• Days Of Our Chives

5 Ways to Start: Meditation

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Anxiety has crippled me. Both in a sense of never-ending fear, and when the right side of my body goes completely numb. Recently the latter of the two took over my life.

This fear has been something that comes and goes throughout the years. I was first diagnosed with general anxiety disorder at the age of 17, after a particularly rough time in my life. With this diagnosis I was just scratching the surface of of the depths of my mental health, but it was a start. It was in that seventeenth year when the right side of my body went numb for the first time. I was under an incredible amount of stress while preparing to move out of my family's home. Money was tight and my deadline was approaching. I was at work when I lost feeling without warning. I hobbled around for four days before my coworkers urged me to go to the hospital. Naturally, when one half of the body down the midline goes numb you tend to worry about the risk of stroke. The MRI revealed that there was no physiological concern, but my questions as to what happened were not answered.

This cycle of stress and numbness came on sporadically throughout the next few years. In a span of four years it happened maybe five or six times. But this most recent episode, I decided to dig deeper and go to the doctor.

She told me that anxiety and stress in your subconscious can trigger a physiological response, and that I needed to find the root of that stress and resolve it. In this instance I needed to address the fact that I had been neglecting my schoolwork and I would not pass the class. I was prescribed therapy, and meditation before my first appointment in an attempt to regain feeling in my right side. I knew I had to start right away. Here are the steps I took:

1. Prepare yourself

Coming to terms with a course of treatment not traditionally recommended by Western medicine can be challenging for those of us that grew up with the expectation of going to the doctor, getting a pill, and feeling better. Understanding that there isn't a magic pill for everything and you must reach outside of your comfort zone to find relief can be a new concept. It was a concept I had to learn after growing up with that expectation.

2. Guided Meditations

I started using the app Pacifica in September of 2017 and decided it was time to revisit it. Now called Sanvello, it charts your mood (self-reported) and gives you tools to work through your feelings.

When you open the app this is what you see. A slider that allows you to rate your mood based on a Great, Very Good, Good, Okay, Not Good, Bad, or Awful status. The app also allows you to see a line graph of your mood, which makes it easier to see how far you've come. Once you chart your mood you're able to add your feelings.

After you've charted your mood and added feelings, you've got access to the different tools that help you work through those feelings. I've been utilizing the meditation feature, where guided meditations completely restored the feeling in my right side and cleared my mind. I've been forever changed.

3. Reflection and Gratitude

The meditation I worked on yesterday was focused on gratitude. I had the opportunity for the guide of the meditation to remind me to be thankful for the people that love me, for the home that I live in, and for the fact that every day is a new day with new opportunities. I reflected on these ideas in a journal and I plan to continue this pattern.

By practicing gratitude daily, I can feel more connected to the people and experiences around me.

4. Self-guided Meditations

Once you've gotten comfortable with the basic concepts of meditation, you can begin to branch out into self-guided meditations. When I practice these, I put on some relaxing music by searching "spa" on Apple Music and reflect on what's been bothering me. I contemplate how I can act in the future in a troubling situation and remind myself that that situation is behind me.

I can reflect on what has happened, but I cannot change the past. I can only plan for the future.

When I plan for the future I can let go of what was bothering me. This may be different for you, but through the process of reflection I know that I can prepare and release.

5. Full-body Relaxation

I hold most of my tension and stress in my shoulders. It's one of the factors that contributes to my migraines, and by releasing this stress during a meditation I can go forward feeling ready. One of the guided meditations that I did the narrator instructed me to tense a muscle group and then release it in order to relax that part of the body. I've found this to be a helpful tool in finding relief. The other one is to imagine that my body is made of sand, and that the waves of the ocean are slowly shaping it. The waves wash over me and they take the stress with them.

This same sand theory can be applied to whatever environment you choose. A crackling campfire and with each crackle a part of your body is relaxed. A tree where the wind moves the branches. A stream where the force of the water is running over each stone. A thunderstorm where the booms move through your body, and the sound of the rain is cleansing.

There are many ways to practice relaxation as a therapeutic tool. There are many reasons to practice meditation, and if you choose to go forth with this endeavor you may find great peace within yourself.

Catherine Langmack lives in Seattle, WA with her love. She's passionate about tending to her backyard crops, writing, and researching.

If you have practiced meditation and you have some advice, please leave a comment or reach out on Twitter or Instagram.

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