As a teen, my best friend Jess would describe me as highly-strung. My Mum once told me I suffered ‘with the nerves’ as a kid and had I been living in Victorian Britain it’s certain I’d have been prescribed bed rest for months at a time.
I was rather brash and arrogant on the outside but really I was neurotic, anxious and suffered with stress-induced IBS for many years, as I internalized all of my worries and never knew it wasn’t normal to be in a constant state of worry and physical pain.
Meditation just wasn’t for me
Only recently was I encouraged to get into meditation and at first I was rather reluctant, viewing it as a frivolous, hippyish activity that I didn’t have the time or the patience for. But I did some research and realised it doesn’t have to be done in a commune and doesn’t include much ‘ohhm’ing and is something you can pretty much mould to fit your own lifestyle and schedule.
Over the last year or so I have tried a few different apps to help me on my meditating journey but nothing really stuck. Then, for my birthday this year, I received a Muse headband and subscription. Having a gadget is always a sure fire way to make me take something more seriously and it wasn’t long until I was hooked.
Find what works for YOU
The app has a number of different types of meditations, all with different aims. It has short sessions where you can choose from:
- learning breathing techniques
- controlling your thoughts
- keeping still
- slowing your heartrate
then with much longer, guided meditations that talk you though a huge amount of specific situations, focusing on things like:
- and loads more.
The headband measures various metrics whether it’s your heart rate, breathing or your brain activity. It knows when you are calm or anxious, it knows when you are still or moving. It knows when you are focused or your mind is wandering.
You don’t have to believe in the science behind it, but what I can tell you is that I show a marked improvement with every session. I am more easily able to bring my thoughts back when they start wandering, I can actually control my heart rate when it starts to accelerate and I’ve even found this helpful in real life stressful situations.
Stress whilst flying
A few weeks ago I was flying alone. I’ve done it a hundred times and I’m basically fine with flying but I’m not at my most relaxed. I was up early and had a coffee, which instantly upset my stomach. It felt quite uncomfortable and while I was on the plane I started to spiral. I was panicking, my heart rate increasing, the pain in my stomach growing as I sat and worried about falling ill on the plane. But I realised I was panicking, sat up straight, closed my eyes and focused on my breathing. I told myself that the worst thing that can happen is I get up and lock myself in the bathroom for a while until I feel better. I had Immodium in my bag, in case I felt I needed it. People get sick, it’s fine. After just a few minutes my heart slowed, I stopped sweating and I managed to doze off for the rest of the flight.
Before a big meeting
Now I find I am able to control my reactions in so many real life scenarios. Before a big work meeting recently I found myself getting more and more nervous, my breathing got quick and shallow, but it was so easy for me to use a few tips I’d learned from Muse and calm myself down in no time.
Helping you get to sleep
When I can’t sleep and my mind is running a thousand miles an hour I’m able to recognise what’s happening (already a huge step forward) and I have ways to bring my mind back into myself and clear it, ready for sleep.
Stop obsessing over work
When I’m trying to just enjoy my weekend or my evening and my brain keeps throwing up work related thoughts, it’s so frustrating. Even if they aren’t stressed thoughts or worries, it’s hard to properly relax and enjoy downtime when all you’re thinking about is work. Again, spotting this happening is a huge start and having the internal tools to break the habit means you can stop yourself each time it happens, enjoy your down time and come back to work fully refreshed.
My new super power!
All in all, it feels amazing. Being able to control where your brain goes, being able to control your breathing, or your heart rate feels like a full on super power. Maybe some people take those talents for granted but I’m sure many people, like me, always believed that their thoughts were in the driving seat, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Muse may not be the app for you, but there will be one that takes your fancy. You don’t need to be a ‘hippy’ and you don’t need to be super stressed to enjoy meditation. It’s a great way to take 5-10 mins for yourself and just relax at least, and at most, it can be a gateway to a whole new way of working with your own brain.