Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.wikipedia
Before I suffered with anxiety I had never meditated or used any kind of mindfulness techniques. That was not something I needed and had never looked into it.
But then anxiety hit – hard. And whilst I managed to overcome leaving the house and being able to do things alone; travel by tube, bus and train were my Achilles heel. I had read articles about an app called Headspace, and I also followed a few people on Instagram who used it and said it was the best one. I decided nothing ventured, nothing gained so signed up for a free trial. For anyone who has never used it, firstly download it now, but also in a nutshell its full of meditation guides to help you destress, sleep, overcome anxiety all sorts of mental health issues. The guy who owns it and does the talking has one of the most calming voices ever. And it really did change things for me.
Having never done anything like this before I was sceptical and thought how can someone talking to you and instructing you to breathe and calm your body down help. But help it did. There was a certain guide I used for when I tried to travel by train, and it just got me to focus on my breathing and less on my surroundings which was what panicked me. And it really did work, before I knew it I was pulling up to my stop. I had blips and sometimes I could feel the panic rising in my stomach when trains got busy or stopped for no reason and I started to feel trapped, but I just focused on my breathing again to calm myself down. I stopped using it when I moved away from London as I did not need it anymore for travel (I can even use tubes relatively OK now for a few stops at least). Planes are still not my favourite but I have flown in the last two years and hope to again soon, I just end up chewing the ear off my companion!!! (Sorry J).
I have recently signed up to a new subscription – during lock down I was furloughed from my job and Headspace were offering a free year subscription for those unemployed or furloughed. Which I think is an amazing gesture from the company as mental health is SO important, and lock down has affected us all in different ways. I thought it would be handy to have, the app is still on my phone and I never know when I might need it again. Not necessarily for anxiety but for mindfulness, to just calm down and destress and to help me sleep as I have issues sometimes. Check out the website for Headspace and let me know if you have ever used it or want to give it a go.
On the subject of sleep or lack of, if I am worried or things are on my mind I can’t sleep. I have had insomnia episodes for years and it drives me crazy. After my step into meditation I looked up YouTube videos of guides to help sleep and happened upon one which I have been using for a few years now. I would say it works about 95% of the time. Very often, unless my mind just wont switch off, I fall asleep during it and don’t even get to the end. When I wake up in the morning I sometimes think oh I did not even get to the walking in the woods bit!
I cant really explain why or how it works but it starts by relaxing your whole body limb by limb and then if you get to the end of that you imagine yourself walking through this wood. I think it just stops me personally from overthinking things that might be happening in my life, switches off that side of the brain and just relaxes me. Then I fall asleep! Its not something that I thought would ever work for me but it does. I have linked it below if anyone wants to try it.
Another lovely health issue I have which all ties in with anxiety and insomnia, are migraines. I also have tension headaches which increased this past year and had a few recently too.
Exercise helps and when I have a really bad migraine attack (cant function, pain in right eye, sickness, aversion to light type one) I have to take hardcore prescribed drugs. I have been using them less and less now as I was getting immune to them, and I was hospitalised this year with a really bad one and was told I was using them too much. So I try and get rid of them with more natural techniques like warm compress on the neck, cold compress on forehead. Paracetamol and Ibuprofen can help if they are bad. The other day after a bad migraine and I still had a niggle, I found a meditation video on YouTube for migraines and thought I would give it a go. I fell asleep during it which was very helpful and woke up with no headache. Maybe it was coincidence or maybe I just needed sleep but I will try it again and see if it works.
So there is my little journey into the art of meditating. You don’t need any fancy gadgets, any expensive tools or apps. Just google tutorials, YouTube videos and give it a go.
Have a good week x