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If you’re like me—super-busy and just trying to keep your head above water—meditating is more than worth your time.

April 15, 2015

We probably haven’t met, but if you knew me, you would burst out laughing at the idea of me meditating.

I have a hard time sitting still in meetings that last more than 10 minutes, most of the day I work standing up (or I get my colleagues to take workout breaks with me), I exercise frequently to, as my husband says, “run off the crazy” (even at photo shoots), and just generally I tend to be kind of, well, intense.

Plus, like most moms, I’m busy. Between work, my family, managing the home front (meals, laundry…), and friends, free time is limited, to say the least. Carve out 10 to 20 extra minutes every day to sit still and breathe? Puh-leeze.

But then, when a work opportunity for my husband meant relocating for a few months, I started to feel like I couldn’t outrun the crazy any more. I worked out as much and as hard as before, but the ever-present-yet-manageable anxiety I always feel intensified. I couldn’t sleep, I had trouble focusing, I felt overwhelmed. Knowing how dangerous stress can be, something had to give.

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A friend of mine, health coach Cassandra Bodzak, once told me that her entire life began to fall into place when she started meditating. That always stuck in my mind, and I had “start meditating” on my long-term, who-knows-if-I’ll-ever-get-to-it to-do list. Suddenly it became clear: It was time to give meditation a try.

I had several false starts—the first few times, I just lay on my bed and tried to clear my head while breathing deeply. That lasted about 27 seconds before my mind was wandering, then I was fidgeting, then I was making lists in my head and the lists stressed me out. I tried a few guided meditations I found on YouTube, but there was too much plinky-plinky music and too many mentions of chakras for my taste. Mind wandering, fidgeting, and mental list-making, all ensued.

But then, after about a week of trying and failing miserably, I found a guided meditation by a British team called The Honest Guys that really worked for me. So much so that when it was over, I was flattened. I was so relaxed that I couldn’t move for about 10 minutes. Who knew?

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I’ve been doing the same meditation for about 3 weeks now. I try to do it every day, but sometimes it doesn’t happen, and I find I really miss it. Meditation leaves me feeling relaxed, of course, but also better able to focus, a bit more patient. My sleep has improved. Meditating has helped me be more aware of those moments of stress during the day, and I now stop to take a deep breath when I need to.

Has it wildly changed my life? No. But as journalist Dan Harris aptly explains in his book about his journey with meditation, it’s made me about 10% happier.

I’m certainly no expert; people practice meditation for years, decades. But here’s what I’ve learned after three-plus weeks.

Meditation is for everyone

If you picture hippies and self-help gurus when you think about meditation, so did I. But if you’re like me—super-busy and just trying to keep your head above water—it’s more than worth the time. You won’t miss the 15 or so “lost minutes,” and in fact, they might make you feel better and even more efficient.

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Self-care is critical

We all know this, but it’s easy to forget day to day. I was so focused on being 100% on top of everything surrounding my family’s move that I forgot to just take care of myself. Even my workouts, which usually help center me and keep me calm, became a line item on the to-do list. I forgot how essential it is to just be kind to myself for a few minutes every day. Meditation reminded me of that.

Breathe

Seriously, it is a powerful thing. Even if you’re not ready to commit to a more formal meditation, you can stop what you’re doing for a second. Celebrity nutritionist Keri Glassman RD recommends taking an 8-count breath to reduce stress. Try it.

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Find out what works for you

Don’t be afraid of trial and error. It took me several false starts before I landed on the guided meditation that is exactly right for me, and I’m so glad I stuck it out. But that particular one might not work for you. You may be all about the chakras. Or you might not want to hear anyone talking. Music alone could be enough for you, or perhaps total silence is what you need. There’s no magic formula. Try some things out and see what makes sense for you.

You can choose to succeed

Before this, I convinced myself I couldn’t meditate. I’m not “the type,” too fidgety, etc. But guess what? I can. I just had to make up my mind to it. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true: Believe you can do it, and then do it.

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