Being in the moment: Mindfulness practices for a stressful semester

Katie Lee/Staff

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This semester has a lot of stress attached to it. It’s hard to go to school online when you’re used to getting hands-on help and being forced to stay awake in lectures. And if you’re trying to attend classes while sharing a room or hearing your little siblings yelling 24/7, you might be feeling like you need to scream. Instead of adding to the impossibly loud sounds coming from every corner of your house, try out some mindfulness practices. And hey, don’t write this off even if you’ve already tried meditation and all you could think about the whole time was how itchy the bug bite on your leg was. 

Mindfulness can mean a lot of different things, and there are plenty of ways to be more present at the moment and calm down your mind that can work for you. Here are some practices to help prepare yourself for the year and decrease stress.

Meditation

Meditation is an ancient practice that originated in South Asia, and it is extremely important in many religions today, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. To a large extent, it’s been popularized in the Western world, and though it’s important to research the history and meaning behind this tradition, you don’t have to be religious to try meditation. Many people try to meditate regularly and set a specific time aside each day for five minutes or so of meditation, but sometimes during the semester, even five minutes can feel like a big ask. 

You can start by using meditation to calm yourself down if you feel particularly stressed. Try finding a calm, quiet spot. If that’s impossible, look up a meditation or white noise playlist and try to block out any outside sounds. Sit comfortably, but not necessarily slouched or leaning, in order to keep yourself attentive to your breathing and to calm your mind. If it’s hard for you to pause your brain, try counting your breaths or focusing on a calming phrase or word that you can repeat — this is basically the idea of a mantra, which is common in Buddhist and Hindu meditation, and specific mantras have been used for centuries. The intention is to slow down and focus on the moment you’re in, listening more to your mind and body. 

Exercise

Exercise can be a great way to practice mindfulness. Even if you’re not much of a runner, consider finding a secluded spot where you can run around. If meditation is hard for you, workouts such as running, swimming or even just stretching can be a great way to clear your mind while still having something to occupy your body. Yoga and meditation are mindfulness practices used in several South Asian religions, and there are many experts in the world who have a wealth of information about the benefits of yoga and its origins. 

If you’re interested in yoga, there are a lot of online resources and videos to explore that work for a range of skill levels and a range of spiritual practices. It’s important to realize here that exercise isn’t necessarily just to burn off calories, but it’s also about taking time for yourself and being in the moment.

Journaling

Journaling can be a great way to relieve stress and practice mindfulness. Instead of keeping your worries and stresses cooped up inside your brain, let them out on paper! This may be key to allowing yourself to relax and meditate or even just to get other work done.

Journaling your honest thoughts and emotions can be a great way to make sure that you’re in the moment, rather than dwelling on past emotions or future worries. And you don’t have to just write down what you do every day. You can write how you feel or describe significant portions of your day, or you can even doodle. If you try bullet journaling, you can practice writing affirmations for yourself and organizing your thoughts on paper in a beautiful way.

Reading and learning

If mindfulness seems like a topic you want to explore the meaning of, there are a lot of resources to find out more about mindfulness and different spiritual practices. This could mean picking up a book on meditation or mindfulness, or it could mean reading something that’s nourishing for you, even if it’s not related to mindfulness. Reading poetry or short stories about nature is a good place to start.

Spirituality

Mindfulness is connected to spirituality in a lot of ways. Even if you’re not religious, consider exploring your spirituality and your thoughts about the world through practices and mindfulness, and try practices from cultures other than your own, such as meditation and yoga. 

If your parents are religious or have a culture you haven’t explored much, do some research and see if something from your family’s spiritual practice relates to you. 

 

At its most basic sense, mindfulness comes down to taking time for yourself to be in the moment. This can mean anything! To you, maybe mindfulness is taking a calming bath once a week and reflecting on your emotions, or maybe it means getting outside in nature by yourself. 

Mindfulness doesn’t have to be a solo practice: You can look into yoga or meditation groups (they even have groups online). If it’s hard for you to set aside time, mindfulness can be taking a break from social media platforms that stress you out or being more intentional with your sleeping or eating patterns. Whatever helps you de-stress and bring your attention to the present is a great way to be mindful and a great way to have a calmer semester.

Contact Elysa Dombro at [email protected].