How to start and keep a meditation practice with Adrienne Côté

March 21, 2018

Adrienne Côté brings her many years of working with prenatal and postnatal women as a Birth and Postpartum Doula and Birth Educator into her work as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. Her private practice specializes in optimizing female health, fertility, hormones and postpartum recovery. Adrienne currently teaches and works with both Doula and Nutrition clients across the city of Toronto and over Skype.

With the ongoing daily stress that so many of us experience, we wanted to chat with Adrienne about how to feel grounded through all of the chaos and make meditation a daily practice.

WEHL: Tell us about yourself and why you became interested in wellness.

AC: I initially went to school for Social Work and Sociology. I loved helping people and it seemed like a natural direction for me.

After graduating,  I worked my way through a few not for profit agencies in varying capacities, worked the front lines in several group care facilities and shelters. It is not especially shocking to learn that after working in these super high demand and stressful positions, my health started to suffer drastically. I was in my mid-twenties when my body physically turned on me from stress overload. I developed migraines that lasted months on end without ceasing, fatigue, anxiety and chronic pain. I ended up having to quit my job at the time and taking a year off to heal.

Before all that medical drama, I had always been drawn to holistic approaches to health but wasn’t always very good at following through with all the practices, even though I was well-intentioned. Let’s face it I was in my twenties at the time and having fun at whatever cost was always at the top of my priorities. But being so ill truly pushed me to search out alternative methods as I was desperate for answers that no one in the medical community could seem to give me.

I ended up connecting with Naturopaths, RMT’s, Chiropractors and the like who slowly helped my body to heal from years of stress overload. After seeing the results from these practitioners I was hooked! I knew then that a career in wellness was my path.

I trained to become a Doula and Birth Educator as I had loved working with pregnancy and babies during one of my shelter jobs as a Counselor. From there it grew into me pursuing a career and education in Holistic Nutrition as I had found the simple act of changing my diet and adding in supplements created drastically positive effects on my health.

I continue to love this amazing world of wellness awareness that we live in. There are always so many new things to learn and apply to our lives to make sure we not just live our best lives but thrive!

WEHL: What’s your philosophy on wellness?

AC: Personally, for me, wellness means living my best every day to ensure I’m healthy physically and emotionally. It means eating well but also following what my body wants, moving my body daily in some capacity and spending time working on my mental health through meditation, journaling, practicing gratitude and self-reflection. Wellness for me also means saying yes to the things that excite me and saying no when I need to and some days it means eating pizza and watching Netflix in the afternoon. I definitely feel that wellness is a journey rather than a destination.

We have so much access and exposure to the current trends in health and wellness that it can feel like there are a million different diets, health and exercise philosophies to choose from. Everyone has an opinion on what diet is the best or what fitness plan you should be following.

While I truly feel it’s amazing that wellness and health have become so mainstream, the overload of stuff out there can also be confusing and overwhelming when trying to create your own version of a healthy lifestyle.

The bottom line is we are all biologically unique individuals and as such we will all respond to foods and exercise differently for a variety of reasons. There isn’t a one size fits all approach that works for everyone, that’s just the reality.  

So I guess you could say my philosophy on wellness is: Do what feels good for you.

WEHL: What does meditation mean to you?

AC: For me, meditation means taking time for myself to sit in stillness and quiet. To take time to either reflect on things, focus on a particular mantra or sometimes I use it as a time to completely unwind and let my mind rest.

It’s really about prioritizing time for myself every day to nurture my mind and body. It’s so important.

WEHL: How did you start meditating?

AC: I had dabbled in meditation for years but had never really practiced it routinely. It actually wasn’t until September 2017 that I really started to meditate in depth. I suffered a concussion which came with a myriad of not so pleasant symptoms that have persisted months later.

Meditating became one of the only ways to help reduce my headaches as well as my overwhelming anxiety that developed after the injury. Now I do it every single day.

WEHL: What’s your favorite meditation posture?

AC: Simply seated cross-legged. Depending on my intention with the meditation, my hands will be resting on my thighs or knees or folded over my heart.

WEHL: Why is it such a challenge for a lot of people to start meditating?

AC: I think the idea of starting any new habit or practice can be daunting. With meditation, I feel that it’s figuring out where to start and also to find the drive to make space for it in your day. The key is to commit a space of time every day for it. It can help to make it the same time each day so it becomes as much of routine for you as brushing your teeth or making your coffee.

We also can have the impression that meditating requires a long period of time of sitting still and not thinking, but the reality is you don’t need to start out meditating hours a day, a 5-minute slot of quiet time is a fantastic first start. You don’t need to completely “shut off” your brain, it’s more about focusing your mind on something other than your day to day thoughts.

Once you commit a small window of time for yourself to meditate every day, you may be surprised at how easy it can become a daily habit.

WEHL: How do you manage intruding thoughts?

AC: I don’t fight them. It’s natural that your thoughts may wander, that’s what your brain does best, so I don’t beat myself up about it.

I bring my attention back to a mantra I repeat in my head or the easiest thing to do to get back on track is to focus on your breath. Simply start counting your breaths or think “inhale” when you breathe in and “exhale” when you breathe out.

WEHL:  Who can benefit from daily meditation?

AC: EVERYONE! I think it is safe to say that we all suffer from stress and feeling overwhelmed from time to time. Meditation is a great way to manage stress, ground yourself and can give you the calmness and awareness to better deal with the stressors in our lives.

It’s no secret anymore that meditation and mindfulness are proven to help with our mental health and there are plenty of studies around that show the positive impact it can have on our minds and bodies.

WEHL: What is the best time and space to meditate?

AC: I think it’s completely a personal choice. The best time for you is when you have the time. For myself, I prefer to set some time aside when I first wake up and again in the evening as I’m winding down. It’s just what works for me. I like having those calm, reflective moments to help set up my day and end them. I sit in my living room on a cushion usually but have been known to lie out on my bed to do it as well.

The key is to be in a space that is comfortable with minimal distractions (you can always slip on headphones if you don’t have the luxury of a quiet area).

WEHL: What are your thoughts on meditation apps? Do you use any currently?

AC: They’re great. They make meditation accessible and easy to follow for most everyone. Especially when you’re just starting out it’s great to have something to guide you through it. Plus a lot of the apps out there have different meditation programs and sessions that are based on what you may be experiencing such as anxiety and depression or they have a focus such as gratitude, mindfulness etc.

I use Calm and Stop, Breathe, Think. They both have free options and of course, you can buy in to access further meditations.

Do you have any suggestions that help you stick to your daily meditation practice? Let us know in the comments!

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