By Sierra Morris, Staff Writer
“I was in a really bad place,” is how I often describe the summer I graduated from college.
The day after I turned 22, I secured a full-time internship and had no time to transition from student to “business woman”. I began working in a maternity home/pregnancy resource center for homeless women in Washington, DC. It was my first time working a 9-to-5. I wore clothes that needed to lay-flat-to-dry, carried a lunch bag with a balanced meal inside, and had a regular commute. Literally, overnight, I became a “professional” but genuinely had no idea what I was doing.
I was also taking two classes (one online, and one 2-hours away in Pennsylvania) so I couldn't work a part-time job that would put extra money in my pockets so I could hang out with my friends on the weekends. Almost immediately, work, school, and financial stress beheaded all of my other emotions and I was overwhelmed with negative energy. Even if I made time to socialize, any positivity I was displaying was an act. I was constantly being followed by the sound of crying babies, the uncertainty of where my commuting money would come from, and the pressure to manage my time effectively so I could graduate at the end of the summer. I was going to church, exercising and "eating right”, and really passionate about the work I was doing at the maternity home, so I had trouble understanding why I was still so weighed down by feelings of stress and anxiety. I thought I would be happy, or at least content.
Silencing the Noise with Meditation
I understand, now, that I couldn’t settle into any positive emotions because I wasn’t taking time in my day to search for them, or let them find me. I was always rushing and not one part of my day was dedicated to silencing the noise – the noise of the city, the noise in my head, and the noise of my monster-like emotions.
Only recently have I discovered the power of meditating for a few minutes a day and the ways that it helps positively impact all aspects of my life. I fall asleep quicker and feel rested in the morning, I can focus at work and get most (if not all) of my tasks done in a timely fashion, and it’s become easier to separate my emotions from one another.
According to Psychology Today, meditating daily can increase your positive emotions and decrease your feelings of stress, aid in your ability to focus, think outside of the box, and remember information, and increases your immune function. Meditation can also help decrease any feelings of loneliness that might be creeping up on you (and if you’re anything like me, you eat when you’re feeling lonely, but that’s an entirely different article…).
There's No One-Size-Fits-All Meditation
With that in mind, it is important to remember that mediation does not look the same for everyone. Some people use mediation as a way to listen when their god responds to their prayers, others might take a walk or find a task they can do with their hands, and for some people it might mean taking a moment to turn everything off and simply exist. You can even incorporate more than one technique into your day, if you wish. My ideal-day full of meditation looks something like: 5-quiet-minutes in the morning to focus on breathing, a quick, technology-free walk outside of my job/home in the afternoon, and indulging in a bath and soothing music at night.
It’s very easy to let stress consume you, especially during transitional periods in your life. Such stress can lead to coping in unhealthy ways, like binge eating, binge drinking, binge procrastinating (yes - that is a thing and I am a survivor), and everything else we do to distract ourselves in destructive ways. Some of those might've worked in undergrad, but won't hold-up so well in the real world...
Begin Your Practice
If you’re feeling like you want to begin de-cluttering your mind in preparation for that new gig (or if you want to get ahead in your current position), schedule time in your day to relax. Even if you can't sit still or hate when a room is quiet, be sure to take a deliberate break so that when you walk away from those meditative moments you’re focused, free of negativity, and confident. You’ll begin feeling more motivated, start getting more accomplished at work, and you’ll have less (if any) anxiety when you’re out with your family and friends.
Leaving your comfortable campus-life behind for the corporate world doesn’t have to be scary or stressful once you learn to dedicate some time to clearing your head each day. Get comfortable and start with a few wind-down minutes here and there, and soon, the benefits of meditation will be adding clarity to parts of your life you didn't realize were muddled.