Managing your mind

I was asked to write about myself and how I apply what I recommend. So there will be a few posts now that show you how it works for me. And from time to time I will add another "how to do" post as always in English or German. Enjoy!

Since I am a very driven person and always want to achieve the best I can, my days usually do not have enough hours and I keep putting myself under a lot of pressure. Sounds familiar? Probably does for most PhD students and professionals as well. Well, to make a long story short, I developed some physical stress symptoms very early in my career. I studied psychology yes, but I never wanted to have to deal with mentally ill people, AND most importantly, I never wanted to be one of them.
That said I naturally followed the notion that physical symptoms originate on a physical plane and thus visited a body therapist since other doctors I had consulted said they could not find a cause for my symptoms. That guy spent something like 15 minutes analyzing my body (I had to walk up and down, stretch this and that, my muscle tone was tested etc.) and asked some questions about my life. Then he sat down next to me, looked into my eyes and said: “Ok. Your choice: Meditation or psychiatry. ”

Wow! That hit me! I never went there again, of course. :-)

But with the experience I made during the last 10 to 15 years, I have to admit that he was right then.
My symptoms originated on a mental level: I was just not good at regulating my emotions. And yes, alongside building more practical skills for selfmanagement, meditation is one way that helps to do exactly that. So this is what I tried to do.

I would like to note here, that we are not mentally ill because some of our health issues originate in the mental area – we just need to learn to cope and establish behaviors that help us get back into a healthier and more happier state of being. Establishing routines facilitates integrating these behaviors in our daily life.

To be quite frank, it took me years to establish a meditation routine that works for me on an ongoing regular basis. Going somewhere frequently to take part in meditation courses or yoga classes was hard since things tend to get in the way (travelling, sick children, my partners evening appointments with clients, my own evening appointments with clients, etc.). This never got a fixed evening appointment for me. In general, evenings do not work so well for me.
So, what I started with and stayed with for quite a while was an app on my android phone. I got used to getting up before everyone else did and took 10-15 min. to get some “headspace” before the daily magic happened. I tested some apps for Android phones, such as Headspace, 7Mind or Lite. It is hard to recommend one because we all prefer different voices, sounds, music or not, etc.
And then I also listened to different podcasts, such as The daily meditation podcast by Mary Meckley who is a meditation teacher. She published one podcast per day with a different meditation technique . I still like it a lot and if I am not able to quite my mind on my own, I at least listen to one of Mary's podcast episodes.

Just note that it is a good way to start bringing some calmness into your life and get rid of the nervous voice in your head telling you that you are not quick enough, so many things still need to get done, that it is not good enough yet… etc.

Meanwhile - and it took me months then - I can meditate on my own without an external lead and I meditate regularly. Sometimes 20 minutes in the morning, sometimes 3 times a day only a few minutes... but this way I follow through. My symptoms are gone for years now. That is why I highly recommend for anyone to find a way of calming your mind that suits you and your life. Meditation is just one way you can try. There are many others left if this does not work for you.

That said I feel like I need to add that meditation works well for me when I have a certain amount of sports/movement as well. Having worked with many high achievers, I dare to say that this is true for most of us: we need to establish a physical and mental canal for regulating our emotions. For me this is running and meditation.

Now, go and try what works for you. And remember that it takes time and that this investment is already part of the process of getting there.

Have a great weekend!

Andrea Szameitat