What is Stress?
Stress is the body’s response to a threat, real or perceived. Stress can be a good thing when it helps us be more alert and focused. If you are running away from a tiger, your heart rate increases and your body directs energy to help you flee or fight.
Of course, this isn’t so great if the “tiger” is an exam. If our stress stays high over a long period of time, it can lead to many physical and emotional problems.
So how can you lower your stress? Some strategies include breathing deeply, taking a nap, exercising, starting a hobby, or volunteering. You can also use mindfulness meditation techniques to clear your mind.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and the surrounding environment. It involves acceptance: paying attention to thoughts and feelings without judging them.
In other words, mindfulness is a way of not attaching to thoughts and feelings, but letting them come and go. If you are anxious or depressed about something, mindfulness can help you be aware of your feelings without prolonging them.
Mindfulness has benefits for your body, mind, heart, and work. It can help you eat healthier and fight off illness. Learn to reduce stress and negative emotions. Enhance empathy and relationships, and improve memory, learning, and focus.
Breathing exercise: Find a quiet place to sit and concentrate on your natural breathing. Notice when thoughts or feelings come into your mind, but try not to get carried off with them. Picture letting them go like clouds passing away in the sky.
Body or walking scan: Focus attention along your body, from toe to head, being aware and accepting of what you sense. If you are walking, focus on the movement of your body as you take step after step.
Raisin exercise: Slowly use all senses, one after another, to observe a raisin (or other food) in detail, being fully present in the moment. For example, feel the raisin in your hands, taste it on your tongue, observe its texture with your eyes.
Loving-kindness: Extend feelings of compassion broader and broader. Start with yourself, then expand to someone close to you, to an acquaintance, then to someone giving you a hard time, and finally to everyone.
Guided meditation: Listen to an audio MP3 that walks you through a meditation exercise. Exercises are available to help you reduce stress before an exam, sleep better, overcome depression and anxiety, and more. Check out these resources from the University of Maine, Loyola University Maryland, and the Inner Health Studio.
Mindfulness at UT
Want to get more involved with mindfulness at the University of Tennessee? Consider joining the Mindfulness and Meditation Club! Visit the club’s website, Facebook page, or contact email@example.com for more information.
Veterinary medicine students, also check out this mindfulness guide to learn how mindfulness can benefit you in healthcare and medical fields.