If you stress about stress before there’s even stress to stress about, we’ve got you covered.
College can be overwhelming at times. When school-days are jam-packed with classes, extracurricular activities, and endless assignments, it feels like there is rarely any time to do anything not school-related, let alone take a second to breathe. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in our studies that we often forget about ourselves and our health. Eight-hour library sessions might be productive, but we also need to know when to take a break.
While we may take a few minutes away from our books to scroll through Instagram and Pinterest, or take a quick Snapchat, study breaks are often more effective at re-energizing our bodies and rebooting our brains when they involve something other than our screens. Studies have shown that study breaks involving socializing with others, exercise, or napping are extremely revitalizing and help to restore our energy. However, if sleeping in public is not your thing, you might want to try meditation for your next study break.
So, what is meditation?
Meditation – stemming from the Latin word meditatum or “to ponder” – is significant in Eastern and Western Traditions. While meditation is used in religious practices in the East, it is predominantly used in Western culture as a way to alleviate stress and improve health. Meditative practices are often mistaken for a way to escape or “get away from it all”, when it is really a practice used to harness self-awareness and self-acceptance.
Although there are many forms of meditation, Thich Nhat Hanh is responsible for introducing mindfulness meditation to the West. The core principles of mindfulness are awareness and acceptance. Individuals are encouraged to be aware of their “thoughts, feelings, and [the] surrounding environment”, while simultaneously accepting or “paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them.”
As college students, it is easy to continuously think about a bad grade (a past occurrence) or look forward to things (a party on the weekend or the semester being over), which can often detract from how we perceive the present – a space that we often want to escape from. However, instead of using our brain power to reminisce about that past or think about the future, mindfulness meditation embraces focusing on what is happening in the present moment.
How can I meditate during my next study break?
Mindfulness takes focus, yet has the power to transform your day through a simple shift in attitude. While you are stressing out at the library, designate a few minutes of each hour to sit in silence, be aware of what you are feeling and where you are, and accept the task at hand. You may have a mile-long to-do list, but sitting and breathing through those feelings for a short period of time will re-center you and allow you to continue crossing the items off that list.
Trying new things is scary, that is why apps such as Headspace and The Mindfulness App are available to help you learn how to practice mindfulness and meditation. Your school may even offer an introduction to meditation physical education course! If you are not yet ready to board the meditation train, including study breaks, in general, into your work schedule – that are re-energizing and refreshing – can help lower stress levels and are imperative for overall mental health.
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