The mountain of assignments seems to be taller than Mt. Everest these days. Chip away at a few readings or discussion posts everyday only to get more the next day.
It’s hard to see the top of the mountain, and sometimes it’s hard to breathe under all this pressure of deadlines, tests, and goals.
Even with years of research on stress management, sometimes it is stressful to figure out what practice works best. Physical exercise, eating healthy, time management, social support, and a dozen other methods help a lot of people.
But there is one process that has been recommended by most professionals: Mindfulness, a technique used to be aware of feelings and emotions in the present.
Lauren Geyer, a junior psychology major, has been practicing mindfulness for a couple of years. Geyer and her group of three friends come together every night at her university apartment to sit on decorative pillows and meditate.
Sitting cross-legged on a black and white striped pattern pillow with a fuzzy black trim, Geyer leads her group to “breathe in and out.”
With all their eyes closed, they stay focused on their breaths. Deeply breathing in and then exhaling slowly.
For 20 minutes, the four women sit perfectly straight up with their legs crossed. They try not to fiddle with their fingers or let their posture fold.
It’s quiet, except for the reminder to breathe in and out every so often.
They spend the whole time focusing on pushing away thoughts in order to reach a state of peace and relaxation when the brain is calmed.
“It’s really common to start thinking of random things during the process,” Geyer explained. “Some days I have a hard time focusing, so I have to make sure we are pulling away from random thoughts and coming back to the moment.”
It may seem confusing how the process works and hard to see the results, but Geyer and her friends are true believers that meditating has been a positive in their lives and has done wonders for their mental well-being.
“It totally works for me,” Geyer said. “Before, I would always wake up tired and had no energy throughout the day. I randomly saw a post on Instagram about some celebrity doing meditation, and I had always thought ‘no way this actually works,’ but then I gave it a try.
“It took a while, but I started waking up more refreshed and my focus in classes has definitely improved.”
Geyer and her friends say their attitudes on life have become more positive generally. They still have tough days where they get stressed, but they say meditating is their best coping mechanism.
Samantha Boomgarden, a mental health coordinator at the Health Education Resource Center at Eastern, also said she believes meditation can be a great tool to decrease stress.
Boomgarden said meditation can slow the heart rate to allow you to focus.
With a slowed heart rate, the brain relaxes and the chemicals released when we are stressed start to decrease.
However, that practice is probably not used by most college students.
Boomgarden said students use a distraction technique, which is to take a break from a stressful moment, like writing a paper by watching an episode or two on Netflix.
It is a useful technique, Boomgarden explains, but she said she thinks the best way to properly use it is to set a time limit on the break: Let the stress dissolve and then come back in a different mindset.
Boomgarden even suggested having multiple different outlets to release stress can be beneficial.
“Our mind and our body are tightly linked, so we want to take care of our body in order to manage our stress levels,” Boomgarden said, suggesting that people should also try to eat healthy, be active, and talk about the source of the stress.
Stress is all around us, especially in these times. Take a deep breath, realize your feelings, and use a tool to safely manage them.
Caitlyn Craig can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]