From Overwhelmed to Overjoyed – How This Working Mom Found Sanity in 20 Minutes a Day
As a working mom, I had experienced so much stress for so long, it became normal. Seriously, it was like a friend. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I wasn’t running somewhere with my impossibly long list of things to do. I remember listening to a co-worker lament one day about how long it had been since she had been to the spa. As I halfheartedly listened, I remember thinking, “My idea of a spa day is an uninterrupted trip to the bathroom.” This was not sarcasm. This was an honest, eye-opening assessment of my life. Not long after this, I realized things had to change.
I looked around for ideas, asked friends, Googled away at all the appropriate key words, went to the doctor, etc. I had loads of suggestions, ranging from acupuncture to Xanax. The Xanax appealed; I’m not gonna lie. After lots of thought about what would work best for me, I decided to give meditation a try. There are a number of low cost strategies people can use that can have dramatic results. In my opinion, meditation is the easiest to begin and the most effective. The benefits of meditation are not only profound; they were tailor made for the challenges I was facing as a working mom.
I often felt tired, overworked, and frustrated. Basically, I was overwhelmed. Most of us feel this way at one time or another, but sustained periods of stress can lead to long term health challenges. If this sounds like you, meditation may be the answer. I would not say meditation will eliminate the challenges we face in our day to day lives, but it does reduce stress levels and it has a significant impact on your sense of well being.
The benefits of meditation are profound. Meditation has been proven to reduce inflammation, increase immunity, restore emotional balance, and lower blood pressure. It costs nothing and takes very little time to do. Clearly there are life changing and even transformational benefits to this ancient practice. If it’s so fantastic, why is it not more prevalent?
There are two primary reasons. To begin with, most people don’t know what to expect. They make a few attempts, don’t feel anything or wonder if they are doing it right, then give up. I was definitely one of those people. I tried it a couple times just for kicks in my early twenties. But I absolutely didn’t “get” it. I was sitting there, trying to concentrate on my breathing and it took 90 seconds tops for my mind to start wandering. Thoughts started racing through my mind. “Did I feed the dogs this morning?” “How long does it take eggs to expire?” “Oh right, concentrate, breathe.” “Is Elvis alive and pumping gas in Arkansas? That would be awesome.” “I don’t think this is working.” Then, like any other self respecting, overworked and overwhelmed person, I decided, “It’s not me; it just doesn’t work.”
If you are new to the meditative arts, I suggest guided meditation. There are dozens of guided meditation recordings available through YouTube, so there is no expense to trying it. This type of meditation eliminates the “Am I doing this right?” moments from the equation. By guiding the thoughts towards relaxation, it helps beginners develop their concentration skills. Quieting the mind is difficult for anyone, let alone someone worrying about their kids, their jobs, PTA meetings, soccer games, feeding the dog and doctor appointments. By focusing on the guide’s direction, stressors and the “things to do” list slowly fade from the mind. These thoughts are replaced with deep breathing, soothing thoughts, and total relaxation.
There is another equally compelling reason people don’t take advantage of this practice. Most people see the benefits on a superficial level, but deep down they don’t know how it works. So, they don’t truly believe it works. To be honest, I always wondered how or better yet, if, meditation truly worked. It seemed liked bunk. How could sitting quietly in a room and deep breathing have major impacts on my life? Intuitively you can see that in the short term your stress would be reduced, but long term, positive impacts on my overall life? It didn’t seem likely.
So how does it work? The regulated breathing pattern releases accumulated stress in the system in two ways. It decreases a stress-related hormone called Cortisol that has many adverse effects on the body, including weight gain. It also increases Serotonin. Serotonin is a compound that improves mood and your overall sense of well being. In addition to the many stress reducing benefits meditation provides, studies have shown that it boosts the immune system, increases your energy and decreases tension-related pain,
Bottom line, it’s free, it’s relatively easy to do, it can be done in minutes a day and it can significantly improve your life. Try it! Other than stress, what have you got to lose?