Stress Management & Meditation
By: Miranda Wilson, Peer Educator
September 24th, 2020
Disclaimer: Don't use meditation as a replacement for medical treatment. See your health care provider if you need help with a medical problem. Meditation cannot replace treatment for mood disorders, attention disorders, or other medical conditions. Texas Tech Student Health Services provides medical care for all Texas Tech students, with a significant discount available for uninsured or out-of-network patients. If you are in need of immediate medical attention, call 911 or visit your local emergency room.
2020 is a stressful year. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the return of online and hybrid classes, and continually changing work and extracurricular activity procedures, it's no surprise that college students are more stressed-out than usual.
New stresses need new stress management methods, and the RISE Peer Educators are on the job. We are here to help you build a robust stress management toolkit, starting with one of our favorite stress management techniques: meditation.
So, what exactly is meditation? According to Psychology Today defines meditation as...
...a mental exercise that trains attention and awareness. Its purpose is often to curb reactivity to one's negative thoughts and feelings, which, though they may be disturbing and upsetting and hijack attention from moment to moment, are invariably fleeting.
Essentially, meditation is a practice that can help with managing stress and negative thoughts that come with stress. There are many different types of meditation, originating from all over the world. While many people relate meditation to Eastern religions, such as Buddhism, meditation is tied to religious and non-religious practices worldwide.
Types of meditation:
Let's learn about some of the most common meditation practices, with definitions from the Mayo Clinic.
If you've ever practiced meditation, you've probably heard of guided meditation. According to the Mayo Clinic, guided meditation involves form[ing] mental images of places or situations you find relaxing. Guided meditation exercises are commonly found in podcasts such as Meditation Oasis and Meditation Minis Podcast.
Guided meditation is great for beginners. It provides all the benefits of meditation without the added stress of figuring it out all alone. And who needs added stress?!
Mantra meditation is defined as a type of meditation that involves silently repeat[ing] a calming word, thought, or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts. Repeating mantras, also known as affirmations throughout the day, is a great way to destress quickly. Mantras such as "I am loved," "I am trustworthy," or "I can do this" are simple ways to encourage a positive mindset in everyday life.
The Mayo Clinic defines mindfulness meditation as a type of meditation [that] is based on being mindful, or having an increased awareness an acceptance of living in the present moment. [It involves] broaden[ing] your conscious awareness [and] focus[ing] on what you experience during meditation. There are many apps available to help you begin practicing mindfulness. Check out Aura, Buddhify, or Calm on the app store!
Benefits of meditation:
Now that we've learned a little bit about some of the most common types of meditation let's discover some of the health benefits of meditation, information courtesy of PositivePsychology.com.
Meditation enhances empathy
Empathy and kindness can be enhanced by daily meditation practice. Meditation reinforces neural connections that regulate these positive emotions, making it easier to access them in our everyday life. This can improve our social and personal experience and the relationships we make in it.
Meditation improves cognition
Meditation, especially mantra meditation, is excellent for increasing professional and personal success. This practice improves the brain's problem-solving and decision-making strategies (PositivePsychology.com). As college students, we are well-attuned to making decisions and solving problems on an everyday basis. And, at least in this Peer Ed's experience, these experiences sometimes lead to a majority of our stress. Tests, essays, and general schoolwork can be extremely stress-inducing, but an improvement in cognition through meditation can help decrease some of that stress.
Meditation is a natural stress stabilizer
Brain studies of regular meditators revealed that they have lower cortisol levels in their brains (PositivePsychology.com). Cortisol, the "stress hormone," activates the body's Autonomic Nervous system, causing the fight-or-flight response known as stress. By potentially decreasing the levels of this hormone, regular meditation can reduce stress as well.
Meditation promotes emotional health and well-being
A study by Jain, Walsh, and Cahn in 2015 found that regular meditation decreased the likelihood of developing depression and mood-related disorders (PositivePsychology.com). This is believed to be due to the promotion of positive thinking that comes with meditative practices.
Meditation increases attention by inducing a state of flow
Meditation, especially guided meditation, immerses you entirely into a moment. This allows the mind to exist in complete harmony with itself. A study of mindfulness meditation by Jha, Krompinger, and Baine in 2007 showed that people who meditate for short durations showed more focus than individuals who did not meditate at all (PositivePsychology.com). Increased attention can help during those hour-long zoom classes!
How to meditate:
So, you want to start meditating? That's great! Getting started with any stress management technique can be difficult, but your RISE Peer Educators are here to help. Here is a step-by-step guide to practicing meditation, with information from Calm, a popular meditation app.
Find a comfortable position for your body
Close your eyes
Pay attention to your breathing
Notice the sensations throughout your body
Return attention to your breath.
You can meditate for as short or as long as you want, even if you can only spare one minute each day to meditate and start from there.
If you are struggling with meditating on your own, please check out guided meditations wherever you get your podcasts from or visit your RISE Peer Educators in Drane Hall, room 247.
If you have questions or concerns feel free to contact any of our RISE Peer Educators or our ProStaff members by emailing email@example.com or direct messaging us on any of our social medias. Feel free to visit RISE in Drane Hall room 247. Additionally, the Texas Tech Crisis Helpline (806-742-5555) is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for those experiencing a mental health or interpersonal violence crisis.
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