If you were to ask my husband to describe me, he would probably start with ‘bloody mental’. I am a bit scatty, I get all flustered sometimes when I am trying to hold a conversation and let my thoughts run away with themselves. I am also ridiculously emotional since having my daughter and find myself overthinking things and getting incredibly anxious. I think being a stay at home mum has made the tiny things that would never usually have bothered me, into big things that take over my thoughts and it can be hard to get perspective. I go through weird little phases of finding it a little overwhelming to leave the house so I become a little hermit for a few days, which obviously make me even worse. I have done a lot of research on how to make myself calmer, more present and reduce my anxiety and one thing that kept cropping up was meditation. Meditation isn’t just something you do straight off the bat, you have to learn to meditate.
Learning to meditate is a little like learning to do yoga (something I am also going to try and get back in to). You start off a bit crap but it gets easier, your mind gets a little bit easier to control and you start to notice that it doesn’t take as much effort as it did on that first day. The hardest thing about meditation for me so far, is finding ten minutes where I can be alone to actually do it – anyone with kids will know this feeling I’m sure. Not only does she talk non stop but she also follows me everywhere. I could do it once she’s gone to bed, sure, but I want to do it first thing in the morning to set me up for the day. What I try to do is set Isabelle up with a snack, a drink and something on the TV to hold her attention (excellent parenting, I know) and I sit at the kitchen table. I often make a coffee too, just because I really like the smell.
I have tried a couple of different apps to help me learn to meditate, but the one I am using and loving right now is HeadSpace. You can download it for free on the App Store and it is guided meditation that talks you through the process step by step, perfect for beginners. No, I haven’t been paid to talk about this particular app before you ask. I have received nothing in compensation, it is just the app I am using and one I have heard great things about.
I signed up for free and I am currently doing the Free Take Ten programme that is included with that, but I think you have to subscribe after that and the prices vary from £5.99 to £9.99 a month depending on if you want an annual subscription or a rolling monthly subscription. But I guess one way to look at it, like it says on their website, is as a gym subscription for the mind. You wouldn’t think twice about paying £20 a month for a gym membership, so why not pay something to train your mind?
What I particularly like about the app is Andy. Andy is the voice that guides you through it all and in real life he is a mindfulness and meditation expert. His voice is so calming but also so relatable at the same time. It doesn’t sound fake like the one on your SatNav, he sounds like a real guy who is sat right next to you trying to help you. Like a personal trainer for your brain. Meditation has been shown to improve focus, stress, worry, creativity and sleep as well as other things and it seems to be having a bit of a ‘moment’ of being trendy, despite it having been around for thousands of years.
I have only been doing it for around a week using the HeadSpace app but before that I used another free app called Calm and listened to guided meditation before bed to help me sleep. I don’t sit cross legged with my hands on my knees chanting ‘Ohhmmm’, I simply sit comfortably on the kitchen chair with my eyes closed. I like to open the back door too, to get a bit of fresh air while I’m doing it and to kind of drown out the sound of Ben and Holly playing on the TV in the background. One analogy that I really like from the HeadSpace app is to imagine yourself sitting at the side of the road. The cars represent your thoughts and your job is just to watch them drive past. It can be hard not to let a thought take hold, particularly when you have a busy mind that finds it hard to focus but that is the whole point of learning to meditate. You are learning to just ‘be’ for ten minutes of your day. To see the thoughts, acknowledge them, but let them pass.
It isn’t always easy, during todays attempt I got interrupted after 9 minutes by Isabelle telling me she wanted some porridge and like I said earlier, it can be hard to drown out background noises but I’m hoping I will get better at it. I’m also hoping it will make me a little less ‘on edge’ all of the time. Isabelle is 3 in a few weeks and I am finding this age particularly trying, she’s really bloody annoying. I know I’m not supposed to say that as a parent but it’s true. She doesn’t leave me alone, she talks non stop and it hurts my brain. About ten times a day I must ask her to just stop talking for a second and it’s really wearing me down. I need some new coping techniques and I’m hoping meditation might be one that helps me.
Have you ever tried meditation? Let me know what you think of it, or if you have any advice for staying calm during the years of the ‘three-nager’.