Meditation seems easy enough, right? You just close your eyes, cross your legs, and sit as still as you can for 10-20 minutes. Everything seems like it’s going well and you are ready to mentally pat yourself on the back for stepping into mindfulness. But wait, you start to think about the things you have due for work today, then all of the sudden, you are questioning whether or not you should go grocery shopping today or this weekend. Next thing you know, you are spiraling into thoughts about the economy and how you will probably never reach the level of stability you once believed you could by your age.
It all becomes too overwhelming. The thoughts start to melt together and you can’t seem to organize them no matter how hard you try. You open your eyes, look at the timer on your phone, and you realize all that turbulence happened in the short span of two minutes. Your chest is tight, you’re all of the sudden dehydrated, and now you’re tired despite having just woken up less than an hour ago.
When we start meditating, we are told to focus on our breathing and be aware of the sensation in our body. This practice is meant to ground us and help us stay present in moments of stress. Focusing on our breath and our physical being is easier said than done. There’s a lot that is required of us mentally when it comes to breathwork and it really is its own practice.
As someone who continues to struggle with meditation, I found that separating breathwork and meditation and treating them like two completely independent activities has helped me a lot. I started using an app called Breathwrk and it’s been the only mindfulness app that I have used consistently. I use it as my pre-meditation exercise, a go-to resource when I am in my head too much and need to ground myself, and my actionable solution when I feel an anxiety attack coming on. This app is free for iOS and it has four basic functions – calm, sleep, awake, and balance. It doesn’t use a voice to guide your breath, but rather a soothing rhythm that is accompanied by a visual to let you know when to inhale and when to exhale.
I started using this app at the beginning of the pandemic and since then it has changed the way I go into my daily meditation and it has taught me how to recognize my anxiety and ground myself before my thoughts turn into an avalanche. These days, a lot of stress can accumulate within hours, so we really owe it to ourselves take the time to breathe.