"Self Care in Quarantine" is a series I am writing as we all adjust to our new lives as a result of the pandemic. The world is clearly in a state of disarray, and many people are finding themselves struggling financially, personally, or otherwise. All of the new adjustments and transitions due to the pandemic are extremely challenging and affecting everyone globally. We are all seeking to discover what we should do. As an optimist, I am arguing that this is time to start fresh. We have been given the space to create new routines, strengthen relationships, and reflect on ourselves. This series is designed to provide tips on how to do these things, along with how to take care of ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally, spiritually, and creatively while in quarantine. I am not an expert and nothing that I say is meant to replace a professional's opinion or otherwise, but only to provide some insight into feeling more peaceful. It is my hope with this series that we can regain or continue to stand in our power, and take care of ourselves as we adjust to a new way of living.
In this essay, we will be discussing meditation. This includes what meditation is, the benefits of meditating, and how to practice meditation (all while following the social distancing orders from our government).
Meditation is a traditionally practiced in Eastern cultures, but has quickly became mainstream in the West over the past few years. There are a lot of various ideas behind what meditation is, many platforms that offer resources, and also a bit of stigma around it as it gains popularity. Because it is popular though, there must be some truth behind it right? However our lives may look now that we are self quarantining and social distancing, meditation can benefit us.
Are you working from home and finding the transition period to be overwhelming?
Are you attempting to homeschool your kids and finding it stressful?
Are you stuck at home all day with your family... or even worse, with your own thoughts?
Meditation can most certainly benefit you.
Meditation is the practice of silencing your thoughts and returning to your breath. Your breath is the only source to the present moment that you have, and meditation is all about showing up in the present moment. The idea is to stand, sit, or lie down comfortably and essentially turn your mind off and allow your brain and body to decompress a little bit. The reason that people refer to meditation as a "practice" is because this is extremely hard to do (trust me, I meditate regularly). But the more often that you meditate, the more often that you'll be able to silence your thoughts and relax. Relax.
Another relieving aspect of meditation is that there is no right or wrong. It is very unlikely that you will meditate for the first time and just completely turn your mind off. If you meditate and find your mind rushing and racing, that is okay. It is an aspect of meditation. Again, the more you meditate the more frequently you will be able to achieve this thoughtless state.
Meditation is something that can benefit anyone, regardless of your lifestyle or mental health status (although it aids in rewiring neurotransmitters which can help PTSD be manageable - a topic for another post). According to Healthline and MayoClinic, meditation as been proven to
- lower stress levels
- ease anxiety
- aid in treating depression
- managing cancer
- managing chronic pain
- promote emotional health
- enhance awareness of self
- lengthen and strengthen attention span
- manage high blood pressure
and many more...
So how do we practice meditation?
First, find a peaceful space where you can be comfortable. This space should be free of any external distractions, such as the TV on in the background. I prefer sitting or laying down, but standing comfortably is an option as well. Let your eyes naturally shut, and breathe at your normal pace. After a few moments, inhale for 4 counts, hold for 2 counts, and exhale for 6 counts. There are many variations of this breath that work perfectly fine as well, such as inhale until you cannot anymore, hold for 1-2 counts, and exhale until all of your breath has been released. The goal is the find a variation that works for you that is deeper and longer than your natural breath pace. During this time, you should be solely focusing on your breath. When a thought arises, simply observe or acknowledge it, and let it go. Do not pay too much attention to this thought or linger with it. If you have to think something along the lines of "I just had a thought, and now I'm letting it go," that is acceptable as well. Continue to focus on your breath, and after a few counts of this deeper and longer breath variation, return to your natural breath while continuing to focus solely on your breath (not your thoughts). This can be done for any amount of time that works for you and your schedule. And there you have it! It sounds pretty simple on paper but actually letting your thoughts go can be challenging, so it truly does require some practice.
There are many resources and applications available that offer free and subscription based meditation that you can look into to aid in the beginning of your meditation journey. Personally, I love Muse Meditation because it has many free meditations available and a subscription to access even more meditations. Most of these meditations are guided and have themes such as "Anxiety," "College," "Relationships," and even "Creativity." These themes are beneficial if there is a specific reason you are meditating or something specific that you want to meditate on. The best part is that a significant amount of them are free (I pay for the subscription though). Headspace and Calm are other popular ones as well.
Wherever you may be on your meditation journey, it is a simple journey to begin, and many benefits are yours for the taking when you are ready for them. If you already meditate and have some tips for beginners, or if you have anything to share about meditation (excitement, fears, or otherwise), leave a comment below!