Sometime in the summer of 2020, as the name of this post suggests, I took the Instagram app off my phone.
That timing is incredibly important. The pandemic started earlier that year, and I spent hours and hours scrolling, wasting my time staring at my phone screen. I started following many new accounts to swipe through, from influencers to artists to educators and everything in between. Though they made me happy at the time – and I can’t stress enough what a time that was – Instagram quickly became an ongoing source of stress and more mentally tiring than I thought it would be.
My first week of work in 2021 was… stressful. I was off between Christmas and New Year, and definitely settled into my daily routine of waking up in the late afternoon and doing whatever I wanted. Because of this, transitioning back into work was jarring! And not to mention other current events happening at the same time! I wanted to crawl back into my bed and never leave!
Back when I could go into the office, I actually used to meditate a lot during my work breaks. On nice days, I would go to a nearby park and sit in the sun; on not-so-nice days, common in New England, I would retreat to an empty conference room. It was a great way to clear my mind on particularly stressful or tedious days, and I almost always returned to my desk with more focus.
However, it’s been difficult to work meditation into my new, perpetual work-from-home routine. I’ve been using my breaks during the day to exercise (which is still a good mental break, but doesn’t quite have the same effect) and have never really dedicated time outside of work hours to meditate.
Because I was so stressed out after my first week of 2021, for the next week, I decided to purposely take time out of my day every day to take a meditation break to see if that would cure my mental ails.
My week of meditation went well! I ended up different amounts of time off at least once a day during the week, ranging from 5 minutes to 30 minutes. Most of the time was spent with silence or playing relaxing music, though I did do some guided meditations on particularly distracted days.
One major change during this week was that work felt a lot less stressful. However, it was admittedly difficult for me to pin this result specifically on meditation. I work in customer service, where my workload depends heavily on people asking questions, and perhaps that second week had a lower volume of submitted tickets. Maybe they were easier tickets. Maybe I had more time to clear my queue. Who knows! Either way, this was a welcome change.
My favorite takeaway from meditating was not anything about my current work specifically, but about the future. I spent a lot of my meditation time thinking about where and how I want to move forward in my career, and was able to make more actionable, concrete plans to meet those goals. Sure, I may have found time to reflect outside of meditating, but it was nice to have that time carved out for my brain to wander and find the connections organically.
Additionally, my mindset toward work shifted as well. While this may be due to the week being less busy overall, I do think that part of this is due to meditation as well. I am the type of person that can work well under stress, but I can also burn out quickly after being on overdrive. When things feel high alert for too long, that burn out only gets more intense, and it continues even after things have cooled down.
Because of this, meditating helped me step away from and reframe my current workload to realize that things weren’t as busy as they were before and that I didn’t have to put as much pressure on myself anymore. I was able to stop scrambling and handle new questions with grace and calmness, instead of being shocked and strained by every new thing that came in. A good mindset for work – but also a good mindset for life as well!
After my week of meditation was up, I admit that I haven’t taken time out to meditate again. I’ve fallen back into my old habits of exercising or tidying up during my work breaks, which are still productive and meditative in their own ways, but not the strict habit that I had set for myself previously.
However, as I write this post out, I wonder if I should pick this habit back up. I completely acknowledge that meditation is best done consistently, done during the good times and the bad, but I’ve never been able to set up a constant “streak” outside of this single week. Moving forward, I will likely never meditate daily, but I will continue to look for more nooks and crannies in my schedule to fit sessions in, even if they’re just quick ones!
I try to take a preventative approach to my health – both mental and physical. When lockdowns first started, I knew I had to find some way to go outside in order to not feel so cooped up and let my body (and mind) breathe.
I used to publicly post all of my walks on Strava, but stopped in August, when my count reached 91 total walks (!!!). I have kept tracking them in the app, and have been relying on the regular walk challenges (sometimes 4 times a week, sometimes 50K in a month) to force myself out, even when it feels tough.
Though I used to feel bad about not going for runs anymore, I soon realized that my body needed a break after an intense marathon training season. I’ve also taken advantage of the lack of races to explore alternate forms of exercise that I would not have normally taken up when I was running 5 days a week, like strength training and pilates.
My favorite parts of taking these walks have been exploring my neighborhood and soaking in the sunshine and greenery around me. Though I suspected that being out and about was important for my mental health before (again, I was out running 5 days a week!), taking these walks on my own accord throughout the year has truly hammered that point home for me. I’ve even noticed a dip in my mood and temperament when I don’t get out and move my body outside.