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Using mindfulness to cope with change



ELLSWORTH — With the state’s stay-at-home restrictions easing and businesses beginning to reopen, many Mainers may face feelings of anxiety associated with returning to the workforce and to a new normal.

Using mindfulness techniques could ease this burden.

The practice of mindfulness is “bringing your attention to the present moment in a nonjudgmental way, with an attitude of kindness toward yourself and whatever you’re experiencing in that moment,” says Jen Harry, who runs the Bar Harbor-based business Infusion Mindfulness.

“One of the biggest things is to concentrate on what you can control,” says Harry.

“It’s so easy to get caught up in your head and start to worry about all the what-ifs, which are often in the future,” she says, especially of a virus that has caused “very real fear” and that we are still learning so much about.

One element of control individuals can exercise is “how you protect yourself,” says Harry. She suggests focusing on hand-washing as a means to stay healthy, instead of dwelling on the panic that may set in when thinking about the reasoning behind the increase in hand-washing.

With the additional $600 per week in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) slated to expire in July, many employees are being confronted with difficult decisions regarding going back to work.

In addition to the expiring benefits, many Maine workers may no longer be eligible to collect unemployment assistance if they refuse a call from their employers to return to work. According to the Maine Department of Labor (DOL), employment refusals should be documented by employers and will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Once the case is reviewed, workers may still be eligible to keep their benefits, potentially under to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, another measure under the federal coronavirus relief package that has expanded unemployment coverage since May 1.

If the Maine DOL “determines that an offer of suitable work was made and that there was no valid reason to refuse it, the claimant would no longer receive unemployment benefits including the additional $600,” according to the department’s website.

While mindfulness may be able to help ease job and health-related anxieties, Mainers do have outside resources if they feel their workplace is unsafe.

“If an employee feels unsafe at work or that their workplace is not following guidelines, they can call Maine DOL, or if they work for a private employer, can call OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration),” said Jessica Picard, the department’s media contact, in an email.

Mainers also may feel anxious about how to safely navigate visits with family or dining out.

Harry says there are many tools that can be used to help reduce stress associated with big changes. One of these tools is looking inward to establish a sense of calm.

“This whole pandemic is an incredible practice is mindfulness,” Harry says.

“It’s offering us an opportunity, I think, to become more mindful in a lot of different ways. We can be mindful of how we are being safe, we can be mindful of all the things we are grateful for,” she adds, noting the opportunity to find gratitude in being able to connect with loved ones, even if it is a different, socially distant way.

Like many, if not all businesses, Harry’s Infusion Mindfulness has had to alter its operations due to the coronavirus. Sessions are available via Zoom and have included sessions with the Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center as well as monthly “Tools for Well-Being” sessions.

For more information, call 801-1107, email [email protected] or visit jenharry.com.

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca is a Customer Service Representative at The Ellsworth American and is thrilled when opportunities arise to contribute stories. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and enjoys being close to downtown and the community. Contact Rebecca at [email protected]

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