My mindfulness Strategies
University is an exciting period in anyone’s life. You’re away from home (perhaps for the first time), studying something you’re passionate about, meeting new people and making new memories. But for those same reasons university can be quite stressful. Because of this I think it is important to learn some mindfulness strategies to de-stress.
We’re already living through a pandemic, and that’s made the transition to university even more tumultuous than it typically would be. Over the last year or so, I’ve come up with some strategies to deal with day to day stress, and I’d like to share them with you.
Before I begin, I’d like to preface this by stating that I am by no means a mental health expert — this is just my advice from student to student; what has helped me in the past. If you’re at the University and are feeling distressed, I encourage you to make use of York’s mental health support systems.
Meditation in Music
I’ve tried mindfulness meditation before. For those who don’t know what that is, it essentially means practising living in the present moment and being aware of what is happening around you. There are countless websites and YouTube playlists with mindfulness routines, but it’s always been more irritating than relaxing for me. It goes without saying that mindfulness meditation really does work for some people — it wouldn’t be so popular if it didn’t — but it doesn’t help me.
Throughout the pandemic, I tried mindfulness meditation. Sometimes it was for school, sometimes for school-related stress, and sometimes just because I was feeling down. Although it never worked for me, I noticed that each program I tried emphasized focus. Focus on your breathing; focus on the feeling of your clothes against your skin; focus on the sounds around you. It became clear to me that that was what mindfulness meditation was all about — focus.
I, as I think many do, turn to music to cope with emotions. What my attempts at meditation helped me realize is that if I focus on the music — the rhythm, melody, harmony, or another isolated element of a song — I start to relax. My mind starts to clear not because I tell myself “clear your mind,” but because I’m engaged with something I truly enjoy. When my thoughts do start to wander, I simply make note of it, then return to the beat of a favourite song.
This was life changing for me. Not only did it help ease my worries whenever I felt anxious, but it was so relaxing that I often found myself drifting off to sleep. As someone who struggles to fall asleep, this was quite the discovery — listening to music before bed is now part of my nightly routine.
Walking Your Worries Away
Another strategy I’ve found useful is taking the time to go for a walk. This really is as simple as it sounds — walking is an easy way to take your mind off whatever it is you may be worried about. Especially during the pandemic, when finding an excuse to leave the house can be a genuine challenge, I found walking cathartic.
The key to making your walks effective — like with listening to music — is focus. Focus on the air against your face. The ground beneath your feet. Your cadence down the path. Thinking of it in this way, each walk is like its own song, composed by you.
When you first try this, you might find it difficult. I know I did. After all, if you’re walking to meditate, you’re likely stressed about something. You may feel guilty that you’re spending time walking rather than thinking over the thing you’re worried about. You don’t need to. Give yourself permission to take time for yourself.
I think about it like this: what good comes from reliving your worries over and over again? It can be uncomfortable trying to let go — I often feared it would come back to bite me if I hadn’t thought through every possible consequence of my anxieties. I learned that I had to trust myself — trust that it was okay to take ‘me time.’ It’s more than okay. I believe it’s necessary.
One Last Disclaimer
These are a few techniques that help me. Other strategies not covered here like talking to friends and loved ones and keeping a gratitude journal may be useful as well.
I’d like to reiterate before I sign off — I say what I’ve said with the hopefully apparent understanding that my advice will not work for everyone. We are all different human beings; particularly when it comes to mental health, there is no one-size-fits-all. I hope that with this post I can be helpful to some of you.