Overcoming Stress Through Mindfulness
Each week we feature Andy's answer to one of the questions he has been sent by a member of the Headspace community about their meditation practice.
Here he answers a question from a Headspacer about finding the right balance between sleep and meditation...
I have an extremely demanding job where with every day in the week, by the end of the day, my mind is aching more and more and by the weekend, it really hurts.
So far in my meditation, I feel how intensely my mind aches and can isolate it etc. but it's not really bringing the level of achiness or pulsing down any. I am just beginning so maybe it's too soon to know, but should mindfulness meditation be able to help with this and what suggestions might you have for my path with meditation, considering I'd like to be able to keep working at this job.
It’s a little difficult to say exactly what’s going on and of course I have no idea how long you’ve meditating for. But I’d be very happy to share a few first thoughts. So it sounds as though the relationship you have with your work, or your workplace, is causing a lot of stress, which in turn is leading to tension.
Tension manifests differently for us all and whilst for one person it can lead to an upset stomach, for another it can lead to excruciating headaches. If the pressure is sustained for long enough, then the tension can become chronic, meaning that we experience it a good deal of the time. You seem to suggest that this builds up during the week, so I’m assuming towards the back end of the weekend, it start to decrease somewhat, before building again the following week.
Before looking at the mind, I would urge you to look at any practical measures you can take. At work this might be speaking to someone in HR and finding a little more flexibility in your role. It could be making sure you leave your desk at lunchtime, going for a brisk walk mid-morning or afternoon and steering clear of high sugar or high caffeine foods and drinks which are often associated with higher levels of stress.
You could also take a look at what you are doing outside of work. Do you have a daily meditation practice for example? Do you have room for a second session at the end of the day? Are you doing any exercise? Could you make room for a session after work perhaps to relieve some of the tension? Are you eating a balanced diet? Are you making time to socialize with friends? Addressing all of these things in unison will help to make a real difference and sometimes even the smallest shift in lifestyle can transform the way we feel.
But coming back to the mind, for sure, if we train the mind to be less distracted, more open and less reactive, then yes, we are much less likely to get stressed or experience sustained tension. So it is a very good idea to meditate everyday. But it’s important to be realistic too and to use our new found clarity to make any necessary changes to behaviour which is detrimental to our health and happiness.
Given that the pressure seems to build up over the week, it is important to ‘empty the trash’ each day. By this I mean take at least 10 minutes at the end of the day to just let it all go. Take10 will help you with that. But it’s as if you just imagine all the thoughts, feelings and tension which has built up during the day, just flowing away. This will also help you to sleep more restfully.
Finally, if you have any reason to think that this tension might be something more physical, then it would be a great idea to speak to your doctor, if only to get peace of mind.
I hope this helps and that you are able to discover some headspace - both at work and at home.
Do you have a question you'd like to ask Andy about any aspect of your meditation practice?
Simply visit the Andy's Answers section of our community forum where you'll find instructions on sending your question in, as well as all the questions he has answered to date.
We also recommend you check out our FAQ section, which is full of insights to help ease you along your Headspace journey.
Finally, why not join our Facebook Q&A, taking place with Andy this Thursday - all the details here