With the holidays approaching, I feel it’s imperative to discuss something we all tend to put on the back burner, especially around this time of year: mental health.
Shopping, cooking, going to your family’s house for dinner, having to engage with people you rarely converse with, possibly having to dodge a political debate with your ultra-conservative uncle (insert eye roll here)… All of these scenarios can trigger stress and anxiety.
So, let’s talk about something that can possibly help you prepare for these pulling-your-hair-out moments.
As someone who struggles with handling stress and anxiety, this ancient practice that helps a person achieve spiritual calmness and mental clarity has always been a suggested tool to utilize. Normally I feel whenever I try to actually sit down, close my eyes, take deep breaths, and focus on something other than the thoughts in my head, I end up falling asleep. Every. Single. Time. It’s ridiculous. So, when someone says to me, “I think you should try meditating,” I end up laughing. Sure. I’ll “meditate,” which obviously means I’ll just go take a nap, which isn’t bad, but also not the point.
In the last couple of months, though, I have become a believer.
Recently I began seeing a new therapist. (I speak openly and honestly about therapy because I believe mental health is just as important as physical health and I wish every person felt the same.) She is really awesome and has spoken a lot about holistic methods she believes in, including meditation. I was desperate for relief from my anxious brain when I started seeing her, so I decided, what the hell? I’ll give it another shot.
I found a bunch of videos on YouTube with soothing music and a man or woman with a calm voice giving direction about breathing, finding your center, focusing on one particular thing in the room, or, my very favorite, your mind’s eye.
The first time I did it, I situated myself on the hardwood floor, flat on my back, put my earbuds in, and pressed play. I felt sort of stupid. I don’t know why. I was home and essentially by myself. My dog was there, and she thought at first that I was getting down there to play with her, so of course she wouldn’t leave me alone, but otherwise, there was no one there to “judge” me. After I listened to the first three minutes and had no idea what was going on, I centered myself again. I restarted the video and closed my eyes. I listened to the music, to the verbal cues, the sound of my own breathing.
And for the first time in months, I relaxed.
It was incredible.
I didn’t fall asleep.
I didn’t lose concentration.
I didn’t feel like an idiot.
I found my center, which before I always laughed about. People actually find their centers? That’s nuts!
No! It’s real. And I was so calm and clear and at peace for the rest of the day that I decided to keep trying it.
I’ll admit, I did lose steam and stopped doing it for about a week. But I got back on it just last week and again, it has helped so much. I don’t know if it’s because I work in a stressful environment, or that I’m a writer (I use that term loosely) and my brain is constantly working (also using that term loosely), but the five or ten minutes that I give myself to decompress and turn my brain off has been so wonderful.
I know a lot of people suffer from anxiety. If you read my first blog post, you’ll see that I didn’t even realize that what was going on with me was actually anxiety. So, dealing with it, finding a way for the anxiety to not be crippling, has been a real learning curve. Meditation has been so amazing for me. I’m not saying it will work for everyone, but if you haven’t tried it, or if you have and didn’t have success at first, try it (again) and see what you think. It’s a game changer on my end. Hopefully it can be the same on yours.