In these challenging conditions we face today, COVID has not only amplified the general issues we face in our daily lives but also added to it – the risk of unemployment and work opportunities, financial worries, the inability to complete essential training, working from home while providing full time care to our children and so on. The normal outlets we use for health and wellbeing, particularly in Victoria, have been impacted by Stage 4 and 3 restrictions – how, when and where we can exercise, the inability to interact with our social networks and support systems, not being able to visit our dear friends and families. Each of us individually and as a household continue to deal, or have dealt with unique issues, and as a result have been affected by stressors and anxieties on top of what we normally deal with. As a result, there is a larger number of Australians (particularly Victorians) asking for help – demands for mental health services have risen 10-30%, and the Government has pumped in an extra $59.4 million to cope with the demand. It is, therefore, incredibly important to be in tune with how we are feeling, how we have been affected, and what we can do to help ourselves cope in these tough circumstances.
Mental health can be managed in a myriad of ways, including through therapy, exercise and medication. Building in Meditation within our coping strategies can help us work towards long term mental health. Why Meditation you ask? Our minds are incredible processors of information – thoughts, decisions and many other items are processed and stored in an instant. We tap into what has happened, what is happening in the moment and what will happen in the future. If our brains are not properly trained, all of these thoughts, worries, fears, negative self talk create a sense of being overwhelmed – we become distracted, scattered and reactionary. Meditation is a practice that allows you to train your brain to focus, remain calm, to stop and think about how to react, solve problems and decide the best course of action.
As part of the Introduction to Meditation, it is important to analyse its roots, its evolution, evidence on benefits as well as its practicality to understand it and weigh up whether it is good for us. Meditation practice is based on ancient beliefs that make up the component of quite a few eastern religions, going back thousands of years, where followers could reach a state of concentrated focus on an object of thought or to create spiritual awareness. Through devotion, practice and rumination, ultimately one could reach a higher state of consciousness, knowing and enlightenment. For some, each activity, moment, movement is a meditation in itself through taking time to notice and appreciate the smallest things in life – they have achieved a oneness with the world, the universe and an uninhibited mind. The practice of meditation has evolved throughout time – there are a myriad of types of meditation, and many are non-religious. They have developed in such a way that one or a few types of meditation can be utilised to tackle a particular issue, or a type that resonates with the individual to bring benefits. For example, mindful meditation can help you train your brain to bring you into the present, mantra meditation can help reinforce positive thinking, chanting meditation to help your breathing techniques as well as loving-kindness meditation to help you show love towards yourself and others. Scientific evidence has proven that meditation has an array of benefits – it sharpens attention to help us problem solve and remain focused on tasks, it can increase our compassion as well as the effectiveness of our compassion, it can improve mental health coupled with other treatments, reduce stress and impacts on our physical health. Long term, consistent, meditation can also increase our resiliency to stress and form connections within our brain functions. Practically, anyone can take up meditation, it doesn’t have to cost a thing, it can be practiced anywhere anytime (except when you’re on the road!), and there is a real flexibility in meditation as to posture, form and session length.
If you’ve been impacted by COVID and are currently feeling overwhelmed, I suggest incorporating meditation into your daily routine. Personally I like to do it the moment I wake up – it helps me feel calm, relaxed, focused and positive for the day. I made the conscious effort to replace my former morning routine with this when I was in the construction industry – I used to wake up, instantly check the mobile, think about the million things that needed to be done during the day, follow up on the things that hadn’t occurred, as well as rush around trying to focus and be ready for opening or managing site activities. By the time I hit site my mind was in many different directions. With meditation, I started to enjoy the sunrises, the people I worked with, focusing and tackling one problem at a time and more effectively coordinating and managing difficult projects. Many successful and positive leaders attest to the power meditation has had on their working lives to become more effective managers.
Where can you start? Introduce yourself to a 10 minute session of Mindful Meditation – practice for a little while until you feel like you have the hang of it. Over time you will start mastering meditation and be able to increase the duration. Here’s a few other tips for your introductory sessions:
- Wear comfortable clothes
- Ensure you’re warm
- Find a nice, comfortable, quiet corner to practice
- Set up your corner with something to sit on or lie upon
- Think about the position you want to stay in – sitting, standing or lying down
- If you’re sitting or standing, make sure your spine is straight, your head slightly dipped
- If you’re lying down I suggest the “shavasana” yoga pose to ensure you don’t fall asleep
- If you feel that the session is impacting you negatively STOP IMMEDIATELY – contact your health professional
- If you feel that the mindfulness technique is not working for you, look up other meditation techniques and try them out.
After the session, make note of how you feel afterwards physically and mentally, whether you were distracted and what distracted you and any other factors that contribute towards your positive mental health. This will help you in your practice, as well as your ability to look back on the meditation path to assess improvements, changes and benefits.
TWA is running two more meditation sessions to promote mental and physical wellbeing:
These sessions are free and we would love for you to join us.