The world and your environment are ever-changing, and the stressors that come with that can feel burdensome.
So how do you get through it? Anxiety, stress and difficulty concentrating are all normal reactions during times of change or stress.
Mindfulness can help all by supporting our physical and emotional wellbeing — and equip us to get through challenging times. So what does mindfulness mean? Essentially, it’s an awareness of what is happening in you and around you. With that awareness, you can seek a balance that supports your physical and emotional wellbeing. Here are a few simple tips to stay in the moment and get through tough times.
1. Cultivate awareness of the present moment.
Like all of us, students may find themselves worrying about what’s going to happen in the future. But worrying doesn’t help to control the future; it just robs us of our peace in the present moment. When you catch yourself worrying, you can smile gently to yourself (an act of kindness and non-judgment), focus your attention on your breath (our anchor to the present moment), and let go of your worry (actively releasing your fear, worry or concern feels so good!). What are some of the positive things that are present for you right now? Is the sun shining? Do you and your loved ones have good health?
2. Work when it’s time to work.
Try to avoid tuning in to social media, news or other distractions when it’s time to concentrate on your school work. Although multi-tasking is sometimes seen as a positive skill, the truth is that focusing on one task at a time keeps your mind at peace and makes you more efficient. Trying to do too many things at once causes restlessness and anxiety in your mind. Your work will be stronger — and you’ll finish sooner if you make your school work your focus when it’s time to study.
3. Get in touch with nature.
While your school work is important, remember to take frequent breaks to give your mind a rest and restore your balance. Spending time in nature, whether exercising or just sitting and enjoying the sunshine, is a great study break. If you’re feeling strong emotions like anger, fear, or anxiety, bringing your attention to the beauty of nature, to the way the sun or a cool breeze feels on your skin, can absorb those strong emotions and change your perspective.
4. Be mindful of how much news and social media you’re taking in.
While it’s important to stay informed, it’s easy to go overboard with news and social media, much of which tends to be negative or fear-provoking. It’s especially easy to binge on news and social media if you’re already worried about something. You go online seeking information to quell your worries and, before you know it, you’ve spent more time than you intended online, you’re now behind on your school work, and you’re more anxious than you were to begin with. It might help to set a timer to limit your online news-gathering.
5. Practice gratitude for the things that are good in your life.
This is not a recommendation that you “cover up” what’s going wrong in the world and only focus on what’s going right. But our minds tend to focus more on the negative aspects of our experience. Practicing gratitude is a way to train your brain to see that there are always both positive and negative things in the present moment. During the time of the coronavirus pandemic, for example, we still had the beautiful unfolding of green leaves and colorful flowers of springtime. We have experienced physical social distancing, yet we could also feel aware of how much the St. Edward’s community has meant to us. So both things are present and, by practicing gratitude, you allow your mind to recognize the positive as well as the negative.