BLOG 221: TOO STRESSED TO MEDITATE? HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO HELPJun 27, 2023
I think most of us know by now that meditation is a fantastic practice for our mental health and wellbeing. Many people swear by it for reducing stress, restoring calm, and helping us stay present and grounded.
However, knowing that meditation has so many benefits doesn’t mean that it is an easy habit to adopt. When we’re feeling busy and stressed, it is hard to set aside a pocket of time to spend meditating.
Even when we do find the time, we can often find ourselves getting frustrated. Our racing brains are packed full of thoughts, and we might struggle to find that sense of peace and calm we’re looking for.
If this sounds like you, I hope this blog post will help. It is inspired by a conversation I had recently on the Face Yoga Podcast.
I was joined by Kelly Ryan, a meditation teacher, breathwork facilitator, and Reiki expert. Kelly discovered meditation at a particularly difficult point in her life, when she was feeling overwhelmed by stress from trying to juggle her career, her family life, and living with a chronic disease.
Meditation made a huge difference to Kelly’s life. After just a couple of weeks of making it a daily practice, she found that she felt happier, calmer, and more present. She was more connected to herself and to her loved ones. And even the pain from her psoriatic arthritis diminished.
Kelly went on to open a meditation centre in San Francisco. She became qualified as a meditation teacher, and then followed up with certifications in breathwork and Reiki. She’s passionate about sharing the benefits of meditation with others.
In the meantime, I wanted to share some of the tips from our chat to help you get started with meditation, even when you feel too busy or too stressed.
1. START SMALL
This tip really resonated with me because it is the same advice that I give to people who are wondering how to get started with face yoga. The best way to get started with meditation, face yoga, or any other wellness habit is to start small.
When Kelly first started meditating daily, she just made the commitment to do five to ten minutes a day. And she was quickly amazed by how much of a difference that short time made to the rest of her day.
When you are busy and stressed, trying to fit a new daily practice into your packed schedule can feel overwhelming. But if you start small, it becomes much more manageable.
Then, when you see how much better that small daily commitment makes the rest of your day, it will be easier to be consistent and keep going with it.
2. DO IT IN THE MORNING
Everyone’s mornings look different and I’m aware that this tip may not work for everyone. However, if you can carve out even just a small pocket of time first thing in the morning, Kelly recommends trying to use it for meditation.
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, on a practical level, if you aim to meditate first thing and don’t manage to find the time, you still have the rest of the day to fit it in.
Secondly, doing meditation in the morning can really help to set a framework for the rest of your day. Kelly likes to start with some breathwork and gratitude, then set an intention for how she wants the day to look and how she wants to show up.
Finally, our minds are often most receptive to meditation when we first wake up. It is the time when our subconscious brains are most active, and we find it easiest to get into that deeper, meditative state.
3. INCLUDE YOUR CHILDREN
This one is for the parents who are reading, especially those of us who are busy mums. As a working mum to my two wonderful daughters, I know just how busy life can get when we’re trying to balance our careers and our families.
Sometimes squeezing in time for self-care too can feel hard. I’m a huge advocate for carving out time for yourself – far from being selfish, it is vital to make sure you have the resources you need to show up for your busy life without burning out.
However, you also don’t need to always find time to yourself in order to meditate. Children can get huge benefits from joining us in our meditation practice, if they are interested and open to doing so.
As a rule of thumb, Kelly suggests aiming for the same number of minutes as your children’s age in years.
Don’t push it though – most children will go through phases of being more or less interested in meditation. What is more important is that they see you setting an example and making meditation a priority.
4. FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
When we think of meditation, we usually think of someone sitting in lotus pose, eyes closed, and body still.
But meditation can look different depending on what you are drawn to and what you need in the present moment. The most important thing is to find what works for you, not what you think meditation ought to look like.
For example, I’m sometimes drawn to walking meditation. At other times, I’ll settle into child’s pose and focus on my breathing. Or I might place my hands on my body and do some visualisation exercises, or work with the chakras.
You can experiment to find what works best for you. Perhaps you prefer to lie down instead of sitting. Maybe you respond best to breathwork or prefer a guided visualisation.
There is no wrong way to meditate. Having a few different options in your toolkit will mean you always have something to turn to when you need to find that sense of calm and centredness.
5. PRACTICE NOT PERFECTION
Another important message that applies to meditation, but also other forms of wellness, is that it is not about perfection. We talk about meditation as a practice for a reason – it is about the journey, not about arriving at a destination.
Lots of people think they can’t meditate because they can’t stop thinking lots of thoughts. But this is completely normal – of course your mind is going to be thinking, that’s what it is designed to do.
The key with meditation is not to try to shut off those thoughts but instead to stop yourself from getting carried away by them. So, when thoughts come up, we try to notice them and then let them go and bring our awareness back to our breath, or a mantra, or whatever you are using as your focus.
Just like anything else, this becomes easier the more we do it. Meditation is a way of strengthening your ability to observe your thoughts and then bring your attention back to the present. And like working a muscle at the gym, the more we do it, the stronger we get.
A tip to help with this is to notice your thoughts with a sense of curiosity and fascination, instead of judging yourself. So, you might think to yourself, “huh, my mind is definitely busy today”, or “I’m really feeling some strong emotions about that, how interesting”.
6. BE ACCOUNTABLE
Something I have noticed about myself is that I am much better at being consistent if I have someone else holding me accountable.
For example, when I did my Reiki 1 and 2 training, I got into a really great consistent practice of doing self-Reiki first thing in the morning. And the reason I was able to maintain that habit was because I’d been asked to do it as part of my training, so there was something holding me accountable.
If you are like me, you might find it helpful to have a meditation buddy or to sign up to a structured programme to give you that accountability.
Of course, some people really hate that sense of having to do something because someone else tells them to, so this won’t work for everyone. If you are more like this, you might find you thrive more when you build that sense of accountability to yourself, instead of someone else.
For Kelly, a big part of maintaining a consistent practice has been noticing the effect it has on her parenting. Because she feels anchored and grounded in herself, she’s able to be a calmer and more present parent.
In other words, there are lots of different ways to hold yourself accountable. Finding one that has meaning for you can help you make meditation a regular habit.
Whether you are new to meditation entirely or are looking to get back into a regular habit, I hope you’ve found these tips helpful.
If you’d like a short, simple guided meditation to help you get started, Kelly kindly shared a quick example during our podcast episode – you’ll find it at around 16:32 and it is just two minutes long.
And if you do have a little longer and can set some dedicated time aside for deep self-care, I currently have a bundle of four amazing face yoga workshops available via my online shop. They are two hours each and include facial exercises, facial massage, acupressure, relaxation and wellness techniques.
Each workshop has a different focus and is accompanied by a PDF with the main takeaways. You also get lifetime access to the content, so you can enjoy the workshops whenever you have a bit of time for self-care.