Best Meditation Techniques – Freelance Destress Edition

Best Meditation Techniques – Freelance Destress Edition

Is your jaw tight? Pain from tense shoulders or headaches ruining your productivity? As freelancers, we are our business. Marketing, workers, management, customer service, CEO, HR, cleaning staff, public relations, etc. With all those roles falling on your shoulders, no wonder they’re sore. As I’m sure you’ve heard, meditation can be a great way to reduce that soreness and the stress that comes with it. I’d like to bring to you the best meditation techniques that are specific to our busy and demanding, freelance lifestyle.

The Best Meditation Techniques

A quick history of stress

Before we dive into the meditation part, I’d like to do a quick overview of stress and how, throughout human evolution, it’s probably the only reason we’re all still here.

I’ve recently read a great book on stress titled “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” by Robert M. Sapolsky. Sapolsky is a professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University and his book does a wonderful job of explaining how stress, in short bursts, saved our ancestor from being trampled by mammoths, overrun by a pack of lions and aided them in their hunt for dinner.

Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping - Now Revised and Updated by [Sapolsky, Robert M.]

 “If you’re a normal mammal, stress is the three minutes of screaming terror on the Savanna after which it’s either over with or you’re over with.”

Stress does many things to the body, but the most important ones are that it increases your heart rate, quickens breathing, tightens muscles and raises your blood pressure. It gets your body ready for that famous “fight or flight” mode. However, on the other hand, it shuts down your sex drive, autoimmune system, and digestive system. Imagine you’re being chased by a saber-tooth tiger, it’s probably not the best time to be thinking about that cute girl/guy in a loincloth back in your cave or for your body to be fighting off a cold. You can do that later if there is one.

As you can imagine, with your sex, digestive and autoimmune systems shut down, things could get complicated in the long run.

Not All Stress is Bad

Stress, unfortunately, now has a connotation of being negative. However, that’s not technically accurate. There are different types of stress, and not all of them are bad. “Short-term” stress is what helps you focus when someone cuts you off on the street, and you have to swerve or if someone is trying to steal your wallet. That type of stress comes and helps you deal with the situation and then it goes away. That’s a typical, and helpful, stress like we used to deal with back on the Savannah (or wherever your ancestors came from).

Best Meditation Techniques
Now, this would be stressful

What we should realize is that it’s “chronic stress” that’s is bad for us. It’s basically your body being under stress every waking hour of the day. You remember that response that zebras have when they’re being chased. Your body does that same thing when you’re stuck in traffic, have a presentation at work, are on a deadline, or you’ve spent your check and have to live off rice for the next week. Many of those things are psychological, and so they never turn off. Zebras don’t worry about things like that. Your body, to put it plainly, literally thinks that it’s running for its life every minute that you’re awake and you’re stressing it out with thoughts about your job or scarily low bank account.

At that point, the response to stress becomes worse than the actual problem. Having your body on high alert all day, every day is where the headaches, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, insomnia, all come into play. So, how do we deal with it?

Best Meditation Techniques
Your body responds the same to psychological and physical stress

How The Best Mediation Techniques Fights Stress

The best meditation techniques aren’t voodoo or black magic. They’re techniques to help improve concentration, temporarily forget about your responsibilities, block out distracting thoughts that derail productivity and a way to train yourself to focus on what’s important. You remember all those psychological stressors I talked about (mortgage, public speaking) well meditation is a way to calm your thoughts and to rationally reason about situations, which in turn, lowers blood pressure, slows breathing, and relaxes tensed muscles.

Best Meditation Techniques

What’re the Best Meditation Techniques?

There are many different types of meditation techniques and what works best for me may not be what’s best for you. The one crucial thing to keep in mind is that you need to find a technique you enjoy doing. If you meditate for a week and then stop, just like if you go to the gym for a week, you’ll pretty much just get sore muscles but not see any results. Meditation is something that needs to be done consistently, 5-20 min. per day to see benefits.

  1. Find 5-20 minutes to meditate: Most find 15 minutes to be optimal but 5 minutes to start with is perfect. For me, I meditate right after I wake up. I drink a glass of water and sit down to meditate. No phones, no laptops, no distractions.
  2. Relax and get comfortable: sitting is the most recommended way to meditate. Lying down, especially if you’re tired can quickly turn into a cat nap (which is beneficial in itself but I’ll save that for a later date).

Best Meditation Techniques

  1. Choose your spot: some people enjoy meditating in bed, others the couch, and others the famous lotus position that you classically see monks meditating in. Wherever you decide, make sure you’re comfortable, sitting with a straight spine, hands on your lap. Eyes opened or closed is your choice, as you won’t be focusing on what you see anyways.
  2. Focus on your breathing: All you need to do is breathe and focus on one point in the breath cycle. For me that’s right when the air enters my nose. For some, it’s the rise and fall of their stomach, and for others, it’s the sensation of the air hitting the back of their throat. Whatever point in the cycle calls your attention the most. That’s where you should focus your attention. Breathe in and out keeping your focus on that spot.
  3. A wandering mind: This is basically unavoidable. Your mind will wander, and it will think about irrelevant things. That’s ok! It’s actually normal for that to happen. All you need to do is, without judgment (no rolling your eyes at yourself or getting upset that you’re “bad at meditation”), bring your thoughts back to your chosen spot in the breath cycle.
  4. Practice: As you meditate more often and for more extended periods of time, your mind will slowly wander less and less. You will improve your ability to relax on command, focus on the task at hand and block out distractions. Meditation is disciplining your mind to do what you want it to do. We do this by learning to bring our thoughts back to our breath.
  5. Finishing the meditation: after your designated time, slowly open your eyes (if they were closed), take one last deep breathe, slowly stand up, and go about your daily life.
  6. Neither the turtle or the hair: Meditation isn’t a race. There’s no end goal. Some days 15 minutes will pass in no time. Other days you won’t be able to wrangle your mind to sit still. All of this is entirely ok and normal. Just sit there and do your best to relax and think about your breathing. Difficult days will become fewer and farther between.

Resources for the best meditation techniques

For complete beginners, I think guided meditations are one of the best meditation techniques out there. It gives you something external to focus on while still helping you to relax and find a rhythm.  I found this YouTube video to be exceptionally good. It’s only 5 minutes and will leave you feeling fantastic.

Another resource I love is the app, Simply Being. It lets you set different lengths, choose from various white noises, and how long you want the guided meditation to be. It’s a great, and very cheap resource for those who are just getting started out.

 

Small steps to a Big Change

I’ve recently written about other ways to destress in my article, 10 Ways to Manage Stress Levels – How to not go off the deep end, it will give you some more ideas on how to not pull out your hair. Just like anything in our lives, losing weight, building up a freelance business, or saving money, meditation and destressing don’t happen overnight. It’s a process that you need to commit to.

There are a lot of benefits of the best meditation techniques (take a look here), but this needs to be taken slowly and without judgment. Meditation is a skill, but it’s one of the few skills which cannot be compared. There’s no ranking of the best meditators in the world because that goes entirely against what meditation is trying to do.

One last side note* There’s no such thing as a bad meditator. We all have distractions,  all of our minds wander and saying your bad means your comparing yourself to a good meditator (which also doesn’t exist). There are only two types of meditators: those who meditate and those who don’t.

Have you tried on of the best meditation techniques? Have you found them to be beneficial? Please, share your story in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

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