MayCember Meditation

It’s a stressful time for a lot of people — teachers/school employees, parents and kids, especially. Some people call May “MayCember” because it’s the time of year when there are a million extra activities on top of all the other normal everyday stuff you have to get done. It’s a lot.

So, today, I’m just leaving this beautiful image right here for you to gaze at for five seconds while drinking your morning coffee and contemplating the never ending to-do list. I hope you have some time this weekend to just relax and be still. It might seem frivolous to do nothing. Trust me, it’s essential from time to time. Did you know five seconds of being mindful of your breathing and nothing else counts as meditation?

I want to be on this boat right now with a thermos of hot coffee and a really good book.

Maybe I Need A Timeout

So, I woke up feeling agitated about something this morning. And I was laying in bed just ruminating and getting more worked up. And then I remembered a tool I always have in my back pocket anytime I need it: my breath. Thanks to the regular use of my favorite mindfulness app Headspace for the past few years, I have built up all kinds of tools and mechanisms for when I feel angry, sad, stressed, overwhelmed or just in need of a break. 

#1 is always go back to the breath. When we are stressed our breaths become shallow and restricted, which depletes our oxygen levels and makes us feel worse. Spend a few minutes focusing on helping your breath normalize. When we take a slower, deeper breath and hold it at the top for a moment or two before letting it back out, it sends a signal to the brain that things are OK. 

So, when you begin your day at 5:45 am already stressed like I did, try some relaxed breathing. Or check out Headspace and take advantage of their free trial offer. Maybe you could also look up free meditation videos on YouTube if that’s more your thing.  The point is to find something that works, and revisit it when you need it. 

Let’s Talk About Stress

stress-emoji

Several of my friends and acquaintances have recently talked to me about how stressful and busy their January has been so far. And I agree with them. I’ve taken on a lot of new responsibilities, but also still have all the usual ones. It’s been a flurry of activity. The coziness and fun of the holidays is long gone, and here in the frozen north, we are now left with a lot of winter still to enjoy endure.

So, how do we not just cope, but thrive? That’s the key, isn’t it? We don’t want to just slog our way through our days.

If we are constantly stressed out, we will have too much cortisol, the “stress hormone”, pumping through our systems. This can lead to disruptions in sleep, metabolism, energy levels, blood sugar regulation and serotonin levels (which help keep our mood stable), amongst other maladies. However, cortisol isn’t the enemy. In fact, it’s a necessary hormone for a lot of reasons. It will give us a quick burst of energy in the event of an emergency (like running away from an attacker). It helps up our immunity and resistance to pain in acute situations. But it’s when we have constantly high levels of cortisol that our bodies do not function properly.

So how do we keep our stress levels in check? Here are some things I recommend:

  • Turn off the news. Now more than ever, it’s important to periodically turn off the 24 hour/day news channels full of constantly “Breaking News”. This goes for Twitter and other social media. Turn off your phone. Turn off talk radio. Turn off the t.v. It’s called a news fast, and I think it’s vital to our mental well being.
  • Exercise. This doesn’t necessarily mean running full steam on the treadmill or doing extreme cardio classes. If your stress levels are really high, high-intensity exercise probably isn’t your best bet. Activities like yoga, barre, hiking outside and swimming might be better for the time being.
  • Rest. Give yourself some time off. Read a book, have a cup of tea, take a nap. Get 8 hours of sleep a night. Seriously.
  • Get plenty of sunshine. Even in the dead of winter, getting outside and seeing the sun is important. Even on my most anxious of days, if I walk the dog in the fresh air and sunshine, I always feel better. Check out my post about the importance of getting outside here.
  • Magnesium. You can read the post on magnesium I wrote last year. (Never take a supplement or over the counter medication without approval from your practitioner). I take 200 mg of magnesium citrate each night before bed. It helps relax my muscles and my nervous system. Start small on dosing, as it can cause, ahem, loose stools.
  • Cut back on alcohol. I know. But it works.
  • Eat regularly. Skipped meals can cause blood sugar irregularities and contribute to excess cortisol. Make sure you keep your blood sugar in check by eating regularly.
  • Meditate. Check out my post on meditation here. I swear by it.
  • Give yourself a break. It sounds so superficial, but you *must* take time for yourself if you hope to have the energy to take care of everyone else in your life.  Whatever helps you feel calm and centered, do it on a regular basis.

We live in a culture where being constantly busy and stressed is valued. Why is that? It’s silly. We’ll all wake up in our 80’s or 90’s (God willing) and wonder what the heck happened.

I’m constantly struggling with maintaining some sort of homeostasis, just like everyone else. Just because I have all these tools doesn’t mean I’ve mastered any of it. But it has helped me to identify where I can make some tweaks and changes. Maybe this post will help you too!

Is there something that works for you that I haven’t listed? Please leave a comment! And as always, please share this post if you liked it. You can also sign up to receive all my posts in your email inbox. How great is that?! Just click where it says “Follow Blog Via Email”.