Using meditation to relieve anxiety

Tera Wilson

I always end up kicking myself for not taking better notes or studying harder earlier in the semester when finals come around.

I also end up stressing about how my future self is going to make up for what my present self is still failing to do. 

It ends up being this big, awful loop of “present me” resenting “past me” who resents “future me” who resents “present me,” and so on.

I put a lot of stress on myself by thinking about the endless possibilities for the future and past and I end up losing sight of what I am currently doing.

My work and happiness suffer as a result.

I need to take a step back, and bask in the present moment: my senior year of college is happening, and I’m too busy stressing out to enjoy it.

Usually, I would spend time walking around outside to clear my head and relax.

But with the weather changing, I feel increasingly cooped up and stressed out – and I know I’m not the only one.

Posters from Counseling and Consultation Services consistently remind us that many IWU students feel overwhelmed or stressed during the year.

According to the American College Health Association, 63 percent of college students in the US felt overwhelming anxiety in the past year.

But there are ways to cope with anxiety through mindful meditation.

I’m not saying that being mindful is a cure for anxiety, but mindfulness is a way of addressing feelings of stress or anxiety.

Mindfulness works by shutting off the parts of your brain thinking about past and future stressors, and just focusing on the present.

Instructors ask you to focus on your breathing, the way your muscles feel, or purposefully relax your body.

This can be more difficult than it sounds.

According to the American Institute of Stress, our brain is like a “monkey,” and we have to tame it to focus on the present, rather than letting it run to the past or future.

Therapists sometimes refer to this as “mindfulness-based stress reduction.”

According to the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, mindfulness had “consistent and relatively strong” effects on dealing with the “distress of everyday life.”

The journal also found that meditation improved “medical symptoms, sensory pain, physical impairment and functional quality-of-life estimates.”

Fortunately, practicing mindful meditation is now more accessible than ever.

While you can practice mindfulness just about anywhere, IWU has a Multifaith Meditation Room.

Additionally, there are hundreds of free apps on meditation, which can lead beginners through short, basic sessions to start them on their mindfulness journey.

The most popular app, Headspace, has more than 18 million downloads and guided meditation sessions.

With finals season approaching, please remember to take care of yourself.

Grades may be important, but so is health.