Has COVID-19 got your stress levels high from maintaining a stationary lifestyle during quarantine?
Does trying to get work done and relax in the same space make it difficult to do either one?
While these are expected consequences of the times we’re living in, when you start to lose focus about what you’re doing and are unable to unwind at the end of the day, meditation might be the key to striking a happy balance in your life.
However, if you don’t set aside time for yourself to settle your mind and body, you could develop serious symptoms of mental unwellness.
High stress levels, intense headaches, social indifference, poor memory and willpower, and depression are all signs that you could use a break.
Sure, it can be difficult to actually focus on deep breathing and peaceful thoughts when you’re starting out, but if you prioritize and plan ahead—like when you go to sleep, wake up, or after a meal—you’ll be sure to benefit from all that meditation has to offer.
What is Meditation?
For our purposes, meditation can be a few different activities that you can combine to check in with yourself.
The first is focusing on breathing deeply. If you get distracted and start to think about other things, don’t worry. Meditation isn’t supposed to be strict. Simply guide your focus back to breathing and think about how it’s affecting your body.
Second, meditation can also mean doing a quick body scan. Close your eyes and check to see if you harbor pain in any parts of your body or if you’re retaining tension in your muscles. Then, relax those areas and let go of any tightness.
This body scan is a way of practicing mindfulness of yourself and being more aware of what your body is telling you.
Oftentimes, we hold tension in our face and shoulders without knowing it. When you’re feeling stressed out at work, take a few moments at your desk to meditate and do a body scan.
You may find that your jaw is tight and that your face is scrunched up. Body scan meditations can alert you to this fact and help you relax.
Lastly, you may want to try visualizations. Visualizations are pretty straightforward. You just think of a scenario that relaxes you while engaging all your senses.
For example, you may think about visiting a pristine beach and feeling the sand between your toes or smelling the salty air. Feeling the heat of the sun or hearing the ocean waves are a great way to get your brain to do a body scan without having to focus on the practice itself.
Visualizations can also help you with deep breathing by giving your mind something to focus on. If you find yourself getting lost in the demands of your job or personal responsibilities while trying to focus on breathing, imagine different colors that correspond with your breathing pattern.
Maybe you breathe in with the dark green color of a forest and breath out the kind of grey clouds that hang around when it’s about to rain. These meditations can all be combined to help you develop a practice that’s just right for you.
So, what are the ways in which these meditations can actually help you? Let’s take a look:
The Benefits of Meditation
1. It Improves Your Willpower
It’s true, doing meditation helps your brain to relax and gives it the extra blood circulation and energy to make better decisions.
It’s like getting a full night’s rest or doing a physical exercise: you’re giving your brain the activity and stimulation needed to recharge it by firing neurons to all the right places.
One study shows that meditation produces long-term increases in the efficiency of the executive attentional network. This means that it can help you reduce anxiety, a significant drain on your willpower, but also help boost your memory and clear up an overactive brain.
This also means that doing meditations can improve your ability to make calculated decisions when other signals in your body entice you to make more immediate decisions.
For instance, when your body is craving an instant source of gratification—like a donut for breakfast—having that extra awareness from your meditation can help you pick out a more sustainable option.
This brain activity also helps reduce anxiety, boost memory, and increase your sense of calm.
2. It Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Everyone has got their own way of showing signs of stress. Whether it’s dizziness, grinding your teeth, stomach aches, headaches, or muscle tension, meditation helps you shift your mindset away from the causes of stress and anxiety.
Not only does deep breathing physically slow down your heart rate and provide an even supply of oxygen to your brain, you also have to take time to do the action itself.
One worry you might have about meditation when things are getting stressful is that it might take too much time. The last thing you want to do is step away from your work right when you need to be focusing the most.
But much like taking the time to sleep or eat, meditation can actually give you the stress relief you need to get your work done in an efficient manner.
There are even 1-2-minute guided meditations on YouTube or in apps on your phone that have been designed for just this reason. When you do a meditation, it takes all your mounting fears and reduces them through physical and mental action.
Meditation can also help bring you to the present moment when you get lost in your anxiety. If you’ve ever found yourself so worried about the consequences of a meeting or an assignment that you can’t seem to even focus on the task at hand, you may benefit from checking in with yourself.
After doing a meditation that brings your mind back to the present, through breathing and evaluating your current bodily state, you can reduce the symptoms of stress and proceed with your day.
3. It Separates Work from Relaxation
While doing meditation can provide you with the extra willpower to get work done, it can also act as a bridge for when you need to wind down at night.
When at work or focusing on a stressful project, your mind is dialed in to the task at hand, and that intense focus can leave residual effects all across your body.
Just as meditation clears your mind to the present so that you can focus, that presence also lets you choose which direction to send your mind after.
When you take the time to transition between work and relaxation, especially while those two activities might be localized to one area because of COVID, you’re communicating to your body that there are two distinct settings to your body. Meditation can regulate that cycle, affording you a more restful sleep and an easier transition to get things done and improve your work quality or grades.
One that requires high frequency but level functionality, and one that should be focused on recharging and reducing all tension.
Without a bridge, it might be hard to fall asleep at night or get geared up for work. Meditation can regulate that cycle, affording you a more restful sleep and an easier transition to get things done.
4. It Controls Your Emotions
We’ve all had trouble regulating our emotions at one point or another.
Flaring up when you get into an argument, feeling down when dealing with grief, or boiling over with excitement after hearing good news – all these experiences need to be managed so that you don’t let your emotions get the better of you.
While it’s a wonderful part of life to experience every kind of emotion, meditation can help you balance them and reduce impulsive behavior (especially if you’re a parent!).
By hitting that “pause” button between when you feel an emotion and act on it without thinking, you’re giving yourself a chance to consider what you’re about to do.
Is this something I’m going to regret?
Will this action enhance my emotion in a positive way or am I acting from a negative headspace?
When you evaluate your mind and body during a meditation, you’ll be able to reflect on the impulses that are pulling you in different directions.
This can make you more resilient to destructive behaviors and enhance positive emotions when you’ve considered their value and how they affect you.
Now You Know
Now you’ve got it. These factors behind meditation show that it can effectively reduce stress and anxiety while offering other personal benefits as well.
Knowing the different benefits of meditation can help you may make the practice a priority in your life.
As you develop better focus and control over your stress, you can find the best kinds of exercises to work into your routine.