Using the Pandemic as Mental Training Ground

By Leo Babauta

This neverending pandemic hasn’t been the best mental health environment for many people — it has created raised levels of uncertainty, anxiety, loneliness, unhappiness, procrastination and feelings of dreariness for large numbers of people.

That’s understandable, and I feel tremendous compassion for everyone who is suffering right now.

I strongly believe that this is an opportunity for us all, to use this difficult environment to shift something for ourselves.

This can be our mental training ground, if we view it that way.

We can use this environment to learn how to:

Basically, everything that arises as a mental difficulty for us right now is a perfect opportunity to train.

The pandemic might be our greatest teacher.

The Opportunity of This Time

The truth is, all of this has always been here. We’ve always been distracted, numbing our difficult emotions like loneliness and sadness and anger with social media, food, alcohol and other comforts. We’ve always felt uncertainty, anxiety, frustration and overwhelm.

It’s just that this pandemic has brought it all front and center. Put it directly in our faces, so we can’t ignore it.

That’s difficult, but it’s also an opportunity — to look directly at the things we don’t want to admit to ourselves.

To become present to our emotions.

To train ourselves in compassion, gratitude, wonder, connection, meaning and mindfulness.

It’s terrible that people are getting sick and dying, of course — we don’t want to pretend that everything is rainbows and unicorns. It’s terrible that people are turning to drugs and other unhealthy ways of coping with all of this.

But I believe in making the most of whatever is in front of us. Let’s use the opportunity of this time.

How to Train

We start first by recognizing whatever is there for us: overwhelm, distraction, loneliness, sadness, frustration, disconnect, anxiety.

We get present with it: how does it feel in our body? Can we be with the sensations of these emotions, mindfully, gently, with openness and curiosity?

We bring compassion to ourselves — a sense of warmth and wanting happiness for ourselves.

We then try a new frame of mind — here are a handful to try out:

Choose one at a time, and practice it for a few days. Life in the pandemic will give you plenty of practice opportunities, if you look for them. Embrace them, and train.

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