It’s no wonder college students often suffer from bouts of anxiety. They deal with high-pressure situations all the time.
It starts with waiting to hear if they’ve been accepted, then becomes how to handle the big move onto campus. First-year is an enormous transition, and anxiety levels spike with the onslaught of assignment deadlines and exam crunches.
With all the new responsibilities and trying to keep your grades up, college life can become overwhelming. Worse, you can get caught in a vicious thought cycle that doesn’t allow you to focus on the schoolwork you actually have to do. Constant stress can impact your overall health and happiness but it can also negatively impact your physical health.
Instead of fighting anxiety with overeating or drug and alcohol consumption, try meditation. Stress reduction is one of the main reasons people meditate. It’s a low-cost practice that controls anxiety. Plus, it can be done anywhere, at any time.
And with just 10 minutes a day enough to make a difference, even stressed-out college students can fit a little meditating into their hectic schedules.
How meditation can help
If you’re struggling with anxiety, you’re not alone. Some 40 million Americans deal with anxiety disorders.
While sometimes therapy or medication is necessary, research suggests that meditation can help manage anxiety levels. When you meditate, you break negative thought patterns. These are the thoughts that can generate cycles of worry and anxiety. By interrupting obsessive thought patterns, you can then stop or at least lower your levels of anxiety.
When you meditate, you also give your brain a positive way to handle stress. Meditation teaches you how to treat a thought as something you can simply acknowledge and release. This is especially important for those of us who have lots of anxious and negative thoughts. By learning to let go of thoughts that cause you stress, you train your brain to be less anxious.
Your brain will thank you for meditating
Psychological stress is a major factor in chronic inflammatory conditions. Elevated levels of cytokine — messengers that manage your immune response — can cause chronic inflammation such as inflammation in the brain. According to research, this is commonly associated with mood disorders such as anxiety. Meditation reduces that inflammation by lowering stress levels.
More 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.
Meditation helps you focus
Most of us multi-task all the time. We’re constantly interrupted by our phones when studying or doing assignments. We’re glancing at social media while half-listening to an online lecture. The problem with multitasking is that we’re causing anxiety and increasing it. Rapid-fire switching between tasks is tiring — after all, we’re not wired to focus on more than one thing at a time.
Meditation teaches you how to focus. 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.
Free resources for guided meditations
There are plenty of resources online that teach you how to meditate. When you are ready to try meditating, find the one that you like best.
We’ve compiled a small list of free resources to get you started:
- Beginner’s Guide to Meditation: Learn To Meditate in 5 Easy Steps.
- One-Moment Meditation with Martin Boroson. He’ll get you started with meditating for one minute.
- Spotify has a great playlist of guided meditations.
- Smiling Mind is a free app with exercises to help you with everything from sleep, concentration and stress.
- Meditation for Beginners with Russell Brand.
- UCLA Mindful – a free app with basic meditations for beginners in addition to videos and weekly podcasts.
Don’t forget to check with your college. Many schools offer meditation classes on campus or in the community.