Stress Relief in November
Want to hear one of the most depressing things happening in modern health research? There are new studies commissioned regularly to determine the most dismal day, week and month of the year. Isn’t that a little… sad? We are a society obsessed with quantifying everything – always wondering when and why and how we do what we do, even when it comes to our bleakest emotions.
What Day Are We the Most Depressed?
The third Monday in January takes the prize as the most depressing day of the year. It’s easy to understand why: we’re all coming down from the high of holiday season and reintroducing ourselves back to reality after enjoying vacation time with friends and family. We’ve been abusing our bodies by overindulging in food and drink We get back to the grind and we miss our fun. Many of us in North America will also begin to experience the effects of Seasonal Affective, or SAD, disorder, due in part to a lack of sunshine and Vitamin D (more to come on this in December).
But, November, which many studies found to be the most depressing and stressful month of the year, is a little less obvious.
Wait… Why November?!
In my practice, I see a lot of people suffering from extreme stress and depression in November. The transition from Summer to Winter is nearly complete and the days are suddenly darker , shorter and much colder. The anxiety of holiday season looms. Our jobs ramp up to peak chaos after a more relaxed summer. Everything seems to speed up. Everyone is in a rush. It gets increasingly tough to find the strength and motivation to get out of bed in the morning. November is tough.
All of these factors combined send many of us into fight-or-flight mode, which activates our primal stress response and overwhelms our adrenals. This process leads to suffering on many levels; increased anxiety and fear, forgetfulness, headaches, weight gain, hormonal imbalances, indigestion and exhaustion. It also results in a vulnerable immune system, which makes us more susceptible to catching colds or flus.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is one specific thing you can do to promote relaxation, reduce depression and manage stress. It’s easy. It’s free. And it works.
It’s called meditation. And if you’ve never practiced it, I’m here to encourage you to give it a try.
Why Should I Meditate?
Meditation is my favourite way to combat stress and improve overall health; it’s also the simplest. I started meditating eight years ago and it has changed my life in so many significant ways. It’s the most powerful tool in my wellness arsenal. But don’t take my word for it: over 3,000 scientific studies have proven the positive effects of a meditation practice. The most successful people in the world meditate – and for good reason: it has the power to improve our emotional, physical and mental performance.
- increase mental strength, focus. memory recall and concentration
- reduce anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, and fear
- enhance self-esteem, self-acceptance and resilience
- improve mood, energy levels and boost overall feelings of happiness and well-being
- enhance cognitive thinking, creativity, problem solving and information processing
- help manage ADD and other behavioural disorders
- strengthen the immune system
- lower blood pressure and balance heart rate
- increase longevity and lifespan
- reduce heart, brain, hormonal, autoimmune and inflammatory disorders
Meditation is no joke.
How Do I Get Started?
The best part is meditation requires no gear. You don’t have to learn a strict method or be in a fancy place with an esteemed teacher. Yes, some people specialize in specific methods and attend costly workshops or retreats, but it’s NOT necessary. All you need to begin is 10 spare minutes, twice a day, for optimal success. I’ve meditated on planes, in cars, hospitals, exams, forests, park benches, beds, waiting rooms, office chairs. You name the place, I’ve meditated there. Wherever you are, you can meditate.
All you need to do is sit comfortably, upright or laying down, with your hands resting in your lap or by your sides, and begin breathing slowly. Initially, I like to count: I breathe in to the count of four and out to the count of four to establish a rhythm. If you’d like, you can silently repeat a mantra. So Hum, which means “I Am That” in Sanskrit, is an easy one to begin with; it works to establish our connection to universal oneness and foster a sense of calm. When meditating with this mantra, repeat So to yourself silently while breathing in, and Hum while breathing out. If a mantra is a little too woo-woo for you, no problem: you can sit quietly, observing your thoughts as they come. and letting them float on by. The point of meditation is to quiet your mind and develop a feeling of inner peace, but thoughts will naturally arise. Our monkey minds are active and learning to control them is a process. Simply exhale your thoughts out, without engaging in frustration or judgment. Eventually, your mind will clear and you’ll begin to feel your own internal vibration. A wave of calm will wash over you. This is the sweet spot. Sit with this feeling, always breathing deeply, until your ten minutes is up. Some days you’ll want to meditate longer, other days you will struggle to stay for ten minutes without wanting to scream. It’s all fine. Just keep going. Twice a day, get quiet, and start breathing mindfully.
Feel like you need more assistance? You can download an app like Headspace to help you begin. I also like to listen to guided meditations, especially during frantic periods when I just can’t quiet my brain alone. Deepak Chopra and Davidji are two accomplished teachers you can rely on for guidance.
If you make only one change to your health and wellness routine this winter, I highly recommend you start meditating. The stress, depression and anxiety so many of us experience during November can be managed if you practice regularly. The impact is immense. After only a few weeks, you’ll notice the amazing benefits and you’ll never want to give it up.
Lauren Marotta is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN),lifestyle + wellness expert, and writer obsessed with keeping it real. To learn more about Lauren, follow her on Instagram + Twitter @laurenmarotta, visit her website www.laurenmarotta.com, or get in touch with her by saying firstname.lastname@example.org.