We all know that time is a weird concept right now. Mornings blend into evenings and days blend into weeks and before you know it, you have been working from home for two months. However, I am not here to talk about the strange way time has felt both fleeting and eternal. Today, I am going to talk about spending a week practicing mindfulness meditation as a form of self-care. I love a good self-care moment and, like our friends from Grief’s Journey said in their blog, What is Self-Care, Really?, everyone’s self-care looks different. For me, self-care usually means watching Netflix or reading a book in my room with my favorite candle lit and a cooling face mask working its magic. However, COVID-19 has impacted my self-care just as I’m sure it has yours.
Right now, there is no clear separation of work and home, and the place where I do my self-care, and quite honestly consider my safe space, started to become cluttered and feel like an office. Self-care was not something I was actively doing or thinking about during the first month of working from home. Everything was overwhelming and weird, and it felt selfish to care for myself. However, as weeks went by, I realized that not caring for myself was not a good move. This lack of self-care and disregard for my mental and physical wellbeing (shockingly) started to have consequences. I was overly anxious, angry, tired, pessimistic, and I just did not feel like myself. I decided that this was not how I wanted to feel during the rest of my time working from home. I needed to change things so that I could embrace my new normal and I decided to purposefully practice mindfulness meditation for a week.
The reason I chose to practice mindfulness meditation is because I wasn’t doing a great job of acknowledging or processing my emotions. The purpose of mindfulness meditation is to slow down the racing thoughts in your head and be present in the moment. For me, this is something that I find hard to do. With that in mind, I began my search for an app that could help me. As you probably know, there are many apps out there that offer this kind of service but I was set on finding a completely free app that could be used by people of all ages. Smiling Mind is a non-profit based out of Australia whose mission is to provide accessible, life-long tools to support healthy minds. One of the ways they support their mission is by making their Smiling Mind app completely free. On this app, you can find all sorts of mindfulness meditation for every age and for every experience level. If you are a healthcare worker, there are meditations created just for you as a response to COVID-19. Educators can use the app’s classroom setting meditations for the students. What I really liked about the app is that it’s easy to use, it tracks the time you have spent practicing mindfulness meditation, and it’s something that you can do with your family.
So, with my app in hand I delved into the world of mindfulness meditation and this is how it went:
First day using the app, I woke up and decided to start my day by meditating. I opened the app and chose their Mindfulness of Emotions meditation. Before the meditation began, I was asked three questions about my emotions and how I had been feeling recently. It was seven minutes long and at first it was hard to get into as my mind was already trying to figure out what I had to do that morning. Yet, as time progressed, I found myself relaxing and noticing my breathing, my body, and eventually my emotions. Through the guidance of the meditation I started to reflect on how I had been feeling for a few weeks, trying to not only pinpoint it inside but also pinpoint where in my body I was feeling this feeling most deeply. I really liked that in the meditation they acknowledged it was okay for my mind to wander but to try to bring it back and refocus on that feeling. I appreciated that the goal of this meditation wasn’t changing the feeling but rather it focused on acknowledging it and trying to make peace with it.
I decided to meditate after I finished my work for the day. This time I chose to do The Body Scan meditation. Since it was after work, I decided that I would lay on the floor rather than sit for this one because my back was hurting from sitting. The person guiding the meditation made it clear that I should resist falling asleep while lying down. This meditation was really focused on bringing awareness to the body and I really liked that they seem to integrate a re-focusing phrase to their meditation, as I found it helpful.
I decided that I liked practicing meditation in the evening time rather than the morning. On this day, I tried a meditation to help me wind down and sleep. During this time of social distancing, I have been finding it hard to fall asleep. There were some days where I couldn’t fall asleep and if I did sleep it was not restful. The meditation I tried was called Getting Ready for Bed and it was designed for children. I thought I should try it because I wanted to see what their content for kids was like. I noticed that it was similar to their adult meditation but with more guidance and with language that kids would find easy to follow. I really enjoyed it and found it relaxing; it was short, but it did help with relaxing before bed.
This day I finished work and headed outside to try meditating in the yard. My 13-year-old sister decided to join me for this session and together we decided on a meditation called Find Your Happy Place. We decided to lie in the grass and close our eyes to find our happy place. Although this was another children’s meditation, it did help me visualize my happy place, as cheesy as may sound. As I mentioned before, my bedroom is usually the place I consider to be my safe space, but it’s become so associated with work that it was starting to become a hard place for me to relax. Helping me visualize a happy place that I can turn to when I’m stressed out is something that I really needed.
On Friday, I decided on the Gratitude and Joy meditation to end my work week. The meditation asked me to check in on myself, how I was feeling and thinking. As the meditation continued, it asked me to think of people that I’m grateful for and focusing on that feeling of joy that those people create. This was by far my favorite meditation; it was not only about finding joy for myself but also spreading that feeling of joy and warmth out into the world. It was about being present and aware but also appreciating the wonderful people in my life.
On Saturday, I decided to do the Stress meditation. The description said that this meditation would help me identify my response to stress by helping me notice where on my body I carry it. The meditation begins by discussing negativity bias and how it is part of our survival instinct, and moves on to ask you to scan and release tension from different parts of your body. I found this exercise interesting as I did not notice that I was frowning and tensing my mouth until the meditation guided me to noticing that and taught me a breathing exercise that I could do to relax my body. It was really interesting to realize where I could feel the stress on my body.
Sunday was the last day of my week of mindfulness meditation. At the end of the week, I found myself looking for longer meditations. I think it’s because I enjoyed the feeling of letting go and taking some time out of my day to do something for myself. I chose the meditation called Breath and the Body. This meditation, as you can probably tell, was focused on breathing and connecting breathing to your body. I found this meditation to be very relaxing and I really appreciated that they closed out the meditation by asking me to thank my body. I have never done that before; I have never actually thought about how thankful I am for my body and the amazing things it does.
As you can probably tell, I am about to give you a very biased opinion on mindfulness meditation as self-care. It will come as no surprise that I really enjoyed doing this activity and it’s something that I am actively integrating into my life and self-care routine. Although I don’t continue do this every day, on the days I do practice meditation I have been doing so right before I go to bed. I found that meditating left me in a relaxed state that really helps me fall asleep, and it also helps me process my day and be in touch with my body and emotions. I also like that I am allowing myself to take some time to care for me, which I frankly wasn’t doing. I am a helper (shout out to all my type 2 enneagrams) and the way that I show care is by helping others and taking care of them but what is really, really hard for me to do is to care for myself. Through this week of self-care, I realized that I could help others and take care of them by taking care of myself. I am a better daughter, sister, friend, and coworker when I do. As Tom Haverford and Donna Meagel said on my favorite TV show Parks & Recreation, treat yo’ self! Your self-care is important, you are important, and if you find yourself looking for a new self–care activity, I highly recommend trying mindfulness meditation.