We all know the adage “you can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself first.” In difficult times such as these, it’s even more relevant than usual. Practice social distancing, wear a mask and wash your hands to protect yourself, the people you love, and the people you don’t even give a hoot about who happen to be in the same grocery store as you.
Taking care of yourself isn’t just a matter of physical health, of course. It’s also a matter of finding or maintaining your calm center, remaining open to the experience of joy, and enjoying creative or meaningful pursuits.
“Finding your calm center” might not be easy right now. Physically, our world has shrunk to the size of our home, our yard, and maybe the route to and from the grocery store. We worry about our families, our communities, and the world. But social media shows us strangers singing in harmony from apartment building balconies, grandfathers dancing outside their front doors, and thousands upon thousands of signs and poster thanking front-line workers and reminding our neighbors we’re all in this together.
One way to find your calm center could be to meditate or practice mindfulness – put simply, to sit quietly and clear your mind, focus on thoughtful and encouraging words, or watch the natural world go by. Meditating can be watching the random movement of fish in a tank, or birds at a feeder, or just the motion of tree branches. Every day right now, the trees are greener and the leaves bigger. Meditating can be listening to music with your eyes closed. Of course, it can also be sitting in the traditional position and listening to a meditation leader. Such a meditation practice, done daily, has been proven anecdotally to have many health benefits, from easing depression and anxiety to lessening the effects of irritable bowel syndrome and lowering blood pressure. The National Institutes of Health reports that formal studies “suggest” these health benefits, but many people who practice mindfulness or meditation swear by it. Otherwise, why would they continue to do it, right?
There are many meditation apps for both iPhones and Androids; just go to your app or play store and you’ll find a plethora of choices if you want to try meditating to lessons, talks, or soothing sounds. Some are free and others can be costly. Women’s Health magazine listed the top meditation apps in a February 19, 2020 article. Here are the top three:
- Headspace – this is apparently the most popular meditation app, but beware it costs between $7.99 and $12.99 per month, depending on the program you choose. If you start sign up with a code (PRHearst1M) from Woman’s Health, you can get the first month free here. We know several young people (you know … under 40) who meditate, and they all use this app.
- Calm – this is another very popular meditation app, with both free and paid versions. It offers courses, daily meditations, and soothing sounds.
- Insight Timer – Insight Timer offers thousands of meditations, courses, online communities, music, and chants from hundreds of teachers. It has both free and paid versions, and it tracks your sessions for those of us who like to count our stars. 😊
Of course, meditation is just one tool to help find calm and peace during difficult times. Prayer, deep breathing, focusing on gratitude – whichever tool you use, we hope you are well, and we hope the same for your families and loved ones.