A little over a year ago, my company placed all employees on remote work. The news was met with mixed emotions from many of my colleagues. The feeling of joy from the relief from my daily commute was met with the anxiety of how much would have to be adjusted to still accomplish my work. A year in and I am still adjusting. With the pandemic leaving many unemployed, I realize how fortunate it is to still be employed and be afforded the opportunity of working from home.

For some, the thought of being able to work from home might be appealing and for others, it might be the norm. Personally, it has presented some challenges that I did not expect. Being isolated from my colleagues has made aspects of my job more difficult and has had a negative impact on my mental health. Virtual meetings are no substitute for the in-person contact that aspects of my job demand. In this new environment, my days are spent in multiple zoom meetings. This work environment has led to a new form of exhaustion commonly known as “zoom fatigue.”

The new work environment and the challenges it creates have reinforced the need to take time to be still, regroup, and take time for some much-needed self-care.

One of the practices that I have found most helpful is taking the time to embrace the practice of meditation. The thought of the practice of meditation used to evoke feelings of anxiety and discomfort. As I have eased into the practice discomfort was replaced with calm.

In recent years there have been multiple studies that have proven the benefits of the regular practice of meditation. The regular practice of meditation can improve cognition, decrease stress, improve concentration, lower blood pressure, improve heart health, and reduce anxiety and stress.

Compatible studies from the American Psychological Association and the University of California, Davis Center for Mind and Brain revealed that the regular practice of meditation improves memory and enhances the brain’s ability for critical thinking and problem-solving. These findings suggest that we have the ability to train our minds and our brains to think differently.

Incorporating this practice can also lower levels of cortisol which is a stress hormone that can make you feel more relaxed and calm. Studies also show that learning to manage stress and anxiety improves heart and cardiovascular health. In times when it seems like the weight of the world is resting on our shoulders the simple act of taking a deep breath can provide instant relief.

Researchers also suggest that meditation can improve the way we embrace and express compassion towards others. Meditation and deeper mindfulness can change the way we show compassion to ourselves. It can strengthen the parts of our brain that controls our ability to be empathetic towards others. We can not truly love others until we learn how to love ourselves, this too I am learning.

Rather than embracing the practice, it has been my custom to run from it. My hesitance was reinforced by the thoughts of not knowing how to, questioning my abilities, and the feelings of awkwardness that accompanied the practice. The best way to overcome those thoughts was to dive right in and try. The benefits of the practice far outweigh the challenges of beginning. It is not going to be perfect every time and that is OK. The struggle of incorporating this into every day of my life has certainly been evident.

One of the lessons that continue to be reaffirmed in my life is that you have to take the time to take care of yourself. Take a moment, take a deep breath, take care of yourself, and learn to be still.

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