Growing up, I never liked anything that required me to be still. As I transitioned into adulthood, I learned to love those quiet moments where I am not required to do anything but rest and reset. It was around the time I started working at an elementary school that I would come home and crave the total opposite of my day: stillness and silence. So I started looking up yoga and meditation videos on YouTube. I could not have foreseen how much of a meditation enthusiast I would become.
Almost 3 years later, I decided to start a meditation challenge in order to improve my mood during work hours. Since the time I started checking out YouTube videos, I transitioned from being a school teacher to running a few online businesses. While I adore working from home, one of the cons of being your own boss is that clocking out feels almost impossible.
I live in a small studio apartment, so I literally go to sleep where I work. While going to coffee shops from time to time helped me stick to a schedule, it was really challenging for my brain to separate my free time from my work hours. I ended my days drained and sick of thinking so much. Even when I was not working I was still “in the office,” so all I could think about was how to improve my business. Eventually, this took an emotional toll on me which led me to set this challenge for myself: 15 minutes of meditation for 30 days.
One of the biggest benefits has been stopping anxiety in its tracks. Whenever I started feeling myself taking short breaths (or holding my breath), and my mind beginning to race with negative thoughts, I forced myself to stop and meditate for 15 minutes. This got my breathing to deepen and slow; my racing mind to focus on one positive mantra, and my facial muscles to relax. I could bring myself back to a normal state before my anxiety had the chance to grow into a panic attack. 15 minutes was nothing compared to the amount of productivity time I would lose if I let anxiety run the show.
A less dramatic but definitely worth mentioning benefit was that my eyes got a much needed break from screen-time. I did not realize how much more tired I feel when my eyes are irritated and barely able to focus. Giving my eyes a generous screen time break in the middle of the afternoon made me feel as energized as if I had just taken a nap. Whenever my eyes were extra tired, I would do a longer meditation, or pair my meditation with anything that did not require screen time: washing dishes, a shower, a workout.
A shocking realization during this challenge was how terrible I am at breathing! I never noticed how often I hold my breath while typing away on my laptop, or how little air I actually take in. Meditating in the middle of the day set the rhythm of my breathing, and made me feel how good it was to fill up my lungs as I took consecutive deep belly breaths. I felt the same relief we get from drinking a glass of water when thirsty.
Meditating not only replenished my energy to finish my work day strong, but it also allowed me to focus for longer periods of time. While I work away on many different projects, it can be hard to select one thing to work on and get it done in a certain amount of time. When I meditated, it was like untangling Christmas lights (a.k.a. all the thoughts in my head) and being able to grasp one thought at a time rather than a pile of nonsense and to-do tasks.
Long after this meditation challenge, I have continued to meditate regularly. While there are days I choose to take a power nap instead, I do find myself more aware of meditation as an ever available resource that I know has the power to turn my day around in a short 15-minute break. This awareness has given me the power to face difficult days, win over negative thinking, and simply breathe in all the oxygen I can. It has been a very liberating thing to find myself in control of my anxiety, and to be the one that puts a stop to it before it stops me. I look forward to experiencing long term benefits from this practice, but for now, I am thrilled to enjoy meditation one day at a time.
Would you ever take a meditation challenge?
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Photo: Javardh, Renata Hille