Meditation for Anxiety in College Students
It may be human nature to worry, but college students deal with enough pressure. When anxiety levels are raised due to assignment deadlines, exam crunches, and all of those new responsibilities — it can feel like the world is crushing in. It is normal to feel low levels of anxiety, but when your wandering mind begins hashing and rehashing what needs to be done or what if scenarios (maybe even thinking about your relationships with other people), that affects your overall performance. Worse, you can get caught in a vicious thought cycle that doesn’t allow you to focus on the work you actually have to do (Forbes). Not to mention, high-stress levels can lead to unwanted changes in health, like weight gain and low energy.
Good news! You don’t need to feel that growing anxiety stirring your stomach and adding weight to your shoulders. There are ways to combat it — at low-cost. Have you thought about meditation?
There are a number of benefits to practicing meditation, but the most crucial benefits are how meditation for anxiety can improve your brain and mental well-being:
Break Anxious Thought Patterns
Approximately 40 million Americans deal with anxiety disorders (NIH). Meditation has been proven to lower anxiety levels due to its ability to break negative thought patterns. These sorts of thoughts can generate cycles of worry and anxiety; therefore, breaking the obsessive thinking with meditation can offer students further control over unwanted and random thoughts. Additionally, meditation can offer a positive way for your brain to handle stress.
Out of the approximate 25,000 to 50,000 thoughts we have every day, a surprisingly high amount of those racing thoughts can be negative. However, meditation can train you to view your thoughts differently by recognizing and halting worries about the future and the past. As a result, you are able to acknowledge it as a simple thought that you can let go. By learning to do this, you train your brain to be less anxious (Be Brain Fit).
Reduce Brain Inflammation & Build a Healthier Brain
Psychological stress can be a major factor for symptoms related to chronic inflammatory conditions. Elevated levels of cytokine — messengers that manage your immune response — are answerable for chronic inflammation such as inflammation in the brain. This is commonly associated with depression, anxiety, among other mood disorders (NCBI). However, meditation works to reduce that inflammation by lowering stress levels and possibly altering the expression of pro-inflammatory genes.
Generally, meditation helps build a larger, healthier brain by increasing blood flow to the brain, enhancing neuroplasticity, and improving neural connections. There have been measurable increases in the amount of gray matter, thickness of the cortex, and volume of the hippocampus in people who regularly meditate. Also, the area of the brain associated with fear, stress and anxiety (the amygdala) has been proven to decrease its reactiveness. Even more impressive, meditation can help combat age-related mental decline in the future (ex. Alzheimer’s disease).
Promote Better Focus
Most of us are programmed to multi-task. Unfortunately, every time we attempt to come back to a task, our concentration levels drop. To improve your mental focus, and stay focused, meditation can help. By learning to bring your attention back to breathing each time your mind wanders during meditation, you actually strengthen your brain’s neural circuitry for focus (Mindful). Therefore, with meditation practice, you will better be able to return to the task at hand after a momentary distraction due to a phone call, email, text, etc. For a quick 15-minute meditation to better your focus, Mindful offers fantastic step-by-step instructions.
Read the Top Mental Challenges Facing College Students for more information on the importance of mental wellness. When you are ready to start meditating, check out:
- Spotify: Dozens of guided meditations for anxiety are available.
- Zen12.com: Download free guided meditations with your choice of background music, white noise or nature sounds.
- Buddhify: This award-winning app has over 80 custom guided meditations to choose from.
- The Mindfulness App: Notable meditation teachers guide you through terrific meditations.
- On-Campus: Does your school offer meditation classes or similar opportunities on campus? Go look!