Take A Deep Breath
This is the first thing that you see when you open up the Calm app.
Even though I’ve been using the app for 4 years now, those words don’t fail to stop my racing brain to take a moment to just breathe.
This post has been long overdue. I’ve been meaning to write a dedicated post about my experience with Calm since my very first health and well-being post back in 2017! I’m glad that I spent some time to hold off writing it however, because since the very early days of Calm, it has evolved from my initial use of meditation and mindfulness practice to other aspects such as a treatment for travel anxiety, to help improve my sleep and to help me wake up appreciative of my body.
As I subscribe for yet another year with Calm, I wanted to take the time to reflect on this wellness journey of my mind…all from an app.
It was late 2015/early 2016 when I realised that my panic attacks and the aggressive anxiety in my stomach that caused my heart to beat faster than what was normal was ruining my life.
I would avoid social gatherings (unless it was a small group of people that I knew very well) and constantly pray that I wouldn’t make eye contact with the lecturer or other students so they wouldn’t talk to me. I lived my life in constant fear and anxiety of not only other people but also, the world around me. I would refuse to travel apart from walk or a lift in my dad’s car, I would go constantly to the toilet even when I didn’t need it, I would stay awake at night worrying about my every interaction I had that day.
It wasn’t probably until I was having one of the worse panic attacks I ever had, where my whole family was there trying to help me as I tried to disappear into the floor crying, hearing nothing but the loud beating of my stressed heart that I realised that I couldn’t live in this state anymore. It was like I was finally seeing the worry and sadness on their faces for the first time, that gave me the power to take the steps to improve my relationship with my brain.
I spent some time talking to doctors who gave me tablets that would change the chemical signals in my brain. After being on them for a few months, I felt less and less in touch with myself. There would be days on end where I was so emotional and go through cycles of bursts of happiness to sadness in a space of 24 hours that made my life and those that I love, even worse.
My first 5 minutes
In one of my moments of clarity after an unexpected life event, I turned to alternatives. Anything else. I was desperate. I stumbled upon mindfulness and meditation during this time of desperation, and then as a result discovered Headspace and Calm. Although committing to my first 7 days of 5 minute meditation sessions with Calm was initially quite a challenge – I didn’t realise the abundance of my negative thoughts and how frequent they were… After each day, I started looking forward to sitting down with a good 1-2-1 with my mind.
This might sound funny, but after completing one of my first sessions, I ended up crying. All I was doing was listening to guidance from the voice on the app for 5 minutes, but what made me cry was the release of bad energy I kept so tightly in my tensed face, my head and body overall. That was a moment and feeling that I’ll never forget.
The 554 day streak
Sitting down in a corner of my room quickly became a habit every morning. If I was having quite a tough day with my emotions, I would do several sessions until I felt myself start to relax. Eventually, I went from 5 minutes, to 10 minutes, to 20 minutes, and the longest session being 30 minutes. I did this for my longest streak, according to my Calm app, of 554 days.
These 554 days were life-changing, I had seen improvements in every aspect of my life. Here are a few:
- Reduced my anxiety and general anxious thoughts. I stopped taking medication.
- For the longest time in a long time, I slept my full 7/8 hours without waking up in the middle of the night dreading the next day.
- Improved my awareness and mindfulness of things around me – the world is a pretty awesome place if you look up once in a while
- Improved my productivity – This sounds silly, but I strongly believe that without the constant need to go to the toilet all the time (because of anxiety), I could focus more.
- My mind felt more spacious too rather than cluttered (if that makes any sense)
- Appreciated my body a lot more, and began to intertwine my new mindfulness habit with physical improvements too
- A mindset shift: adapting the growth mindset, understanding that things in life just happen sometimes and I don’t need to control every second of it.
- Being more appreciative and grateful for what I have and practising the art of not taking things for granted
- I faced my fears of travel and now travel across the world as much as I can. In 2017, the following year after I started meditating, I went around Europe and America. 😱
- An overall confidence boost and belief in myself
- Waking up feeling alive and excited to be alive! ✨
At present 1,340 sessions and 404 hours later
Today, I am still subscribed to Calm!
Although I don’t meditate as much as I used to (doing a session at least twice a week over the weekends, but getting back into it!), it is heavily integrated into my life now and I don’t know how I could be without it. There have been weeks (since breaking my streak), where I wouldn’t open it but when I finally sit back down to get some head space, I remember why I have it.
Some of the things I use it for, today:
- Daily meditation – even though I can definitely improve on this front recently.
- Getting to sleep – with the recent introduction to Sleep Stories and Sounds, I’ve been drifting to sleep listening to some incredible stories. I haven’t ever finished one to the end because I fall asleep immediately, but it’s so incredibly relaxing – just what you need before bed.
- Inspiration – with Calm Masterclasses, I’ve spent some time listening to some incredible people about topics such as Gratitude, Mindset, Happiness and more! I always leave feeling inspired, and that inspiration always leads to something great later on.
- Stretching my body – with Calm Body, I use their stretches to either wake myself up in the morning or wind down before bed. There are various sessions that guide you to properly stretch your body – mindfully too!
- Productivity and Focus – with Calm Music, I listen to some nature melodies, soundscapes especially to help me focus at work.
- Relieve my travel anxiety – I still get quite anxious especially on flights. Calm recently released a Flight Anxiety meditation which I use every single trip I make abroad. It helps me relieve tension and the fear I have on take-off and landing.
- Keeping me grounded. Because we all need that at times.
“Slowly open your eyes, bring awareness to the room around you”
Every time I think back to those darker days, I get emotional. At the same time, I feel this intense feeling of gratitude for taking the step to create a better me. One who is more at peace and content with life.
Although I still have days where I worry that I will be in that dark hole again, I feel like I have built up the strength to face anything life throws at me. And most of the time hopefully, in a calm, mindful way.