What I Learned about Meditation from Using Headspace
I use to be an avid coffee drinker, until the day that I had a severe reaction to an espresso latte— I became faint, nauseated, panicked, anxious, clammy, and couldn’t breathe easily. Honestly, I felt like I was dying. Since then, I’ve discovered that I have caffeine “allergy” and I switched my routine to tea. Due to the lesser concentration of caffeine in teas, I can generally have a cup of caffeinated tea without any symptoms. Now, I often choose to enjoy delicious green or chai teas to get my energy boost in the morning.
However, I noticed that when I am extremely stressed, even caffeinated tea triggers intense feelings of anxiety: faintness, nausea, heaviness in my chest, sensation of my heart racing. I eventually came to the realization that when unchecked my stress not only triggers anxiety but also GI issues. When I’m in this state of intense stress, caffeine triggers what I guess could be considered a “mini anxiety attack”.
In January 2016, I began a fitness routine that I have been able to maintain ever since— though some weeks I am admittedly more inactive than others. There were 3 major factors that led me to become committed to my physical health:
- I gained almost 20-lbs in 1 year, which resulted in me having poor body confidence.
- I then became overly worried with the idea of being diagnosed with diabetes.
- Plus, I got fed up with myself for not dealing with stress in healthy, impactful ways.
Fast-forward a year later...
Though my body was getting stronger and leaner, I still battled with stress induced anxiety and GI issues. One evening, I felt as if my stress/anxiety was truly getting the best of me and I couldn’t identify the stressors that were the trigger. I went to the gym to workout—that helped some but I still felt like crap. I remembered hearing about Headspace, and thought, “Why not? I might as well give it a try.”
As a newbie to Headspace, I was nudged to complete the Take 10 Challenge. The Take 10 Challenge is where you complete 10 minutes of guided meditation for 10 days. After a few days of meditation, I already felt so much more in control of my life and less stress. By the end of the challenge, I knew that I needed to include meditation into my health journey. Plus, I felt the challenge was a great way for me to learn about other benefits of mediation and how to meditate properly.
Here are the 10 Lessons I personally learned about meditation and mindfulness after completing the Headspace Take 10 Challenge:
Meditation is not about eliminating thoughts or feelings.
It is actually just the opposite. Meditation requires you to allow your thoughts to come and go without fighting or getting swept away with them.
Your passing thoughts are a natural process that you shouldn’t fight.
Some thoughts come and go faster than others. Others may linger. There may be times when you are flooded with thoughts. When I fought this process I felt overwhelmed or stressed. When I accepted this process I felt the opposite: relieved and calm.
Meditation is not easy, but gets easier with time.
During my first two Take 10 meditation sessions, my mind was racing! I was constantly running away with my thoughts. By the end of the Take 10 Challenge, I was better able to focus on being in the moment not my thoughts.
Meditation before bed is a great way to relax and prepare for deep, restorative sleep!
Trust me, it's true! Either take my word for it, or read this! A couple of months before I started meditating, I would often have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. The first time I meditated right before bed, falling asleep was effortless and I slept like a baby through the entire night.
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Just like physical exercise, you must intentionally set aside time to meditate, especially when you first start practicing.
Us working woman are busy balancing career, life, and family! If I didn’t actively find a time to meditate during my day, I would remain so entangled in my hustle that I forgot to meditate at all.
If you like to meditate in the morning, set aside ample time to complete your morning routine without rushing.
That way you can continue being mindful as you continue to start your day. Andy from Headspace encourages you to meditate in the morning. The first time I attempted early morning meditation, I scrambled around my house rushing to get to work on time because I didn’t adjust the time I needed to complete my morning routine.
Meditation before exercise can help to boost and focus your energy.
I’m also a firm believer that meditation coupled with physical exercise more effectively reduces stress than either alone.
With regular meditation, you may find that you are better able to leave work at work.
This was definitely the case for me, especially if I meditate right after work. Of course, work can be stressful— even if you are a womenpreneur! Don’t allow work-stress to bleed into other areas of your life.
Make sure you are comfortable before beginning meditation.
During one of my Take 10 meditation sessions the following thoughts were floating around my head: I should have went to the bathroom first, OMG I’m thirsty, my feet are so cold. These thoughts were more distracting to me than others. Haha!
Meditation helps increase patience.
I humbly admit that I am not the most patient person—though I want and I am learning to become one. Meditation has taught me how to be more patient. When I practice meditation, I am practicing mindfulness.
Although exercise does have mental health benefits, I no longer believe that physical exercise is enough. We must exercise our minds too! When developing my exercise routine, I dabbled here and there into yoga. I noticed on days that I practiced yoga I felt lighter, emotionally and physically, as if a tangible burden has been lifted from my shoulders and clouds cleared from my mind. Yoga, like meditation, is a way to practice mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness, either through yoga or meditation, teaches us how to become aware of our current environment, thoughts, and emotions so that we are not impulsively reacting or overwhelmed by what is happening around or inside us.
While climbing the corporate ladder, we are forced to the navigate gender-biases of others. The working experience of women of color is further compounded by having to combat racial/ethnic biases too. It comes as no surprise that as professional women, we are more likely to experience moments of intense stress and anxiety than our male coworkers. It is very important for us to protect and improve our mental health. I have found mediation beneficial to my mental health. I encourage you to start include meditation in your lifestyle because I'm certain you will find it beneficial too!