Cooling Your Head in Stressful Times

Meditation can help you ignore distractions and accomplish your goals.

Meditation can help you ignore distractions and accomplish your goals.
Meditation can help you ignore distractions and accomplish your goals..

When I started taping the ABC reality show “My Diet Is Better than Yours,” I was getting exhausted from the long hours and stress on set. I was so focused on the show that my mind was constantly racing and I started having trouble with falling asleep at night. With each restless night of sparse and broken sleep, I woke up more physically and emotionally drained than the day before. I felt like I was running on empty.

After a week, I knew that enough was enough and I had to find a healthy solution to heal my stressed mind and body. There had to be a better way to deal with my stress after a grueling day of work so that I could relax deeply enough to fall asleep.

I’ve heard of the benefits of meditation for years and years but I never gave it a try because I never found the time. Between work and family, who has free time to spend on anything new these days? We can easily book up the twenty-four hours in a day with a laundry list of things to do and still have at least an extra ten hours worth of work we couldn’t fit into the day. This mindset is the root of the problem itself. If you neglect to give your mind and body the ingredients it needs to function properly, your mind and body will be forced to operate from a point of deficit, and sickness and disease will slowly creep into your life.

We constantly forget to schedule time for ourselves during the day.

To make the matter even worse, sometimes we don’t even see the need for it. We’ve conditioned ourselves to behave like machines in order to physically accomplish the immense amount of work we have on any given day. Unlike a machine, the human body is not wired to keep working whenever the power button is turned on.

We require rest and relaxation for our mind and body to recover from the strenuous activities we constantly put it through. Even if we’re physically active and eat a healthful and nutritious diet, we still need to find a way to cleanse our minds of the stress and tension building up like tightly pulled rubber bands on the verge of snapping any moment.

I finally decided to try a meditation class. I found a local studio which offered an evening class so I scheduled it into my day after wrapping up the shoot on set. Throughout that day, I was fighting with myself about whether or not I should actually go to the class. My brain didn’t want to welcome a change to my schedule, a schedule that was already maxed out with too many things to do. This seemed like just one more task that I didn’t have the time for. I had to make the time to attend the mediation class by denying an invitation to dinner with a few of my coworkers, something I wouldn’t have normally done. When you’re on a tight schedule, productivity is of the highest importance and I was having trouble justifying to myself why I should put my work on hold to go and meditate with total strangers.

6:30 pm came along before I knew it, and I went against human instinct to find the easy way out and called a cab to take me to meditation class. That night, I was able to better ignore the distractions in my mind and focus on falling asleep. I finally got the good night’s rest that my body was craving.

Sometimes all it takes is a minor disruption in our good habits to uncover the cracks in our lives and experience how stressed out and unraveled we could become. A disruption of this magnitude can come from such simple things, such as a change in your work environment, working late to meet a deadline, or assuming new or different responsibilities. We’re creatures of habit and we like to revert to that which is easy, comfortable, familiar and safe. Sometimes we need to try out new things that might be uncomfortable at first, but lead to a healthy and positive outcome.

Reasons to Meditate

There are many reasons why men choose to meditate, including enhancing their productivity, reducing stress levels, boosting athletic performance, increasing mental focus and body awareness, losing weight, combating anxiety and depression, looking younger, and improving sleep patterns.

Meditation can improve your calmness, physical relaxation, psychological balance, ability to cope with illnesses, and help support your overall health. It teaches you to focus on the interactions between your mind, body, brain and behavior. People have many misconceptions of what meditation really is. Many assume that meditation is just about clearing your mind of all thoughts and trying to forget your worries, as impossible as that sounds. Well, you’re not meant to clear all of your thoughts during meditation and chant “ommm” as you focus on your ethereal guiding light.

Core Elements of Meditation

Even though there are many types of meditation you can do, they all focus on four core elements including a quiet location, a specific and comfortable posture, a focus of your attention, and an open and accepting attitude. Finding a quiet location is very important to help you feel comfortable in on your meditation as you need to be as undistracted as possible. Aim for a location where you’re comfortable with as few distractions as possible. Maintaining a specific and comfortable posture is also important.  Popular postures are sitting, lying down, walking or other familiar positions. You’ll choose a specific focus to direct your attention towards throughout the meditation, such as a special chosen word or set of words, an object, or the sensations of breathing. Lastly, an open and non-judgmental attitude is crucial to the success of your meditation. You can’t help the fact that distractions will enter your mind throughout the course of the meditation, but it’s very important that you can let those distractions come and go naturally without judging them or judging yourself in the process.

It’s quite easy to meditate on your own. Once you choose your location and position, focus on your breathing or another point of focus that you choose, and turn your mind’s attention to the present. Don’t let your mind drift into the concerns of the past or the future. If these thoughts come up, simply dismiss them and don’t let them distract you from the focus you have chosen. Some examples of points to focus on during the meditation are your breath, physical sensations in your body, the present moment, your emotions, emotional triggers, your compassion for others, forgiveness, your core values, inspiration, your goals, a shared sense of humanity with others around you, your own happiness, the beauty of a rose, soothing music, a calming and rejuvenating white light, a conversation that your mind is stuck on, and the feeling of vastness and expansiveness in the space around you.

Benefits of Meditation

You can also use meditation to help you develop better eating habits. You can meditate while you’re eating by savoring every bite and really experiencing your food as you chew every single bite. You can also focus on breathing in a feeling of lightness and positivity,and breathing out stress and negativity. To do this, focus on breathing in positive emotions through your inhale, like love, compassion, and inspiration, and expelling negative emotions from your body through your exhale, like stress, anger, and resentment.

Studies show that this kind of mindful meditation can help ease psychological stress including pain, depression, and anxiety. People who have anxiety have trouble dealing with thoughts that distract them. They tend to assign too much power to these distracting thoughts and have trouble distinguishing between the nagging worries crossing their minds and problem-solving thoughts that need their attention. Mindful meditation teaches you to recognize the nagging worry for the pointless energy trap which it is, and not to allow that worry to overpower your mind and control your actions or any further thoughts.  You realize that your worries are not a part of your “core self” so you can dismiss them from preoccupying your mind and move forward to accomplish your goals. Studies show that these mindful meditation and stress reduction techniques significantly help reduce anxiety in people who have generalized anxiety disorder and suffer from worrying, poor sleeping patterns and irritability.

With regular meditation, people who suffer from pain are able to reduce the intensity of their pain signals because of a positive change in their brains. Through regular meditation over an 8-week period of time, the brain learns to better control a certain type of brain wave called an alpha rhythm. Having greater control of these brain waves helps us suppress the irrelevant or distracting sensory information that our brains experience. Your brain learns to minimize and suppress distractions, maintain better focus, and regulate its reactions to the things happening around you. You’re more able to handle the same amounts of stress in the same exact conditions because you’re not as reactive to your situation or the environment around you. Meditation teaches us to develop to an internal awareness of the body and its sensations so it’s possible for us to focus our attention on what we choose to focus it on, and not to get stuck by shifting our focus to an area of pain.

Closing Thoughts

Just imagine how productive you would be in a day if you could ignore the distractions in your life and focus on your goals. We can’t control the distractions or the stresses we deal with from our work and personal lives, but we can change our reactions to them. How we act in the face of stress is very important. Do we let stress get the best of us, negatively impact our health, make us anxious, frustrated, and angry, or prevent us from getting the good night’s sleep that our bodies need? We have to accept that around us which we cannot change, and change how we look at situations in order to thrive in them and serve our best interests. Meditation helped me reach this sense of peace, relaxation, and mental control, and I definitely recommend that you open your mind to the experience and see how meditation can help you.

About the Author - Jay Cardiello is a Health Strategist, Celebrity Trainer and author of the No Diet Plan. For fit tips, news and recipes, check out Jay's website at


Meditation.  National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health:  National Institute of Health, 11 Jan 2016.  Web.  27 Feb 2016.


Mindfulnesss Meditation May Ease Anxiety, Mental Stress.  Corliss J.  Harvard Health Publications, 8 Feb 2014.  Web.  27 Feb 2016.

The Benefits of Meditation.  Trafton A.  MIT News Office, 5 May 2011.  Web.  27 Feb 2016.

What to Focus on During Meditation: 20 Ideas.  Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute.  Web.  27 Feb 2016.

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