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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

I’ve Tried Mindfulness Meditation, Here’s Why You Should Try it Too

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I’ve Tried Mindfulness Meditation, Here’s Why You Should Try it Too

In our fast-paced society today, we seem to be in a constant struggle to keep up. While the advancement of technology has its benefits, we are now being constantly bombarded with information and feel pressured to connect and respond all the time. As a result, we often feel stressed, overwhelmed, and in a constant state of anxiety.

Maintaining such a frenetic lifestyle is clearly unsustainable for our physical and emotional health. Yet, despite this, we continue to pound at a furious pace to get ahead.

If this describes you and what you are going through, it is time to take a pause and give some attention to the present moment. When we do that we focus at where we are,we tend to gain a better perspective of what we are doing, and enjoy doing it more.

Practicing mindfulness in our daily lives has a lot of benefits. Studies have shown that it improves many facets of our physical and emotional well-being, such as reducing stress, improving learning, memory, emotional regulation, and empathy.

What is Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness is the psychological process of being fully present in the moment.

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When we are being mindful, we are not caught up in our thoughts about the past, the future, or reacting to the things that are happening around us. We become fully aware of what we are directly experiencing in the moment through our senses, and our state of mind through our thoughts and feelings.

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    In order to be mindful, we need to first acknowledge our thoughts without judging them

    Practicing mindfulness does not mean that we are actively trying to stop thinking. It involves noting and accepting our thoughts and feelings as it is – without judging them or trying to change them. For example, if we are feeling irritated with our friend that he or she is late, we note these feelings of irritation and then let it be. We do not ‘judge’ these feelings as right or wrong, or react based on these feelings by behaving angrily.

    Believe it or not, being mindful is a basic human ability

    This ability to be fully present is something that we all naturally possess. It is easier to be fully in the moment when we are doing something that we enjoy, such as when we are listening to music or watching a movie. However, we tend to get caught up in the default mode of worrying, reacting, and feeling overwhelmed when we are in the day to day.

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    Mindfulness meditation is the perfect way to cultivate mindfulness

    In order to get away from all the distractions and regain mindfulness,we need to intentionally set aside time to practice being fully present in the moment. Mindfulness meditation is the formal practice of mindfulness. The intention of practice is to help us regain stillness and mindfulness in places where there is no distraction. The more we practice, we will become better at intentionally being mindful when we are going through our day to day life.

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      My Story on Mindfulness Meditation and How it has Changed My Life

      After hearing so much about the benefits of mindfulness meditation, I decided to give it a try. After all, a number of very remarkable individuals (i.e. Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Ariana Huffington and Lebron James) have all incorporated meditation as an essential part of their daily routine. I was intrigued, and very curious about what mindfulness meditation can do for me.

      My first few attempts at meditation were frustrating. Given that I had read so much about its wonderful benefits, I initially expected to feel different immediately. I had concerns that I was not doing it correctly, and did not know what exactly to expect. It took a lot of perseverance and willpower to continue making it a daily practice, since I could not see any positive benefits right away.

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      The first time I noticed that my meditation practice had any impact on my life was when I was stuck in traffic and running late for a work meeting. Normally, I would have gotten quite frustrated and irritable, even though it was technically my fault for leaving house late.

      To my surprise, I kept my calm throughout the ride. I was aware that being irritated and frustrated would not help the situation. Hence, I consciously made the decision to focus on being in the present moment, and had a enjoyable conversation with the Uber driver. I gradually started noticing the same pattern when I was faced with other unpleasant experiences. I had become better at managing my negative emotions, and it has also helped me greatly in managing my anxiety in my day to day life.

      Mindfulness meditation is something that gets easier with practice. Every time we meditate, we build new neural pathways in our brain that helps us process our thoughts and emotions better.

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        If you are new to mindfulness meditation, here are some of the tips that helped me through my practice

        Technology can help you become more mindful too

        If you are new to mindfulness meditation, using a guided meditation app such as Headspace, Breathe, or Calm, is a good way to start. Headspace offers a free 10-day guided meditation program for beginners, which gives you a really good introduction to what mindfulness and mindfulness meditation is.

        Don’t obsess over doing it ‘correctly’

        As a beginner, you may have some concerns about what the right way to meditate is. Meditation is a highly personal practice, and there is no ‘correct’ way of doing it. Take your time to find out what seating or lying postures work best for you, and your ideal environment and time of the day for meditating.

        Feel it until you make it

        It is okay if you do not know what to expect, or if your experience of meditation is different from mine. You may also experience a different impact of meditation on your life. What is most important is that you return to the practice day after day, whether you had a positive session or not.

        Have you ever tried mindfulness meditation? If you have, share with us how has it impacted your life?

        More by this author

        Sophia Goh

        Professional Counsellor and Psychotherapist, M.A. Counselling

        I’ve Tried Mindfulness Meditation, Here’s Why You Should Try it Too

        Trending in Mental Wellness

        1 Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why? 2 Does Depression Make You Tired And How? 3 Overwhelmed at Work? 17 Ways to Manage Work Anxiety 4 Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine? 5 How To Cope With Traumatic Events And Stress

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        Published on October 15, 2021

        Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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        Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

        When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

        After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

        Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

        1. Stress Hormone Overload

        Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

        When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

        The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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        You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

        2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

        Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

        Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

        Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

        3. Negative Mindset

        Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

        Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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        Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

        4. Digestive Issues

        It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

        The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

        GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

        You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

        5. Depression

        Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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        Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

        Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

        Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

        6. Breathing Problems

        Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

        This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

        End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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        There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

        7. Sleep Issues

        Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

        Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

        One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

        You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

        Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

        Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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        More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

        Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

        Reference

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