I used a meditation app for a week to see if it would combat my anxiety
I get it. I’m aware that the bulk of my problems would be solved if I stopped for a second. Even better? If I stopped, closed my eyes, and breathed my way to a moment of clarity. I know it’s weird to say, but I feel as though I don’t breathe often. Not breathe — breathe. Of course my body follows its natural rhythms when it comes to getting oxygen to the right places, but it’s rare that I do my part when it comes to taking a deep breath in a moment of madness. Instead, I like to allow my outer chaos and inner chaos to become one, à la me running around like someone who is grasping for some form of stability.
Since “grasping” and “stability” are two words you do not want in the same sentence, I found myself searching for a solution to my stress, and that’s when I was presented with an opportunity. I was asked to try YogaGlo, a wellness/yoga/meditation streaming service that features classes taught by professional instructors. For $18 a month, the program offers real-time streaming across Apple iOS, Apple TV, Android, and web devices. In other words, you can download it on your phone and take it with you anywhere!
Sure, I’ve done both yoga and meditation…but not in a hot minute. That’s why, upon beginning my journey with YogaGlo, I was relieved to find out that this app is approachable and can be used by people at all levels. My level? “I’m anxious and want someone to get me out of my own head for a second, please!” It was with this confidence that I decided to try to the app for exactly one week to see how it would affect my anxiety.
I started off with a 10-minute meditation, thinking that would be a good way to ease into my practice. I was both right and wrong. Let’s start with the bad news: I had trouble with my thoughts. They kept bogging me down, taking me away from my meditation time. And the good news? During the moments I was one with my meditation, I felt in tune with my body. I could feel all the parts of me that were tired, waiting for rest as my chest rose and fell. I fully experienced the rhythm of my breathing, and I liked it.
Overall, I feel like Day 1 was a good start, but there was more work to be done.
Day 2 was interesting because, during my meditation time, I didn’t feel relaxed or contemplative. I felt…sad. It was almost as if the emotions I’d been bottling up came to the surface and washed over me, and all it took was me stopping for one freakin’ second. I have trouble sitting still, which is great for getting stuff done, but not great for taking the time that is necessary to process emotions.
But even after the meditation was over, I remained in bed and took the time to access my thoughts and feelings from all angles. Though it didn’t feel great in the moment, I certainly felt better the next day.
I actually had to restart Day 3’s meditation three times because I couldn’t focus. I kept thinking about everything on my to-do list, and couldn’t put a cap on the fear that I wouldn’t ever be able to cross off each bullet point.
I’m not going to lie. I was not able to complete this day’s meditation, but I attempted it several times. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself about it.
Despite my best efforts, I was hard on myself about Day 3. I felt like a failure for not being able to stop and focus on my breathing for even a minute. Though I know I tried my best, I wanted to do better, to be better. I do not want to be the type of person who lets stress have that kind of power over me.
Today, I was determined to make meditation happen. I used a lavender spray in my room, rubbed a lavender lotion on my arms, and thought lavender thoughts as I gave it another go. Between my steadfast determination and the powers of a certain shrub, I started off strong and felt calmer than I had all day. However, I did drift off at the end, thinking about dinner, work, weekly plans, and writing this article. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better.
I had a stressful day. Nothing particularly stressful happened, but I had trouble sleeping the night before. And when I do not sleep, I stress. After a day that felt longer than it was, I looked to my meditation app for guidance (literally). It was interesting because this was the first day I instinctively felt the need to run to my app for help.
Day 5 was the opposite of Day 6. My meditation started out rough, but evened out by the end. It took me a few minutes to wind my mind down, to focus on what the app was telling me. In the end, I was able to direct my thoughts to where I wanted them to go. I even meditated for a few minutes after, on my own, which made me feel especially proud.
Day 6 ended with a particularly bad headache and, once again, I looked to my app for some peace and quiet in my mental palace. Okay, so, here’s the thing: I fell asleep. My meditation time started off on a solid note. I was focused on my breathing, allowing my thoughts to organically come and go, and then…lights out. I was in Dreamland, and didn’t leave for an hour or so.
While I didn’t exactly meditate on this day, I did feel refreshed when I woke up from my nap! And that counts for something, right?
Great news! I stayed awake on Day 7, and completed the meditation. Yes, I was distracted by my thoughts at times — especially toward the end — but I made it through the entire practice. Aside from focusing on my breathing, I did take note of the thoughts that were running through my mind while I attempted to follow along with my meditation guide. A lot of it had to do with circumstances that I never fully processed, ideas I never followed through with, and feelings I buried. I noticed that the leftovers in my brain were, well, things that were left over. My distracting thoughts were those that had been previously pushed aside to make room for anxious ones.
Day 7 ended up being a wakeup call, in that I realized just how important it is for me to take stock in my thoughts and feelings. Even a second of my time can make a difference when it comes to processing whatever feels heavy in my life.
Honestly, my takeaway from this week-long experience was that good things take time. A life-changing meditation practice is not made in a week. It, of course, takes practice, which is defined as a “the customary, habitual, or expected procedure of something.” Though a week was certainly a start — one that taught me a lot in the process — it is nowhere near “habitual.”
What I found most interesting was that meditation brought forth unexpected emotions within me. I had a feeling it would be hard for me to control my thoughts, but I was not expecting to have trouble controlling my feelings. I did not plan to experience sadness at times. And in turn, that made me feel sad. Because there’s a certain kind of melancholy that comes along with knowing you have something within you that hasn’t been addressed. Though we often connote this emotion as “negative,” I’m not seeing it that way. All emotions are valid and are meant to help us process all that comes our way, but they must be taken care of, and I’m ultimately grateful that my meditation time taught me that.
Will I continue meditating? I’m going to try (and try not to be hard on myself if I can’t always make it happen). Especially on days when it feels as though all I’m doing is running — running away from feelings, running toward goals, and running to keep up with it all.