If you had asked me five years ago what I did for "self-care" or how I managed my stress, I definitely would have laughed and answered back with "Absolutely nothing." OK, honestly, I was a junior in college then, so my more truthful answer probably would have been something along the lines of "Drinking at a party and then chowing down on some chicken nuggets afterward." It's safe to say I didn't exactly have a spiritual or self-care practice back then. I was a busy girl, working two jobs while going to school. I figured I didn't have time for that . . . until I realized I totally did.
When I began my career as a school teacher in 2017, I was a bit of a wreck in terms of handling my stress and mental health. Teaching is hard. Adjusting to a new career is hard. Being a freaking adult is really, really hard! And I was not dealing well. Each morning I would struggle to get out of bed because of my anxiousness and stress regarding my new career, usually skip breakfast because of time constraints, and head off to work. My sleep schedule wasn't great because most nights I would stay up worrying about my never-ending to-do list, my financial situation, etc. And even as much as I wanted to for de-stressing and my overall health, by the time I got home from work each day, I had zero energy to work out. My mental and physical health were spiraling a bit. After struggling through months of intense anxiety and stress, I finally decided to make a change. I had heard about the amazing benefits of meditating from some of my favorite social media creators who are passionate about spirituality, so I figured that I would give it a try. Every morning, I started my day with a five-minute guided meditation video I found online. I sat on a soft pillow on my floor, pressed play, and closed my eyes. Those five minutes every morning would soon become 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, and sometimes even 20 minutes or more. It was the first thing I did when I got out of bed, and it truly became the best part of my day.
I will admit, when I started trying meditation the first few times, it wasn't always super easy to get the hang of. Being a naturally anxious over-thinker/over-planner, "clearing" my mind sounded kind of awful and also impossible. I was so used to spending most of my day both stressing about the present and trying to jump ahead of myself and envision (read: stress about) the future. How could I possibly just stop my own thoughts? During the first few meditation sessions, I almost felt silly for trying to quiet my constant inner monologue. But once I finally gave it an honest try, I was absolutely astounded by the results. The first time I knew it worked, I totally gave into releasing my thoughts and instead focused on my breathing. Slowly my mind really did begin to empty out, and I could just put my concentration and effort toward filling my spirit and body up with positive energy. I knew I had totally mastered it when I could open my eyes after meditating and just feel light, blissful, and at peace.
Meditating is now a regular practice for me, and is still the best part of my day. For me, it's an act of self-care, spiritual enhancement, and stress management, and I'm a huge advocate for it. In fact, my friends and family may tell you how excited I can get about meditation and my "rocks" (what they call my crystals). While they aren't for everyone, I definitely love incorporating crystals into my spiritual and meditation routine. Personally, I like to hold some stones while I'm meditating, or maybe place them somewhere on or around me to gather energy from them. While holding them, I set my intentions for the day into them (whether it be to have a low-stress day, be kind to myself, etc). I may be a little extra about it, but I am so passionate about this practice because I truly believe it works. For me, meditating creates such a sense of inner peace and calms all of my anxious thoughts. When I'm meditating, I no longer concentrate on the stressors or fears I have, but instead on the calming and warm energy that flows through my body. Focusing on my breathing and clearing the worries that swirl in my mind seemed almost impossible at first, but with consistent practice I was able to quiet my mind and focus on positive, energizing thoughts. Sitting down and taking the time to care for myself and my mental health in this way improved so many of even my most stressful days, both at work and at home.
Today, my meditation practice has progressed from using guided meditation videos to simply using a calming playlist, or even meditating in silence. I often use personal sayings to set my intentions for the day, and to practice a little self-love in the process. These sayings can be really anything that I feel I need to hear that day; sometimes it's something along the lines of "The universe is offering me love in abundance," "I am at peace today," or "I am capable of great things." I am a kindergarten teacher of some pretty wiggly kiddos, so when we have "calm classroom" time (basically kid-friendly meditation), we use one of my favorite sayings that I also use in my own meditation practice: "I am loved, I am important, I am enough." Repeating those words to myself while I calm my soul and body with a solid meditation is an unbeatable way to start even the craziest of days. Meditation has changed my life, and I will always sing its praises in the hopes that it can help others, too.