Meditation in a Time of Stress

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In a time of so much uncertainty and turmoil, we turn to our UW experts for guidance on exercise, nutrition, finances, and resilience. One practice with many benefits is meditation. While it can be intimidating to those with little to no experience, meditation has no set rules and is a simple practice that can overtime build resiliency, reduce stress, and help balance your day. That’s why we asked Danny Arguetty, UW Recreation Mindfulness Manager, for his top ideas on how to begin incorporating meditation into your day.

Meditation is a mindfulness practice that strengthens mental attentiveness and facilitates our ability to step back, take inventory of the present moment, and make more skillful, empowered decisions in our daily life. The practice can increase mental clarity, improve productivity, reduce stress, and support us to expand our perspective and employ more compassion.

Whether you are new to meditation or wanting a refresher on the basics, here are some ideas to keep in mind.

Find a Focal Point

While there are other techniques for meditation, in general we are invited to focus on one thing (breath, sound, washing the dishes, walking, etc.) and then notice when the mind has traveled somewhere else (for a prolonged period of time or about 15+ seconds). Then kindly bring the focus back to our chosen focal point. If using the breath, simply pause and notice how it moves and where you are feeling it most—like the belly center, ribs, or tips of your nostrils.

Busy Mind?

Your mind doesn’t need to be quiet in meditation, thoughts are natural, the key is which ones are you paying most attention to. While some people do experience more space between thoughts or an absence of thoughts for a bit, that isn’t our grand goal. On some days you might find your thoughts are more in the background (like turning down a volume dial) as you keep returning to your chosen focal point.

Seated Meditation

Many meditations are led in seated position. If you choose this make sure you are comfortable. Use a cushion or folded blanket if sitting on the floor or sit in a chair. Also, if you sit for work throughout your day, consider standing to give your body a break and neutralize your spine. If during the meditation you feel very uncomfortable (a slight sensation that you can stay with is one thing, but pain is not needed) adjust yourself so you are more comfortable.

How Long?

Attention practices (aka meditation) have been shown to be beneficial even when done for three to five minutes. Notice how long works for you on a given day. Longer is not necessarily better and yet sometimes a longer period (or having a set time boundary) will support you in getting more in the zone. It is best to set a gentle timer so you don’t have to think about how much time you have left.

Get Guidance

Especially if you are newer to meditation there are many resources (apps, websites, recordings) available to support you step-by-step as you begin this journey. Be compassionate to yourself. Meditation is a skill which requires a bit of time to build. Start small with one or two days a week and increase it from there if you find that it is working for you.

Feel free to check-out the following resources to help you on your meditation journey:

Danny Arguetty, M.A., is the mindfulness manager at the University of Washington, a yoga teacher (and teacher trainer), nutrition/life coach, and a lover of the environment. He is the author of Nourishing the Teacher and The 6 Qualities of Consciousness. Passionate about helping people flourish through mindfulness, wellness, and personal self-development, he has over a decade’s worth of experience in group facilitation, one-on-one coaching, and experiential teaching.

Danny has guided workshops throughout the United States, led basic and advanced yoga trainings in the U.S. and India, and spoken at Facebook, Olson Kundig, Gravity Payments, Seattle Children’s, UW Foster School of Business, School of Social Work, School of Medicine, and The Whole U.