the headphones. Embrace quiet; one moment, one task.

3. Rediscover the ordinary

Perhaps you can alter a routine slightly in order to find greater peace and equanimity in it. Pay full attention to your food, your satiation, how you chew and digest, for example. Give yourself completely to washing the dishes or your hands or brushing your teeth – better yet, all of them.

4. Find cues to remain present

Find a regular cue in your day – perhaps when you stop at a traffic light – and use it to return to your breath, feeling each breath in and out, and how it travels throughout your body and sustains you. Likewise, take a few minutes in your personal vehicle before your shift to sit with good posture, in quiet, and have some good deep breaths. Box breathing is a good technique to get you started.

5. Pay attention to how you and those around you are feeling

This can be refreshing, giving yourself space and power to feel your feelings. It can also be scary, especially at this time and in your line of work. It’s okay to feel scared and uneasy, just as it’s okay for your family and colleagues too. There is a tendency to run from these feelings, through distractions both physical (smartphones or T.V.) and emotional (getting angry or feeling helpless) or both (alcohol or infidelity). Judge yourself and others less. Be compassionate more. Listen attentively.

6. Try guided meditation

During times of increased anxiety, silent meditation can be even more challenging. Now might be a good time to try an app like HeadSpace. They’re even offering free support if you need it during the pandemic.

7. Don’t give up on silent meditation

If you’ve tried before, try again. It doesn’t take but a few minutes to discover the power of sitting in silence, with good posture, eyes open but settled and unfocused, as you meld mind and body. This is not a retreat from the world or a pause button on life. It’s life distilled – very powerful over time.


Even in these strange days of COVID-19 there is so much to appreciate and be grateful for. Are times uncertain? Certainly! But paying attention in the moment, free of critique or editorial – just being – is powerful now and then and always. It’s good for you. Be safe and take care.

Crawford Coates is the head of marketing at FirstWatch, which provides data analytics to public safety agencies. He is the former publisher of Calibre Press and is a co-founder of Below 100. Coates is the author of “Mindful Responder: The First Responder’s Field Guide to Improved Resilience, Fulfillment, Presence, & Fitness--On & Off the Job.”