Even in times of crisis—especially in times of crisis—a mindfulness meditation practice is vital. That’s the message from Barb Schmidt, Boca Raton’s chief wellness expert, author of the best-seller The Practice, and founder of the Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life series.
Schmidt has practiced techniques of mindfulness and meditation for more than three decades, has attended more than 100 retreats, and has studied with everyone from Deepak Chopra to the Dalai Lama. She shares her insights through programming and events year-round, and believes a healthy meditation and mindfulness practice is especially important given the health and economic stressors of the moment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an appreciable impact on stress; back in April, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 19 percent of respondents said the pandemic has had a “major impact” on their mental health—a number that has surely gone up as the crisis has deepened.
To that end, Schmidt is going virtual with tips on how to mentally survive the coronavirus, and even to find your zen amid the fear. At 4 p.m. Thursday, courtesy of the Junior League of Boca Raton, Schmidt will host the Zoom chat “Facing the New Normal: Tools to Rise Above Anxiety.” Michelle Maros, Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life’s editor-in-chief and creative director, will lead Schmidt in conversation; attendees can register for free at jlbr.org/mindfulness. Following the live presentation, the video will be archived for on-demand viewing on the Junior League’s Facebook page.
Schmidt has been featured often in the pages of Boca magazine; her most recent appearance came in our Feel Good department in early 2019. Here is that article, written by our health and wellness contributor Lisette Hilton; I think you will find that its insights apply uncannily to our present predicament:
Anxiety and stress are everywhere.
“I feel it. I think everyone I talk to feels it,” says Boca Raton resident Barb Schmidt, author of the international best-seller The Practice: Simple Tools for Managing Stress, Finding Inner Peace and Uncovering Happiness.
Schmidt cites research that people think more than 70,000 thoughts a day—almost 50 thoughts a minute, according to Schmidt, who is a meditation teacher and mindfulness expert, and who partners with the Boca Raton Regional Hospital for its community wellness program. Of the almost 50 thoughts a minute, almost half are negative, and 95 percent of the negative thoughts are repetitive, she says.
The good news is that people are not at the mercy of their minds. Meditation, being present, using positive affirmations, even focusing on one’s breath or simply pausing can stop the mind’s freeway to anxiety and stress, according to Schmidt.
“Once you start to get that red flag moment—‘I’m thinking the same thought over and over again and am starting to lose my ability to cope. I’m starting to feel like I’m going down a rabbit hole of negativity’—That is your cue,” Schmidt says. “That is your trigger to just stop. Stop what you’re doing. Pause and start taking some breaths. By putting a pause between those negative thoughts, by stopping that line of thinking, you literally bring yourself back to the present moment.”
Pausing for a second or 30 seconds can reset the mind into a more productive, positive, real direction.
We could also be more focused in our thoughts. Schmidt refers to research by Harvard psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert that people spend 46.9 percent of their time awake thinking about something other than what they are doing.
“The conclusion of their study is that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” Schmidt says. “We could be at our daughter’s wedding or at the most joyous occasion imaginable in our lives, and whether we’re going to be happy or not is not really indicative of that moment, but rather how often our mind leaves that present moment.”
The study serves as a reminder to stop and recognize where you are and be present, according to Schmidt.