Where do you think my first stop was after delivering my ‘Building Stress Resiliency’ workshop?
I’ll give you one guess.
McDonalds. You got it. And yes, I see the irony/hypocrisy.
I had just finished delivering my workshop about building stress resiliency, and here I was, just moments from closing my car door, when I pulled up to the Golden arches and rolled down my window to give my order.
My first narrative was, “You should know better than this. (There’s that darn “should” statement again. More on that later). You’ve not only been working on this for years, but you counsel this to others. You teach this as well! You literally just came from teaching this course.”
That voice was not so nice. It was quite judgemental and unkind.
That nasty voice was a flashing signal for me to stop, just breathe, and take a few minutes to meditate, which is exactly what I did. I spent five minutes in my car, focusing on my breathing, using the words, ‘breathe in’ on the inhale and ‘breathe out’ on the exhale. That’s when something interesting happened. Another voice popped up, but this one was more gentle, loving and forgiving.
This one said to me, “Jaime, you’re totally exhausted. You’ve been dealing with sick kids for weeks now, which has significantly impacted your sleep. You were up with the baby all night and then the toddler came in the other nights seeking comfort and connection at 1:00am, 3:00pm and 4:00am. It’s miraculous that you could string a sentence together. All this on top of regular work, four kids, and clients in the evenings. The only way you are getting out of here alive is with compassion, patience, and forgiveness for yourself. It’s been a rough few weeks, but this will pass. Just hang on. But for now, let’s make one different decision in this situation. You didn’t have dinner, so that also makes things a bit harder to make a good choice. I’m not looking for perfection. There is no such thing. Just make one different decision. One tweak.”
So instead of ordering the Big Mac meal with extra mac sauce, French fries and a coke, I ordered a McChicken sandwich and called it a day. Was it healthy? Nope. But I eliminated the soft drink, the French fries and swapped out the burger for chicken. Good enough. What’s that saying, “Don’t let the best be the enemy of good.” But here’s the most important part. I was okay with it. If you remember in my last article, we talked about the main goal being to have a healthy relationship with food. That’s it. We are not looking for perfection.
Here’s the other important part. I could not have made that different decision had I not taken the time to breathe and meditate. The space created by the meditation allowed me to check in with my rational and compassionate voice, which resulted in a different decision.
I used a breathing meditation, but there are many other forms of meditation that might work for you. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. I’d like to give you a few options so that you can try them out and see what feels right for you.
Guided mediation is where you listen to someone else guide you through a meditation that can include guided imagery, visualization or just putting you into a relaxed state. I use the Calm app but Headspace is another great one as well. Try out a few to see which feels right for you.
Mantra Meditation is when you silently repeat a calming word, though or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts. You can use, ‘breathe in/breathe out’, ‘I’m okay’, ‘I’m safe’.
Mindfulness Meditation is an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment. You broaden your conscious awareness by focusing on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath, thoughts and emotions.
There are a number of other mediations but these are just a few to get you started.
I do want to take a moment to share with you the benefits of meditation because there are just so many. To start, people who meditate on a regular basis have enhanced empathy, higher alpha waves (reduced feelings of negative mood, tension, sadness and anger), decreased blood pressure, increased immune system, reduced damage to DNA and lower cell death, increased attention on the present and reduced destructive thoughts, new perspectives on stressful situations and increased self-awareness.
Do you need any more convincing? Give mediation a try. If one doesn’t feel right for you, don’t give up. Try another one. Yoga is another wonderful form of mediation. There are walking meditations as well. You may have to try a few until you get the right fit. Just don’t give up. I know there are stressful days, weeks, months and even years that seem like it won’t end. It will pass. Just hang on.
Hope is critical. It is almost mandatory to solider through troubled times. Hopelessness can be contagious. But hope can be, too, and there is no medicine to match it.Mitch Albom