Have you ever found yourself in a stretch of time in which you feel that your mind, emotions, and body are overhwelmed with continuous stressors and an underlying sense of never resting? The past several weeks have felt this way for me; I have frequently fallen asleep worrying about something and waking up with my thoughts immediately returning to those same worries. There is an underlying sensation of anxiety at all times, and the stress of being at work is actually a welcome escape for the mind to be preoccupied with other concerns. I think that a combination of stressors and lack of sleep over the past several weeks has made me feel totally run down and burnt out. Sometimes it can be difficult to decompress and unload, especially when the time seems to be sucked up by one task and then another one. Talking out the worries and concerns is certainly helpful, but I found myself needing a quieter, more introspective outlet that does not leave me feeling more caught in the thoughts tumbling through my mind.
In recent years, Western cultures have welcomed the art of meditation as a way to take respite from daily stressors. Admittedly, however, it is quite challenging to sit quietly and try to think of nothing (have you ever tried this?) It takes great discipline to focus the mind away from the triggers and distractions that beg for our attention all day long. I found that listening to a soothing background noise really aids in the process of relaxing. There are a number of apps available that provide meditation tips, soothing words, and calm background sounds. The apps often include the sounds of the ocean, a flowing stream, gentle music, nighttime crickets, or wind and birds in a natural setting. I personally prefer listening to rain falling, and this is my go-to sound byte for relaxation. There is something about the sound of rain and soft, rolling thunder that lulls me into a wonderful calm. Two of my favorite meditation apps are Calm and Deep Calm (I’m so predictable). You can adjust the various settings in Deep Calm to include or exclude music, and personalize the various scenes (such as “Sea of Tranquility” and “Lake at Dusk”). Calm allows you to choose a dynamic scene with the appropriate sounds (i.e. crashing waves on a shore, rain falling through leaves, or a sunny field with the sound of the wind in the grass blades). It also gives you the option of listenting to the “7 Steps of Calm” if you like some verbal direction in meditation.
We have moved away from the focus on multi-tasking which has been shown to actually decrease effectiveness and productivity. Purposefully sitting quietly for 10-20 minutes a day to meditate and be silent seems like it would have numerous benefits for our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Perhaps carving out this small section of our day would improve our quality of life deeply, or at least give us a break from the usual hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Do you have a favorite way to unwind?