(Part of this post is a revamp of my earlier blog published in 2019)
As I look back on this post that was written pre-pandemic, before the loss of my grandmothers, before I had two kids in college and another newly licensed driver, I have to admit, I'm so happy I learned how to lasso mindfulness when I did. Certainly my attention has shifted once again to things that bring peace and joy and away from the uncertainty that is motherhood, launching my coaching business, leaving my job, and life as we now know it. If there is anything the past three years has taught the us, it is that mental health is fragile if you don't give it the attention it deserves, and the world is going to do it's thing whether we like it or not. So, where am I in 2022 and how am I different that when this first was published in February, three years ago? I have to admit, I'm on fire! I feel confident and calm. I feel like I can tackle anything and do it with gusto, even when my anxiety alarm is going off. Some days, I barely recognize myself and other days, I see exactly who I am with incredible clarity; I never knew I would get to this place in my life.
Rates of stress and anxiety skyrocketed across the globe during and since Covid leaving people feeling unsure about how to live and how to stay safe. Nervous systems are on fire and people seeking help more than ever before which is both sad but encouraging in that people finally feel comfortable talking about mental health and taking action to feel better.
What about you? How are you moving through life? Is everyday life overwhelming, stressful, and dragging you down? It doesn't have to be that way!
Since the pandemic, researchers have have had an incredible opportunity to dive head first into helping people who are anxious in the best ways possible.
Here's what researchers learned.
"Research has shown that mindfulness helps us reduce anxiety and depression. Mindfulness teaches us how to respond to stress with awareness of what is happening in the present moment, rather than simply acting instinctively, unaware of what emotions or motives may be driving that decision." (Anxiety.org)
Here’s how this works. When you meditate or practice mindfulness, you are allowing yourself to sit with uncomfortable feelings in your body or thoughts without attaching meaning to them. You’re also not trying to solve for anything or push the thoughts away - you’re simply breathing and allowing. This is a big deal and an incredibly powerful point I work on with people I coach. Recognizing anxiety in your body, allowing it to be there as a normal feeling, and creating new ways to lower stress and anxiety is the stuff recovery is made of!
Mindfulness based meditation allows you to view your anxious body and thoughts from a place of curiosity and compassion instead of pushing and fighting in an effort to feel "normal."
How do you get started? Let me begin by saying you do not have to sit crosslegged on a beach or pillow and say "OM".
Here is how it works.
Find a quiet place to sit.
Easy enough except the dog and the kids, right? Find someplace where you won't be disturbed. You can sit in your car, your closet, or shut your bedroom door and give your kids some screen time for ten minutes or get up 15 minutes earlier. I assure you that even thought it may feel as though you never have a moment of quiet, you can create this. I can help.
I don't like to sit with my legs pretzeled so I sit on a chair or stretch out on my bed. If you're comfortable sitting on your knees or with your legs crossed, do that. It doesn't matter. What does matter it that you are comfortable, seated so you don't fall asleep too easily, and connected to what's under your butt and feet.
Get a guide.
If you're new to this, you're going to want to find someone to help you though the process. It's not that its difficult, it's that it is actually difficult. That will make sense once you sit down to practice. The first few times and even on down the line, your mind will wander off and THAT IS OKAY! That is actually part of what you are learning to manage. You will learn how to redirect your thoughts and focus on the present. The more you practice, the easier it gets. I really like the Headspace and Calm apps but there are also some great guided meditations on YouTube that I frequently use.
Close your eyes and breathe.
Really. That's it. Just close your eyes, dump your brain and breathe. I would recommend starting with just five minutes and increase the time as you are comfortable.
Once you get comfortable and realize that your shoulders aren't above your ears anymore, that you're not snapping at your co-workers, kids, or the guy in the car in front of you, it is very easy to become addicted to this little staycation for your mind. I started with five minutes several years ago and it's easy for me to do 20 minutes in the morning and by afternoon, I know I need more time to refocus again.
Here is your assignment. Decide today to give mindfulness meditation a shot. Give yourself five minutes to explore what all of this mindfulness buzz is about. Write down how the experience went. Was it easy? Were you anxious and ready to be done after two minutes? Did you find yourself wanting more time? Keep a log for the next week then report back to me your new perception on meditating and mindfulness.
Before I go, and since this is my last post of 2022, I have to ask; what is keeping you from saying yes to all of the ways you can have less stress and anxiety in 2023? Right now is the perfect time to take the next step and decide to put in the work of creating these new thoughts and behaviors. I am cheering for you and I know that you are only a decision away from having all the things you've been avoiding to feel safe. I'll talk to you soon.