What Happens When You Stop Meditating Isn't Pretty & An Expert Explains Why
I've been meditating pretty much every single day for the past three years. Whether it's a couple of minutes lying down at the end of my yoga practice, a lengthier, 20-minute seated session, or even an hour-long mindfulness walk outside, meditation is a huge and very important part of my life. That's why I never could've been prepared for what happened when I stopped meditating for two weeks. I'll give you a hint: It wasn't pretty.
If that sounds a bit melodramatic to you, let me put it this way: I genuinely use my yoga and meditation practice as a way to support my mental health. They both play huge roles in how I manage my anxiety, so really, I should've known nothing good would come from my short, but unintentional hiatus. BTW, no, I did not plan to take a break from meditation, nor did I make a conscious effort to stop the practice. It just kind of happened — because, life, you know? — and before I knew it, everything was in shambles.
And if you still think I'm being kind of extra about this whole thing, I reached out to Veronica Parker, a kundalini yoga teacher and meditation coach, who tells me, if you've had a consistent meditation practice and suddenly stop doing it, it can take a pretty big toll on both your body and your mind. "When you stop meditating, your mind can lose its sense of clarity and focus," Parker tells Elite Daily. "It could feel foggy and not as sharp. Decisions become more difficult to make, more anxiety can pop up, and you can [begin to] second-guess yourself." Trust me when I say this couldn't be a more accurate description of what ensued on the last day of my two-week meditation hiatus.
OK, I know I'm really hyping this whole thing up. But for real, the series of embarrassing events that ensued at the tail-end of my meditation break were so cringeworthy, guys. Seriously, prepare for some major wincing.
OK, let's get down to it. It all started when I sent this mildly unstable message to my group text on a Friday morning:
Let me catch you up a little bit: I've been going through a breakup for the past few months and just started dating again, so that's where that passive aggressive meme came from. Not gonna lie, it still makes me chuckle.
Anyway, that Friday, I had plans to go to a concert with a guy I was seeing, but I assumed the whole thing was going to be super casual and uneventful (hint: this is the exact opposite of what actually went down, my friends). So, I went about my day as usual — I got some work done, ran a few errands, did a quick workout. When I was done with all of that, I started getting ready to go to the concert, which was at 6 p.m. It wasn't until I arrived at the show that things began to go way, way downhill.
To help you understand how and why things got so bad so fast, it's important that I admit something here: When it comes to alcohol, I'm an extreme lightweight (who drinks pretty rarely overall), and of course, there were drinks being served at this concert. But for some reason, throughout the course of the night, I thought it was a splendid idea to allow my date to buy me three (ahem, very strong) tequila-infused drinks.
Now, you probably don't need me to tell you that drinking more than your body can handle is never a good idea, and that it almost always leads to terrible decision-making. Plus, as Parker explains, my mind was already in a slightly more compromised state, thanks to my suddenly-halted meditation practice. Combine that with the excessive amounts of alcohol, and my mental clarity was 100 percent shot, guys. Parker describes this toxic combo as "swimming upstream instead of just going with the flow," and that's exactly how I felt while struggling to maintain any sort of normal, human conversation with my date throughout the concert.
At one point during the date, I decided to excuse myself to go to the bathroom. While I was on line, I initiated a drunken conversation with an innocent, 30-year-old med student — which reminded me (and my drunk brain): My ex-boyfriend is a medical student! I must text him immediately, I thought to myself. It's really the only way.
It wasn't the only way. And yet, here we are.
Those texts eventually spurred a conversation between me and my ex that went on throughout the whole night, which I will spare you the details on. Just picture the most embarrassing tipsy texts you've ever sent to your ex, and you'll be able to envision our convo.
Anyway, I somehow made it (read: aggressively struggled) through the rest of the concert — until I started getting really tired and really freaking hungry. Parker tells me these feelings were likely exacerbated because of my meditation hiatus, as that sudden change in a mindfulness routine can not only lead to a general decline in your energy, but can even trigger cravings you normally don't get.
"If you give in [to these feelings]," Parker explains, "you will continue in a downward spiral sinking you deeper into feeling despair and out of alignment." Good times, y'all. Good times.
I decided to bid my (probably very confused and turned-off) date farewell at that point and take the subway back to my friend's apartment. At least I had the sense to just go to bed at that point — I'll give myself that much credit.
Actually, though, no credit at all should be awarded to me, because on my subway ride, I dozed off on the shoulder of an anonymous man — something I literally never, ever do.
When I snapped out of my daze, I decided I absolutely had to get halal food from the nearest cart — and combine that with the leftover pancakes that were in my friend's fridge. I'm literally nauseous just typing this, you guys. My body was not pleased with me, but luckily, I passed out and slept through the night.
When I woke up the next day, I immediately informed my friends of what went down, because that's always a must in these situations.
All four of them hit the "Haha" button on that text, BTW. Thanks, guys.
And that concludes the night that my life nearly fell apart. To say my meditation hiatus took a toll on both my mental and physical well-being would be the understatement of the damn year, because it took me two whole days to fully recover from that chaotic night. If you made it through this embarrassing soliloquy, I hope you get a good chuckle out of what happened to me when I stopped meditating. TBH, a week later, I'm happy to report that I, myself, think it's all a little funny.
But whether you chuckle or uncomfortably cringe at my experience, at least you can say you now have fair warning of what could happen to you if you're a dedicated meditator/yogi who says "f*ck it" and falls out of practice.
On a more serious note, though, when I reflect back on this experience as a whole, it certainly taught me a lot about myself. I guess I never really took the time to be grateful for how much my mindfulness practice grounds me, and applaud myself for the degree of discipline it takes to show up for myself and meditate every single day.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that, just because this happened, I'll never miss a day of meditation for the rest of my life. But will I go weeks without it again? That's going to be a hard no from me.