01 Jul How Meditation May Help Anxiety During Coronavirus + Meditation Apps
I started doing Zen meditation more heavily around 9.5 years ago – after I had been sober for a bit, and my anxiety was still sometimes overwhelming.
Focusing on my breath, letting thoughts pass like clouds, just sitting there – focusing on the sensations and sounds in the moment, was oddly helpful in becoming a little more at peace in my daily life as well. Now – there are some apps that make meditating easier and that I’ve found super helpful:
Meditation Apps I’ve Tried
- Calm – Free Trial, $4.99-$12.99 Monthly
- Headspace Inc. – Free Trial, $7.99-$12.99 Monthly
- Waking Up – Free Trial, $8.33-$14.99 Monthly
I don’t love long and windy diatribes on the theory of meditation, but I did appreciate the book “Zen Meditation in Plain English”, which shares about how to do it, in simple language.
In a time where drastic, intense messages are streaming passed our faces, some of us have a bit of a problem with compulsively checking social media and the news – meditation is invaluable in changing our brain patterns and slowing us down.
Meditation, at it’s core – is simple
Mindfulness – just sitting, and focusing on the breath – is a deceptively simple concept, that in my experience has significantly increased my relationship to racing thoughts and anxiety (though I still have issues with it.)
I wanted to resurface some resources for the anxiety of daily life – now that Coronavirus is upon us, and perhaps be of service to those who are going through more related to this.
A longer story about Michael Grothaus’ experience with Zen Meditation on Fast Company: – Would love to hear if any of you have experience with meditation, and how it’s helped (or not helped) you. Drop a comment if you have a moment!
Below are 2 more posts (and I may be adding more resources here as I find them) that may help with anxiety during coronavirus.
Meditation for people in Digital Marketing
(Original Post, 2015)
Web designers are a driven lot, and many of us suffer from depression and can be home-bodies or workaholics if we’re not careful. We know there are dangers to sitting in front of a computer screen all day, and we strive to love our jobs and take care of ourselves with standing desks, yoga balls, exercise and fad diets. Whether we stick to our new commitments or fall back to our old ways of ordering too much pizza, one thing is for sure; being a web designer, digital marketer or any type of pro that sits at a computer a lot can produce a lot of anxiety. That’s partly why I got really into hand-lettering this past year to reconnect with the physical world and a big reason why I find meditation so important to incorporate into my day to day life.
Simply put – the kind of meditation I find incredibly useful is often referred to as ‘mindfulness meditation,’ becoming aware of one’s breath, following it in and out, and allowing thoughts to pass by. When you realize you’ve become distracted (as you inevitably do- by a thought of business, or anything) you bring your mind gently back to the present moment. Noticing the sensations in your body, and your breath moving in and out of your lungs and nose.
A couple tips – I think sitting with an upright, wakeful posture is helpful whether with your back against a chair, or with your butt on a Zafu or ‘zazen cushion’, which allows you to sit upright closer to the floor comfortably. You can also do this in bed, and when my mind is racing and I can’t stop thinking about work and other things – using this concentration on breath and the present moment technique is incredibly helpful for falling asleep.
Benefits of mindfulness meditation for digital marketers are increased feeling of well-being, and better ability for being in the moment
Try doing this 20 minutes a day for one week, and see the kind of benefits you can derive from it. Don’t get frustrated with the fact that thoughts will still flood in. The point isn’t to remove all thoughts, but just to simply be aware of them and then let them pass by like clouds in the sky and not hold onto them. As you let them go, you focus again on your breathing, not trying to slow it down or speed it up, but just notice it and follow the breath in and out. Try to notice the place where the in-breath end and the out-breath begins and vice versa.
Simply by being aware of the breath you’re reconnecting with the physical world instead of letting your mind race and getting wrapped up in things you can’t control at this exact moment anyway. When you’re not sitting you may feel more in tune with what’s going on around you, and notice it when you’re indeed doing one thing but thinking about something else. This consciousness can be a little startling at first – realizing that you’ve done this a lot without realizing it.
Any activity can be informed by this idea of being present and in the moment. You can wash dishes with this mindset, and try to focus simply on the task at hand, bringing your mind on the activity directly every time your mind wanders to something else entirely. It’s a great exercise because you’ll find that you do a better job at any one thing when your attention is repeatedly brought back to thinking about your current physical action rather than on a hundred other things.
This is why I think it’s useful for digital marketers and web designers, as well as other professionals, because it’s easy to get caught up in tracking time, or checking our social media accounts compulsively for likes and getting damn near frantic about our seemingly very important next couple of activities. I find focusing solely on my breathing on a regular basis in the way I’ve mentioned above is so profound in a way that describing it can never be. It’s something you have to experience rather than hear or read about.
Here’s an example of a guided meditation that is along the lines of what I’ve talked about that might be helpful to start with:
I’ve also found this site – Calm.com incredibly useful, with 2, 5, 10, 15, and 20 minute meditations both guided and with a traditional bell. I’ve attended Zen meditation classes in Uptown, Minneapolis where I live and the bell method was what they used there; the bell is struck occasionally simply to bring wandering minds back to the present moment.
Resources to look more deeply into mindfulness meditation
On the subject of zen or mindfulness meditation, those who know more than me would suggest that you should spend more time sitting (meditating) than reading about it – as experience is much more useful than knowledge, but here are some wonderful resources to help increase your intellectual understanding of this subject:
Books and Audiobooks:
- Zen Meditation in Plain English – John Daishin Buksbazen
- Meditation in Action – Chogyam Trungpa
- The Way of Zen – Alan Watts
- Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind – Shunryu Suzuki
- Meditation for Beginner’s – Jack Kornfield
Or these wonderful online resources and interesting articles on Zen meditation to help you get started or give you more perspective:
- WikiHow – How to Begin Zen Meditation – 10 steps with Pictures
- How to Meditate Video – by Yokoji Zen Mountain Center on Youtube
Repeated studies have demonstrated that meditation can rewire how the brain responds to stress. “The increased ability to focus, he says [A google employee named Duane], was a major factor in his promotion to a management post where he oversaw nearly 150 Googlers.”
Although only a fraction of the data has been published so far, the experiment offers powerful evidence [The article notes that some of the benefits may stem from the social support of the zen program studied] that a regular meditation practice can sharpen our perception, promote a greater sense of well-being, and encourage a more empathic response to others.
- “Just Breathe: Confirming Meditation’s Benefits” – Pacific Standard Magazine
- “How to Meditate: 10 Important Tips” – Good Life Zen
One of the most important techniques from this article, that I previously haven’t mentioned is the method of counting your breaths. On your outbreath silently count one, until on your tenth outbreath count downward again to one. If you find your mind wandering, or thinking of another time or place, or find yourself talking in your head instead of focusing on the breath and letting words drift away, start again from one. You’ll likely find yourself starting again from the beginning a lot, but don’t worry! This is all part of the exercise. In zen meditation, even if you have to draw yourself back to the present moment and pay attention to your breath again 100 times, meaning your mind wandered a ton, the breathing exercise has still done it’s job. It does get easier with time, but anxiety during sitting is absolutely normal and entering fully into whatever you’re feeling at the moment is part of the process. Mindfulness meditation isn’t about escape but about entering into the moment fully.
Meditation has been important in my development as a web designer, digital marketer and human being. No matter the anxiety, meditation tends to center me and help me focus on the task at hand. I hope that I’m able to share it with a couple of you, and that possibly it helps. Alternatively, if you are feeling burn out, here’s another post that can help you push through. Share this post if you feel like it would be useful to your friends and followers, and thank you for supporting my website as I share high-quality content related to web design and living life to the fullest.
You may also find interesting – this post from 2016
How to Take Your Mind Off of Work, Without Freaking Out
If you’re like me, you might have a hard time turning off the ever-present ‘hustle-mode,’ or the ideas just won’t stop coming even when it’s not the time for them. So I’ve curated this list of ways to take your mind off of work, without freaking out – for anyone (including myself) who has a hard time doing this.
1. Invest some time in a hobby.
..or passion project, or spiritual quest, or whatever you do that fills that gaping hole. Television doesn’t necessarily cut it because it still leaves you a bit drained since it likely doesn’t energize you. An activity like music, reading or building something rewarding activates a part of the brain that leaves you feeling fulfilled afterward.
2. Don’t tell negative stories over and over again to whoever will listen.
Everybody has difficult things that happen at work, but not everyone is talking about those things all of the time. You’ll notice that people that re-hash, and re-play every bump and bruise story seem not to necessarily resolve the issues they’re facing, but many times they rile themselves up even more than before they told the story. Tell them to the people that matter to get them off your chest briefly, and then move on. Life’s too short, otherwise.
3. Play something like a sport or game.
Running and working out are great, but nothing is as immersive is a competitive sport or some kind of game that requires your full attention. I’m not above things like Halo or Call of Duty either, as it really draws you in and drowns out all other earthly cares. Of course, the benefit of sport is two-fold, as your heart gets pumping as well which is another dimension of chemical release.
4. Make a list of things you just deeply enjoy and make a day of indulging yourself in your favorite things.
This one has to be more occasional for the obvious reason if some of your favorite things are expensive, but indulging oneself really can draw attention away from work, but also encourage you to do more excellent work so you can indulge in the finer things more often… A ‘treat yo-self’ day is pretty ridiculously awesome every once in a while, try it. Since I’m an all or nothing kind of guy, I like to make a list of everything I love. I then pursue massage, a long bath, playing music, reading, watching a movie, drawing, getting a haircut etc., and stuff it into one self-indulgent day.
5. Give yourself a backup, and set up away from office message(s).
If you’ve determined that you’ll be truly away for a Friday or Monday or what have you for a weekend; an away from office voicemail and e-mail auto-responder might just do the trick to give you that freedom you need. Nothing is quite as freeing as making sure a competent backup person is mentioned in the e-mail and alerted to be on call for some extra work those days you’ll be out.
It’s important to take off time from work every once in a while, whether you be in web design, marketing or any field. Some people call time off a sabbatical or just good-old fashion vacation, but there’s no doubt we need it.