Spread the Health

Don’t Stress Out…Zen Out

My go-to for stress reduction is yoga. That one to one-and-a-half hours each week is a special time where I step away from my to-do list and other worries, where I re-center myself. But I realize it’s not always easy to work yoga class into your schedule. You may not have the spare cash for it or you may feel self-conscious about molding yourself into strange poses in front of a group of people.

mindfulnessAnother way to reduce stress (without needing a pair of yoga pants) is mindfulness meditation. This type of mediation is about more than just sitting still in a quiet room (or with some ambient music in the background). The mindfulness part implies being aware of the present moment. In the references I found to “mindfulness” on Psychology Today’s website, the best description I found for what it means to be “mindful” came from this article by Christopher Bergland who sums it up as being conscious about what you’re thinking and where you want to direct your attention.

I was recently introduced to mindfulness meditation through the book Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at UMass Medical School, which is known for its mindfulness-based stress reduction program. This quasi-intro. guide to meditation is a pretty fast read. With the addition of some quotes from different authors and yogis and anecdotes from his medical practice, Kabat-Zinn’s book explains the theory behind mindfulness and introduces different types of meditation, highlighting how stress reduction can improve your quality of life via your health, relationships, career and overall outlook.

In a society where we’re constantly tuned into social media and feel the need to always be doing *something*, meditation can seem like it’s for a select few. But the nice thing about this book is that it tries to meet you where you are. The goal isn’t for you to walk away an all-seeing yogi- rather the idea is for you to better understand what it means to meditate, find your own way of meditating and let yourself grow in that practice with patience, understanding and openness.

If you’re feeling that you’re ready to learn more about managing those stress meltdowns, whether through meditation or just a change of perspective, here are some other resources that can offer insight into managing the stressors of life as a college student:

Attending a mindfulness workshop provided by the Behavioral Medicine office at Student Health Services. Here’s their flyer with other workshops listed. 

Participating in a Stress Buddy workshop by the Student Health Ambassadors which offers a peer-to-peer discussion on how to manage stress

Reading The Pursuit of Perfect by Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D. This book offers an interesting look at the complexities of perfectionism and how to adjust your view on life through the lens of an optimist. I read The Pursuit of Perfect a few months ago and it gave really good insight into the ways we put pressure on ourselves. In talking about adopting the view of an optimist, the author shares stories from his days as a college athlete at Harvard University and also provides some meditation practices.

Peruse Greatist.com for a variety of resources for living a healthy life, many of which are budget-friendly. My favorite part of their site is the section on “Happiness” that has a lot of information on stress management and other bits of inspiration that can help you get through a tough day or rough stretch of mid-terms.

Tuning into this 4.5 minute guided meditation for calmness from the Huffington Post’s Healthy Living Section.This page links you to some other guided meditations throughout their site, as well. You don’t have to set aside an hour or more when you first start meditating. Just a few minutes can help and, as you get more comfortable with it, you can increase the length of your meditations. The Huffington Post also has a GPS for the Soul section of their website that has the latest information and tips on managing stress in our lives, relationships and work. They even have an app for iPhone users.

And the list goes on…You can even download meditation podcasts to help you zen out while riding the T. Student Health Services has a few of their own guided meditations for Stress Management available on their website’s Quick Clips page that could be useful at home, too.

Kabat-Zinn describes meditation as “the one human activity in which you are not trying to get anywhere else but simply allowing yourself to be where and as you already are.” This takes time to achieve. So as you experiment with meditation, remember to be patient. If anything, feel good about taking the time to give yourself a break for your mental well-being. The rest will follow :)

SPREAD THE HEALTH: Take a break from stress and “zen out” by attending a mindfulness workshop, doing a guided meditation, or just simply “being where you are.”

One comment

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