By Susan Callahan, Anne Nolen and Katrin Schumann
Authors of Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too
Moms these days are crazy-busy and certainly, there’s pride in being a society of doers. But what toll does this take? The alarming rise in the rate of sleeping pill usage tells us loud and clear that many of us are finding it harder and harder to relax. In researching our book, Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too, we came across some eye-opening statistics: according to the National Institutes of Health, up to 40 percent of adult Americans suffer sleep problems each year. Hardly surprising, then, that pharmacists filled 43 million prescriptions for sleep drugs in 2005 â€“ that’s up 32 percent in only four years, according to Consumer Reports. Wow!
Is it always wise, or safe, to seek quick-fixes to our problems? Sure, popping that Ambien may ensure a good night’s sleep, but what does that say about our mental and physical health if we can’t find rest without chemically inducing it?
Yes, it takes time to find longer-term, more holistic solutions to our problems, but not only is it worth it, it’s actually crucial.
Here’s one option we bet many of you haven’t tried yet: Meditation. It’s hard for many to wrap their heads around it, but it pays off big time. Check out Elizabeth Gilbert’s hilarious account of trying to achieve nirvana in her bestselling book, â€œEat, Pray, Love.â€ You have to have patience. You have to control your wandering mind. You have to find a small chunk of free time! But people who practice meditation swear by it.
In O Magazine’s April 2007 issue, Dr. Mehmet Oz, director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, says that mediation â€œlowers blood pressure and heart rate and counteracts secretion of stress hormones like cortisol.â€ And according to a 2003 Time Magazine article, 10 million Americans say they practice some form of meditation regularly–that’s twice as many as a decade earlier.
You can do it too, right now! If you have ten minutes, here’s one way to start that we learned from a physical therapist:
1. Sit comfortably in an upright chair. Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath. With your mouth closed in a slight smile, inhale and exhale through your nose.
2. Begin to notice where the inhalation ends and the exhalation begins, and visa versa.
3. Focus on the pause between the breaths. Notice the pause becoming longer, and the breaths as well. Find comfort and relaxation in your breath and how deeply peaceful the present moment is.
4. Practice this for five to ten minutes. When a thought enters your mind, imagine putting it in a drawer and closing it.
5. End with a positive thought: with each inhalation acknowledge a blessing in your life and with the exhalation give that blessing more energy or gratitude.
6. Take note: there’s no right way to meditate! Just give it a go and accept that whatever steps you’re taking are better than not trying at all.