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Recalibrate: Meditation Exercises to Help With Stress

The road to a college degree is rife with stress: homework, research, a long reading list, grade requirements, sleepless nights, parental expectations, peer pressure – the list can go on.

If students fail to employ the necessary steps to diffuse the stress out of their system, unfavorable physical and behavioral changes can happen. These, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:

  • Headaches, muscle or chest pains
  • Fatigue
  • An upset stomach
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Lack of focus or motivation
  • Anger management problems
  • Tobacco, alcohol, or drug abuse
  • Social withdrawal

Combating Stress Through Meditation

Various research studies show that meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, can relieve the body of anxiety and mental stress. That’s because it rids you of “distracting thoughts that have too much power” and is particularly beneficial to people with unproductive worries.

Below are some of the most practiced meditation techniques worth looking into if you think your hectic college life is getting the better of you.

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a relaxation technique that focuses your thoughts on the here and now, so you don’t worry about the past or future, which you mostly have no control over, anyway. The technique requires that you concentrate on a single, repetitive action, such as a flickering candlelight, your breathing, or a short string of repeated words.

How to do it

  1. Sit on a chair with a straight back.
  2. Focus your thoughts on your breathing, the air flowing into your nose and inside your body, then out of your mouth.
  3. Next, expand your awareness and focus on the sounds around you.
  4. The moment your thoughts start to wander, go back and concentrate on your breathing, then widen your focus again.

Meditation experts recommend that you do this every day for 5-10 minutes, or even less if you’re a beginner. Slowly increase the amount of time you devote to it as you become more comfortable with the practice.

Body scan meditation

The body scan meditation technique is a way to “connect” with your body by being aware of the different parts and how they feel. The end goal is for you to let go, relax, and stop worrying about your to-do list.

How to do it

  1. Lie down with your legs slightly apart, your arms away from your sides, and your palms facing up.
  2. Focus your attention on your breathing for the first few minutes.
  3. Next, focus on your toes and take note of whatever sensation you’re feeling in that particular area of your body. Itchy? Cold? Nothing? If you feel nothing, be aware of that, too.
  4. Slowly shift your attention to your feet, legs, hips, stomach, chest, your face, and the back of your head. Finally, focus on the top of your head.
  5. Feel any sensation in each body part. Be aware of your entire body as much as you can. 

Do this for about 30-45 minutes per day, but if you’re pressed for time, use whatever time you have available.

Transcendental meditation

The end goal of this meditation technique is to keep distracting thoughts at bay, allowing you to reach a state of relaxed awareness. Transcendental meditation requires a mantra.

How to do it

  1. Sit comfortably. Whether you practice the technique cross-legged in a lotus position is up to you. The only requirement is for you to be comfortable.
  2. Take a few deep breaths. Then, close your eyes. Breathe slowly, and let your body relax.
  3. Say the mantra in your mind, then slowly repeat it (also in your mind). If your thoughts start drifting, bring your attention back to the mantra. Do this for 20 minutes. 
  4. After 20 minutes, stop saying the mantra and sit quietly for another two minutes before finally opening your eyes.

Stress has its uses, but too much of it can be bad for your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. So the next time you feel like throwing your hands up in the air, try any of the above meditation exercises to recalibrate. Meditation just might be the energy booster you need.