I know, there are some weird connotations that go along with meditation, and even more so, the people who meditate. You either imagine a spiritual shaman at the top of a mountain or your high school art teacher who was really into yoga or the person who sells homemade soaps at farmer's markets--nothing wrong with any of those people, but not everyone can or wants to integrate meditation or spirituality into every aspect of his or her lifestyle. From where I'm sitting (or shall I say meditating) I think most people, particularly stressed college students, should practice some form of mindfulness. Especially if you are anything like me.
As the end of the semester has been approaching, my tests, homework, activities, and responsibilities have been piling up. I tend to take on a lot of responsibility and fill my schedule to the brim--both a personal choice as well as a need to stay busy, ahead, and constantly building that lovely resumé. On top of my schedule, I maintain some semblance of a social life and personal relationships, which of course are never without drama and stress. So where is the time for me, just myself? Up until now, I solely turned to working out to help me relieve stress and to give myself personal attention. But even though running, cycling, yoga, and pilates are great, they still weren't relieving my stress fully.
I'm certain most of you are in the same boat as I am, or at least some variation--canoe, cargo ship, kayak, take your pick.
So, the turning point. The discovery. Whatever we want to call it. Monday of this week, I drudged through my class schedule, returned to my room, and plopped down on my bed feeling burnt out and particularly stressed. Next, I opened up Instagram to intake my dose of useless content for the day. One of the first things I came across was a recommendation for an app which helps you pair workouts with meditation. I already had a run and pilates class scheduled for my afternoon, so it seemed like I could integrate the app immediately.
Unfortunately, I downloaded the app, named "KAIT," and found out you have to pay for a subscription. There is a free trial that I signed up for, despite having no intention or budget to pay for it after the trial is up. The app is very personalized to your goals, preferences, lifestyle, and interest. I really recommend at least trying it out, and if you have the money, subscribing!
So next I looked up some different free apps, the key word being FREE. I ended up getting "Simple Habit" which, like the name implies, allows you to practice simple, unintimidating, and realistic meditation. Because wellness, mindfulness, meditation is a trend at the moment, there are tons of apps out there, so if either of these don't suit your fancy, another one likely will. Also, you technically don't need an app! You can do it on your own. But, if you don't know how to get started or have a wandering mind like mine which draws me back to my stresses and 'to-do's', then you should utilize guided meditation apps or YouTube videos.
I took the first step. I sat down on my bed, headphones in, criss-cross applesauce, and clicked on a 5-minute meditation. Although I think I may have weirded out my roommate a bit, I felt refreshed and relaxed after my meditation. I expected the 5 minutes of sitting and listening to a strangers voice would feel like a lifetime, but it went by extremely fast. For the rest of the week, I have started my day with a morning meditation and finished my day with a sleep-promoting meditation. For me, mindfulness has reduced my stress, improved my sleep, and provided me with a small part of the day to simply focus on myself and reflect.
Keep in mind when you meditate that your mind doesn't have to be completely blank or free from thought. Don't stress yourself out over something that is supposed to destress you! Let it be natural, don't put too much pressure on the experience, and you don't have to "get it right." So give it a try as I did! It may help with your stress levels, attention span, or sleep. But if it doesn't, you won't lose much by trying it.