Meditation in lockdown - an interview with Zishaan Mohammed
With all but keyworkers working from home as a consequence of the coronavirus lockdown, workplace stress is on the increase. Juggling an unfamiliar workspace, home life, children and lack of interaction with colleagues is challenging and, for some, their mental health is beginning to suffer.
Employers can help to alleviate this and, here at Walsall for All, ESOL Project Officer, Zishaan Mohammed, has been offering meditation sessions in the office for some time, but since the lockdown has moved them online using Microsoft Teams as a platform to deliver sessions at the end of each working day.
Zishaan first became interested in meditation whilst at university, where he regularly attended a meditation class to help deal with exam stress.
The inspiration to deliver classes, however, came to him a few years later when he was working as a project support officer at Birmingham Children’s Hospital: “I was working in the Intensive Care Unit alongside fantastic clinicians who worked every day to treat the sickest and most vulnerable children. It’s safe to say that their job, although immensely rewarding, also came with a great deal of stress.
“Understanding this, the hospital set up a weekly afternoon meditation class. Staff who attended reported returning to their shifts refreshed and filled with a sense of calm.”
When Zishaan started working at Walsall Council he started to meditate on his lunch breaks and again noticed an immense benefit: “My ability to focus, remain calm under pressure and to deal with negative emotions was significantly improved.”
“Realising that others too could benefit from this practice I decided to set up a weekly meditation session for my team and it blossomed from there.
“When the pandemic necessitated working from home, I began to hear reports from colleagues about how physical distancing was negatively impacting their mental health
“To help them deal with this I moved the sessions online and made them a daily occurrence after work.”
So why meditate in the first place and what benefits are there? Zishaan explained:
“Meditation has more scientifically backed benefits than I can list but in my experience the main benefits of meditating are greater emotional resilience, improved focus and greater compassion for others. Each of these is developed over time through different practices.
"In our classes we practice 2 different kinds of meditation: mindfulness and loving kindness.
"Mindfulness, at the most basic level, involves relaxing and paying attention to whatever thoughts feelings and sensations arise. By building this relaxed and open way of looking at the contents of our mind we create some space around our thoughts and feelings. This disarms them, making them easier to deal with when they are negative. It also gives us space to reflect on them and to make a decision that is aligned with our aims instead of being reactive.
"Loving kindness meditation involves thinking about the love that we have for those who we cherish most in our lives and helping nurture that feeling. We can carry that compassion with us to all the interactions we have with colleagues and the wider public.”
With no immediate sign of lockdown regulations easing, it will become increasingly important to take care of our mental health. Whilst Zishaan and the team at Walsall for All have organised meditation sessions, others may need to find their own help. The NHS has some excellent tips which can be found at: https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-staying-at-home-tips/