I struggle with anxiety. I haven't been diagnosed. I don't get panic attacks. But, I experience anxiety deep in the pit of my stomach daily. I sometimes struggle with being judged, receiving negative feedback and interacting in social situations. Many people experience anxiety to varying degrees. But in my experience, not many people talk about it.
Something that has helped me over the past couple of years is mindfulness and meditation. I have had mixed success with meditation. There have been times where I’m consistent. There have been times where I stopped doing it for months. However, I’m back on the meditation train again and it has been a part of my daily schedule for the last month or so. What I’ve found is that meditation is a lot like going to the gym. We have a general idea that there are benefits to doing it. We all kind of feel like it’s something we should be doing. We all kind of feel a little bit insecure about it and don’t know if we are doing it right. Let's break down how meditation works for me.
Who am I?
First off, I’m not a meditation “kind of person.” What I mean is that I’m not zen. I do try to be chill and generally, I’m trying to take a hard life easy. It might be the Jamaican in me. But, I don’t look like the kind of person who you’d think, "yeah that guy meditates." I say all of that to say this, you don’t have to be a specific “type of guy or girl” to meditate. Try it out. If it’s something that makes you feel more calm, present and less stressed then who cares if you look the part.
What do I do?
I want to acknowledge that there are experts, coaches, and students of meditation who have spent many years to learn and hone their abilities. However, from what I’ve read and my personal experience, there isn’t a right or wrong way to meditate. So, what do I do? I sit. I fold my legs. I try to keep my back against a straight, flat surface. I breathe deeply and I try to focus on my breathing. My mind wanders. I come back to focusing on my breathing again. My mind wanders. Focus on breathing again. Repeat. One of the key things I learned is to not be too hard on myself about whether or not I'm “doing it right.” Don’t criticize yourself when your mind wanders. Just come back to your breathing and try to enjoy spending some time with yourself.
When Do I Do It?
Ideally, I meditate as soon as I wake up for about 10 minutes. I like doing it first thing in the morning for 2 reasons.
1) It’s purely for me. It’s a kind of self-care that helps me feel better. I like that the first thing that I’m doing in the morning is taking time for myself and spending it on something that I feel is important for my well-being.
2) It’s a priority. I’m a firm believer in doing the things that are priorities first, then everything else will be added in place. Prioritizing and taking care of yourself is also an excellent way to set the tone for the rest of your day.
Where Do I Meditate?
To be honest, at first I was a little bit embarrassed to meditate in front of anyone and I still am. At first, I would wake up and go to the living room to meditate because I would feel self-conscious about my wife seeing me. I still feel a little awkward when she calls out to me in the dark and asks, “what are you doing?” Responding that I’m meditation sounds and feels so...uncomfortable. When life happens and I don’t get a chance to meditate at home. There is a small back room at work that I go into, sit on a chair, set my timer for 10 mins and let go. That’s my backup meditation spot.
Why do I Meditate and is it Worth It?
Perhaps most importantly, why do I meditate? Well, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not a meditation sort of a guy. Or at least, I don’t think of myself that way. A few years ago I was reading a book on mindfulness because like I mentioned, I worry and have some anxiety. I liked the concepts I learned about surrounding mindfulness and there was a chapter on meditation. It took away some of the apprehensions I had about meditating. Primarily, that I’d feel zen and my mind would be clear the whole time. My mind is usually quite busy for a lot of the time that I meditate.
So then, is it worth it? I was talking to a colleague of mine who’s a runner that mentioned how much she hated meditation and how unhappy it made her. It’s not for everyone, for me, it is worthwhile. Like I mentioned in the beginning, it is very much like going to the gym. I don’t like going to the gym. I don’t like scheduling time to do it. Sometimes I don’t like the workouts. But I always feel better after going. Meditation is a lot like that for me. It gives my mind a chance to relax and flex and grow. I always feel better after doing it. And, when I’m lucky, I can feel my stress and anxiety disappear just a little bit.
If mediation is ever something that you wanted to try, go for it. Whether it’s 1, 5, 10, 20 minutes, give it a shot. Try to do it regularly, even when you don’t feel like it. After a few weeks, reflect and ask yourself if it added anything to your well-being. It might just be a massive pain in the butt or, it might be one of the best decisions you ever made. Don’t let fear stop you from at least giving it a try.