For almost a year, mediation has been my go-to form of stress relief. You may have seen me in the hallways with my earplugs in and my eyes shut during finals week. I have been swearing by it and recommending it to everyone I know. But a while ago, I started to wonder what exactly I was swearing by. What was mediation actually doing for me?
I decided to do a cleanse one I thought would be less painful than a juice cleanse. But cutting out meditation and reintroducing it to my life proved far harder than I ever thought it would be. For one full week I didn’t meditate at all. That meant no meditative breathing, no body scans, no silent prayers. I had to cut out a million habits that I didn’t realize were so institutionalized in my life.
At first I didn’t notice a difference. I felt fine. Life carried on as usual. But after a couple more days, I started noticing some pretty disturbing side effects. Having given up my main form of stress relief was really affecting me.
I had a constant headache. It was dull but persistent, and ibuprofen wasn’t being the buddy it usually is. I found it harder to focus; I was spacy, and that was mostly because I was so. darn. tired.
I make a consistent sleep regimen a priority in my life. I force myself to be in bed at 11, no later. It’s hard, but it’s a habit I’ve been in for two years. When I stopped meditating I was going to bed later. I stopped forcing myself, and I found myself drifting off at midnight or one.
“Big deal, a lot of kids go to bed at 12. Some even later!” Well, it was a big deal. That hour of sleep disappeared rapidly and I really felt the effects. But besides the general lack of sleep, the quality of my sleep was suffering too.
Without my nightly meditation, my day felt unfinished. I didn’t know what to do before going to sleep. There was no transition between the chaotic mess of life and peaceful sleep. I found myself turning to my phone, and my social media rocked me to sleep.
Now, I’m a big dreamer and I don’t just mean my hopes for the future. I record my dreams, analyze them and try to extract a personal meaning from them. I take my dreams seriously. With my phone putting me to sleep, I was unable to remember my dreams. I’m no sleep scientist, but that didn’t seem like a coincidence to me.
When the week was up, I looked at my notes about the changes I observed. And as shocked as I was, I still found myself skipping my meditation that night. And the next night. And the next. By the time the week was over, my habits had changed. And it wasn’t just my mediation.
Over the week, I got lazy. I stopped taking certain medications, my bed was never made, I wasted away the afternoon napping on the couch. My very together life seemed not so together, which added to the stress that wasn’t being relieved because I was no longer meditating.
I have since reintroduced it back to my life, along with correcting all the other bad habits that formed during my experiment. My mediation is back, my breathing is back and I finally feel more connected with myself and in touch with my body.
The moment I stopped meditating,I stopped taking my health seriously. I didn’t think that mediation was all that important; I loved it, but I didn’t realize the impact it had on me. It was just a routine.
I think we don’t often realize the importance of routines. For example, this particular routine kept me centered. I had so much of my life attached to it. All of my health and personal maintenance practices were connected to it because that was the way I had set it up a year ago. And when one chain in the link fell apart, the whole chain did and in turn, so did Margo.
Only after I gave up mediation did I realize how much I actually needed it. Because mediation was a constant guiding force in my life, I was reaping the benefits. I’m not saying mediation is a godsend, but it’s the closest thing I’ve ever experienced. In keeping with what I’ve said time and time again:
I highly recommend meditation for stress relief. There are many kinds of meditation, and one is bound to fit your needs. There are a ton of free online sites and apps to guide you through meditation if you prefer the instructional route. Resources for dealing with a stressful atmosphere like LOHS are available and they really can help. Give it a try, because, like me, you might be surprised with the difference it can make in your life.