Harried, short breaths. Cold hands. Dimming vision. Uncontrollable tears.
Panic attacks – I used to have them a lot. As often as one would drink coffee to stay awake the whole day. As often as one would take bathroom breaks. As often as one would tie loose shoelaces. It even got to a point when, for an entire week, I wouldn’t get through a college class without semi-spiraling into another breakdown.
Those were darker times in my life, I must admit. But I’m glad it isn’t that bad anymore. I’ve come a long way since then even if I still get the occasional attack, especially when I feel like I can’t control the speed of my thoughts and the rush of my emotions.
I talked to a friend who had a degree in Psychology. I told her I no longer wanted pills, therapy sessions, or interventions from my family. If there were any way I could deal with it on my own, I’d take it.
She recommended meditation.
Attempting to Practice Mindfulness
It took me a while to heed her advice. Sitting still in silence with my eyes closed for no less than 10 minutes? Sounded like a nightmare to me. And, at that time, it definitely was. After a rough minute or two, I’d even induce my own panic attacks and feel more tired than I already did.
I tried apps: Headspace, Calm, The Mindfulness App. After I’d use the programs for a day or two, they would sit unplayed in my phone within a folder I no longer open.
I’ve read all the wonderful benefits of meditation, and how calming your mind is the best way to calm every other part of your body.
But why wasn’t it working?
More specifically: why wasn’t it working for me?
A Sense of Community
In the office, there is a group of coworkers who meet every day for 10 minutes of meditation. Although I haven’t had the best experience with meditation, I figured I’d join them this one time.
Jen, our “instigator,” played a 10-minute meditation session from The Honest Guys.
To be honest, it was difficult. That was the longest 10 minutes of my life. I couldn’t sit still, and my mind would wander to all sorts of anxiety-triggering thoughts, like work, my confusing lovelife, and even my dog.
Although I did feel a whole lot better after.
There was a calmness in me I never thought I’d have in the workplace.
On Day 2, I joined an even bigger group. There were around 10 of us in the room and while I expected it to be suffocating, I actually enjoyed it more.
The meditation worked. I focused on my breathing and, instead of letting my mind create webs of thoughts, I let them pass through and out of my head.
I think that’s one thing meditation wants to teach us: don’t dwell.
I was more productive at work that day than I ever was in my entire stay in the company. So that’s something.
On Day 3, I tried something a little different. I meditated after I had my lunch.
We only have an hour for lunch break daily, and I thought, “Why not use this time to practice mindfulness?”
I had squash and eggplants for lunch – two of my favorite vegetables. Before washing my meal container, I wore my earphones and spent about five minutes doing breathing exercises with the busy city of Makati as my view. It’s not the most picturesque of landscapes but, somehow, it looked beautiful after a restful moment.
Day 4 was the easiest plough through. In fact, I didn’t plough through at all – I just rode with the waves.
Now, enough with the metaphors. I enjoyed today’s meditation session that I didn’t even want to document it (other than the photo above). It was a sacred moment between me and my mind.
I went home in a good mood that day, which rarely happens, especially on a Friday. I also shared these techniques with friends who never tried meditation in their lives. I’m not sure if they did it, or if they ever will, but at least they know that it does help – a lot.
DAY 5 and DAY 6
I woke up at 6 AM that Saturday with one thing on my mind: meditation.
Before I went down to do chores, I spent 10 minutes just breathing deeply. It helped that I gave myself positive affirmations about how well I did that week and how well I’m going to do the next. We all need self-love sometimes, you know?
On Sunday, I skipped meditation and worked on channeling mindfulness in other things, like folding clothes and munching on freshly made gyoza.
Because if there’s one thing, I realized from all of this, it’s that mindfulness isn’t just a result of sitting cross-legged for an amount of time. It’s practicing awareness in everything you do without letting the deeper recesses of your mind take over the stream of your thoughts.
We’ve gone full circle. It was a great Monday, and I spent the beginning of it with my coworkers just listening to ocean waves splashing against the shore.
Now, as I finish this article at 5 in the afternoon, I feel more at peace with myself than I ever have in the last few months.
Will I do it again? Definitely.
Every day, in fact. I know seven days isn’t enough time to build a habit, but I’m willing to stick it out for 10, 21, and 100 days to let it leave a lasting and continuous impact on my overall wellbeing.