I struggle with generalized anxiety. Sometimes, lack of sleep or too much coffee heighten my symptoms; other times, I am completely overwhelmed by information overload and too much time spent in front of a computer with glazed eyes.
If you Google the phrase “information anxiety”, you will find that scholars have written books and papers about a new stressor: the feeling that you constantly need to pursue the latest information, the sense that you are overwhelmed by too much information, or the inability to organize or manage all the information that is coming your way.
I’ve become pretty good at “talking myself down” from panic and its icky symptoms, but I’m always searching for new tools to help me stay calm as much as possible. A lot of my friends choose yoga to stay calm, but getting into a downward dog isn’t possible when you’re commuting, at work, or stuck in traffic in your car.
Luckily, Life Coach and Reflexologist Sara Casey Connell, M.A.R. has a solution for anyone who spends too much time in front of a computer/iPad/iPhone/BlackBerry and not enough time meditating: the Calm CD ($17.99).
You don’t necessarily need 45 minutes (running time of CD) to feel calm, but I recommend you allot about an hour to listen for the first time. The CD is divided into three parts: the first part is great to use at the beginning of the day to center yourself, the second part is most effective if you find yourself absolutely overwhelmed or on the verge of panic, and the third part will help you relax your mind before a nap or full night’s rest.
Once you practice the meditations on the CD, you will be able to pick and choose which ones you like best and decide when to apply them. No single meditation takes more than 10 minutes out of your day, but Sara reminds you that you can extend each meditation and make it your own, once you feel comfortable doing so.
Sara prefaces each meditation with an introduction that explains its purpose and intended result. For most of the meditations, you should be wearing comfortable clothes and situate yourself in a quiet place.
However, I found myself wanting to do some of these meditations in the middle of the workday, at my desk, even though my coworkers were talking all around me. Just being able to breathe in a more focused way, even for a few minutes, can make a world of difference in your stress levels and mood.
What I like best about the CD is the way Sara gently guides the listener through each exercise. I’m usually really bad at focused breathing exercises, mostly because I get bored or distracted. But Sara’s voice is very calming and hypnotic, and I like that I can hear her breathe. I only wish that Sara provided more specific instructions about how to breathe; it sounds silly, but I felt like I was breathing incorrectly.
My favorite meditation is the Lying on the Belly Exercise, which is meant for intense and extreme anxiety. Basically, you must lie on the ground (indoors is fine, but grass is ideal) and breathe in a focused manner. As Sara explains, the belly and heart are the most vulnerable parts of the body, and this exercise lets you ground them.
My least favorite meditation was the Relaxation Counting Breath exercise, only because it was very challenging for me. I might grow to like it once I have a chance to practice more. Sara instructs the listener to breathe in for the count of eight, hold the breath for the count of eight, and exhale for the count of eight. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
Sara explains, “The mind starts, and the body follows.” I absolutely agree with her, and I think everyone should consider how a barrage of constant digital information can affect your mind and your mood. Sara claims that a former teacher told her she could do breathing exercises for five minutes every day, for just one month, her entire life could be transformed. I’m sure I could trade five minutes of looking at my Twitter feed for five minutes of focusing on my breath. Could you?
Disclosure: The Calm CD was generously provided to me, free of charge, by Sara Connell.
(Photo by kevindooley)