I attended a guided meditation workshop at Hilltop Yoga this evening. The timing of the workshop before Thanksgiving was no coincidence — it was geared toward helping everyone find ways to reduce their stress levels during the holidays. My teacher, Hilaire Lockwood, did a brilliant job, as she always does, of connecting us to the deepest parts of ourselves. With her talking the packed room through various meditation exercises, the process of moving toward stillness seemed like the most natural thing in the world.
On my own, however, I find meditation, and being still in general, very difficult. If I’m watching my daily dose of The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, I’m probably also scanning TweetDeck or my Google Reader account. I do yoga (primarily, power yoga and Ashtanga) because it’s the best practice I’ve ever found to keep the world at bay and achieve true inner focus. I meditate best through movement.
With the guided meditation still fresh on my body, mind and spirit, I’m thinking about whether social media, which makes up an important part of my day-to-day life, can be employed as another daily tool to reduce stress. Whether it’s a steady stream of 140-character messages in the form of tweets, live news updates on Facebook or constantly updating RSS feeds, the social media world does not exactly promote focus. But as someone who finds a certain calm through movement, I don’t think the idea of social media and focus should be diametrically opposed.
Here a few ideas I have for using our favorite social networks and the like to keep the stress at bay this holiday season:
Use RSS feeds to help you do your holiday shopping more efficiently
For many of us, holiday shopping is a huge source of stress. Let’s face it, no matter what level of zen we can manage to achieve, it’s hard to be looking at the calendar on Dec. 19 and counting how many shopping days are left till Christmas, and it’s hard to maintain total calm when circling around the mall parking lot for the fifth time looking hoping for a spot to open up. Add gifts that need to be shipped and everything else, and high blood pressure seems inevitable.
I’m a huge fan of Etsy.com, the online store that features handmade goods from artists and craftmakers from all over the world. So when I find a store I like, such as this one, I subscribe to its RSS feeds so that I can see new products added throughout the year. Every now and then, something new catches my eye that I know would make the perfect gift. So I do a little shopping all year long, which takes some of the pressure off of the pressure-cooker months of November and December.
Identify yogic tweeters, and follow them
I get much of my news through Twitter, by having tweets sent to my phone. This is a blessing and a curse. I know I won’t miss any important news, but on a day when I’m running from one meeting to the next, or jammed with deadlines, it can be overwhelming to scroll through 35 tweets all about breaking local and national news, all about crime, the economy or military developments. So I follow Twitter accounts like @HilltopYoga and @shareyoga. I get updates from Hilltop Yoga about upcoming workshops, which gives me something to look forward to on especially stressful days, and offers the periodic yoga philosophy. @shareyoga tweets yoga breaks. These tweets help break up what can be a heavy Twitter stream.
Tell your Facebook friends how stressed you are
Inevitably, when I do a status update about how stressed I am, I get several comments from friends that either remind me to take a deep breath or make me laugh despite my bad mood. Status updates work every time. So if you’re pulling your hair out because you’ve got family coming in 48 hours, your place is a mess and you haven’t even started thinking about cooking, say so — you’ll have a lot of support.
Do you actively use social media to make your life less stressful? Given that Thanksgiving is just four days away, and I have so much to before then, I’ve love to hear any suggestions you have.
(Photo credit: Dave-F)