What I Learned From Meditation
By Dana Rademacher, intern at The Emily Program
We all have stress in our lives; whether from school, work, family, or countless other contributors, we all face stress in some way or another. Oftentimes, it can be hard to live outside this stress and it can seem to take over our lives. As someone who has lived with anxiety, this can feel especially true and I needed to find something that could help me manage my anxious feelings.
For me, it wasn’t about getting rid of anxiety completely, (because it is almost impossible to never experience that emotion) but I wanted to keep it in control, so my therapist suggested meditation and mindfulness practices. These practices helped me a great deal in managing my anxiety (and I would suggest anyone who is feeling stressed to try some!), but meditation also helped me learn things I can apply to other areas of my life.
It’s good to slow things down
Our culture is becoming incredibly fast-paced and busy; it’s getting harder and harder for people to find quiet, alone time. Our days are constantly filled with driving to and fro, working, doing housework, cooking, and by the end of the day, we’re just so exhausted we head to bed; rinse and repeat.
I don’t know about you, but this high-stress, jam-packed life heavily increases my anxiety and I realized that I need time throughout the day to just slow my life down. In between events through my day, I’ll do a quick deep breathing meditation, and then afterward, I’m more relaxed and I can contemplate how my day is going and what I want to reflect on.
With heightened anxiety, and the flight, fight, or freeze response coursing through our bodies, it is almost impossible to do any clear, deep thinking. Taking a few deep breathes from the stomach can bring down those anxious feelings and allow you to be rational and think through the things going on in your life.
Before I started practicing this regularly, I would just rush through my days and by the end of the week, I couldn’t pick out any specific moments in my week that made me joyous, made me hopeful, or even made me angry. It was all just sort of a haze. It’s been great to check in with myself and it has helped me be more attuned to my needs and feelings. We don’t need to be constantly busy and preoccupied. It’s okay to be still and take note of yourself, your mood, your feelings, and be present in the moment.
Silence can be golden
Along with our culture liking incredibly hectic and busy lives, we also tend to avoid silences. I can relate to this so deeply and this was why meditation definitely gave me struggles in the beginning. I hardly ever live in silence; I am constantly listening to music or watching TV, talking with friends on the phone and if a conversation starts dwindling and silence creeps up, it automatically feels “awkward” (even though it isn’t).
When I started relaxation practices, my mind would be buzzing a billion miles a minute and I couldn’t allow myself to calm down because I felt weird just sitting in my room, being with myself in the stillness. I would just try so hard to shut my brain off that I would get even more worked up, and it was the opposite of relaxation.
I realized though that it was incredibly freeing to try something new and a little scary, to lean into the quietness and just focus on my breathing. I eventually grew to love my quiet times and even now, if I don’t give myself space to be still and at peace, I notice a huge difference in my attitude.
I remember back in elementary school, we used to always have quiet time, and even though most of us hated it back then, it allowed us to actually calm down. I think we all could still use a little bit more intentional relaxation time, and what’s great about meditation is that you can start it at any time and do it for varying lengths of time. Give meditation a try and experience what it can teach you too.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” – Amit Ray
Need some ideas for ways to calm your mind and body? Check out The Emily Program Yoga series or our “Ask Emily” Anxiety post.