If you are under a lot of stress at school, you are not alone! Still, you may FEEL alone in trying to handle that stress and find ways to relax and adjust to the pressures of college life. Be sure you are eating right (healthy diet) and getting enough. Exercise can help you relieve stress and make it easier to relax. You can also consider yoga, meditation and other ways to relax. Some of these programs may be available through clubs or classes on campus, so check your bulletin board for events and sessions. Guys, don’t think you will be considered a sissy. Major league athletes are using meditation and guided imagery to improve performance and manage stress, so why shouldn’t YOU?
You can take classes or join groups for meditation, or you can give it a try on your own, using a book, a DVD or audio tapes. Don’t let people convince you that you can only meditate if you are a yogi who lives on a mountain in Tibet. It isn’t that hard! All you need is a quiet space, and a relaxing environment.
You may want to use soothing music, or sound effects from a CD or tape (babbling brook or soft rain). You can also consider buying a small tabletop fountain for your room which will help you and your roommate relax and sleep. Here is a simple outline for meditation:
First, sit it in a comfortable position (don’t lie down or you will probably fall asleep.
Now, close your eyes and take several deep, cleansing breaths. Try to pull your breath down into your abdomen when you inhale. Don’t breathe in a shallow (chest breathing) style. It may take a few sessions before you feel comfortable with this type of deep breathing but it helps oxygenate your system and relax your muscles and your mind.
Consciously relax your shoulders, your forehead, your neck, and your jaw. Start at the top of your head and work your way down your body, telling all of your muscles to relax. Focus on your breathing and keep it slow and steady.
When you feel relaxed, try to clear your mind. You are bound to have thoughts intruding and racing through your brain. Just let those pass through and drift away. Don’t try to grab hold of them or PUSH them away. Just let them pass. Focus on your breathing and, if you are listening to music or sounds, focus on those sounds to relax you.
Now think of a place you find relaxing or peaceful. A beach, a wooded clearing, sitting by a stream. You can imagine your own perfect spot or pick one you have visited before. It doesn’t matter. Picture it in your mind, and try to feel, hear and see the surroundings (the more detail you can create, the better). Go deeper into the picture and feel the comfort of the spot you chose. Stay with this breathing and imagery for 5-10 minutes or as long as you like.
When you are ready to transition back into reality, open your eyes, gently shake your hands and arms, and sit quietly a minute before you get up (you may get dizzy or feel spacey if you try to jump up right away).
When you are finished with your meditation, notice how you feel. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while for you to get the hang of this. If you have never done it before, a little practice will go a long way. Compare your results from your first session to your fifth or tenth and you’ll see an improvement. You will feel more relaxed and find it easier to breathe and to get into the imagery of the meditation.
Studies show that meditation lowers blood pressure, relieves stress, helps you to sleep better and improves your mood and confidence, so it is certainly worth a try!