If you’re a busy person, expecting a wonderful calm, relaxing, zen-like experience, when you first start mediating, is likely to leave you bitterly disappointed. Busy people often find that meditation feels anything but calm and relaxing. It can feel weird and uncomfortable.

This is not a sign that you’re doing it incorrectly, or that there’s anything wrong with you. If you’re used to living with your foot to the floor, then stopping, sitting still and doing nothing (even though meditating isn’t strictly ‘doing nothing’) can feel really unpleasant.

Challenged, by the unfamiliar (stopping the go-go-go busyness and going inwards) your mind will push back and push back hard. It might scream at you, ‘what do you think you’re doing? this feels weird, I don’t like it, this is a complete waste of time, for God’s sake get up and do something!’ Sound familiar?

Just like any addiction be prepared to go through withdrawals when you start meditating.

Just like any addiction – it doesn’t matter if it’s alcohol, drugs, food or simply relentless busyness – be prepared to go through withdrawals when you start meditating. It’s normal to feel agitated, restless and uncomfortable. Your mind is likely to mutiny and bring out the big guns to assert its authority, demanding you give in to your usual fix.

For the busy person, that’s usually a message urging more busyness, to do something, anything, don’t just don’t sit there!

Meditation for many of us, is an experience in the unfamiliar. Knowing it’s normal to feel uncomfortable (and that it’s likely to happen) means you’re more prepared and less likely to throw in the towel when the first signs of push back occur.

It takes a certain amount of effort to sit through what can only be described as an unpleasant meditation experience. It’s normal though. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re simply going up against your usual familiar experience. Be prepared to put some effort in. And know, that over time and with patience and perseverance, this will pass.

Ten tips if you’re struggling to meditate:

  1. Give yourself permission to feel ‘antsy’ as you build up your practice
  2. Don’t try and sit for long periods, 2-5 mins is great to begin with
  3. Let go of needing to have a particular kind of experience (sure you probably want to feel calm and relaxed, but don’t try and force it).
  4. See meditation as the ultimate in self-care (not another chore)
  5. Apply a little less effort and lighten up (you can get back to your to-do list later)
  6. Smile (I’m serious) a little smile can completely change how you feel
  7. Be patient and kind with yourself (you’re doing the best you can)
  8. Make peace with not being able to meditate perfectly (nobody does…)
  9. Trust the process (it can feel like your mind is busier than everyone else’s, it’s not…)
  10. Take off your busy badge of honour for a few minutes each day (you’ll be far more productive afterwards)

And before you know it, you’ll experience what it’s like to have a quieter mind and a more relaxed body. Meditation in one sense, is a lot like Pantene. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen!

Kerene Strochnetter is the Managing Director of Mindful at Work Ltd. On a mission to make the M-words cool (mindfulness and meditation) in the workplace, Mindful at Work delivers ‘My Off Switch’ workplace programmes to businesses across New Zealand and Australia, to groups, leaders and individuals looking for peak performance, to build resilience, lift engagement and create a healthier workplace.

It’s all about changing the way you work and positively influencing workplace culture.