College is a stressful time in your life. You’re meeting new people, learning challenging concepts, and must perform well in exams to graduate on time.
Recent research echoes this sentiment. Nearly nine in 10 students say they “frequently” (40%) or “occasionally” (46%) experience emotional stress, according to the Lumina Foundation-Gallup State of Higher Education 2022 Study.
Taking care of your mental health and stress is key to academic success. Even easy-to-implement mindfulness techniques can help reduce your heart rate, manage your anxiety, and help you focus on your studies.
Taking a break from studying to relax in nature is a great way to reduce exam stress. You may also find that your mindfulness practice is more effective when you’re in a safe natural area, as you can listen out for interesting, calming noises like the rustle of leaves and the call of nearby birds.
Spending time in nature can do wonders for your physical health, too. Some of the physical benefits of being in nature include:
- Lowered blood pressure
- Immune system support
- Better recovery
- Improved sleep
Over time, improving your physical health will reduce your stress levels. Even a 5-minute walk around campus can elevate your mood and help you maintain your physical health. If you’re new to the idea of spending time in nature, get started with relaxing, recreational activities like:
- Find a secluded spot and throw up a hammock
- Join your college’s outdoor program and participate in a few activities every semester
- Cycle along your campus’ greenbelt until you find a spot to eat a picnic lunch
These simple suggestions will get you outside and strengthen your relationship with nature. They’ll also improve your sleep and help you lead a healthier, more fulfilling life.
Prolonged periods of chronic stress can undermine your ability to get a good night’s sleep. This is a real issue, as you need sleep to recover from a day of learning and socializing. Getting enough shut-eye can also improve your stress management and help you lead a more mindful life.
As the semester progresses, you may even find that you experience stress dreams. Stress dreams are a common response to challenges in life and many people have recurring nightmares that are themed around failing a class. You can cope with stress dreams by:
- Create a relaxing, mindful routine before bed
- Use progressive relaxation to calm your body down
- Use aromatherapy to make your room calmer
- Journal about your dreams and how they make you feel
If you decide to use mindfulness techniques like journaling, try to focus on seeing the positives in your situation. If, for example, you wake up from a stressful dream, use your journal to write a happy ending that makes you feel reassured and confident.
Mindfulness is about more than deep breathing and nature walks. Mindful living also means that you eat foods that make you feel calm. When you’re entering a stressful time, opt for healthy, stress-busting foods like:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Leafy Greens
These foods are healthier alternatives to fries, burgers, and sodas. That being said, you should not restrict your calories during a stressful semester. Instead, feed yourself properly with a healthy diet of whole foods. This will ensure you’re getting all the macronutrients you need to take on life’s challenges.
College is a great time to begin practicing mindfulness. Simple stress management techniques like deep breathing and body scans can have a profound impact on your well-being and help you focus on your studies. Get the ball rolling by spending more time in nature and eating healthier foods. This will give you the mental reset you need to start focusing on your goals and achieving the grades you’ve always hoped for.
Author: Sam Bowman