During school, everything seems overwhelming. It isn’t an easy experience for anyone. Stress, anxiety, nervousness – they can be pretty debilitating at times. As a person who was once stressed about 80% of the time for reasons ranging in their legitimacy, I can confirm that being worried about any matter, whether specific or broad, ruins your day and wastes a lot of precious time. If you claim to have never googled ‘how to reduce stress’ before, then you’re probably lying. Amongst all the well-known stress-relievers like drinking water and getting enough sleep, one method has resonated with me: meditation.

You’re probably imagining someone sitting cross-legged on the floor, index fingers rested on thumbs, eyes closed, softly humming to themself in an outdoor zen garden. You wouldn’t be completely inaccurate in imagining this. Meditation originated in India about 5,000 years ago, and it has slowly spread across the world, becoming a more common practice. It’s all about ‘mindfulness’, which I initially thought was about being polite. In actuality, it’s the ability to feel present in the moment, instead of worrying about events that happened in the past, such as what you regret saying in a conversation, or events that might/will happen in the future, such as moving away from home. Imagine how much time you would save, how much your efficiency would increase without this stress clogging your mind. Meditation can help you to remove this unnecessary worry and gain clarity. So… how does it work?

What I partake in is guided meditation, where you can listen to someone talking, guiding you to concentrate on your breathing and to be calm. It’s a lot easier than sitting down in silence – when there’s no voice to concentrate on, my mind strays into other dimensions. Just search ‘meditation’ into Youtube or the App Store – there are heaps of free resources available. All it takes is 5-10 minutes, if that, sitting cross-legged, on a chair, or lying on the floor, hands resting on stomach or in lap. Breathing is an integral component of meditation. Focusing your attention on your breath is common – usually, you’ll be instructed to count deep breaths, feeling them travel through your body. For as long as you wish, you can go into this calm state – relaxing, being aware of yourself, your breath, and your surroundings, gently bringing your thoughts away from the future and the past, and slowly moving them to circulate the Now. By doing this each day, for as little as 5 minutes, you’re training yourself to be mindful. With enough practice, you’ll be able to effortlessly concentrate on the present, without the interruption of negative thoughts about the past or possible future.

Now you understand what meditation is, let’s talk benefits. It’s said to reduce stress, lengthen attention span, promote general happiness, and have many other positive impacts on both the mind and body. In my experience, meditation has taught me to not only be calmer in general but to deal with things when they go a bit haywire, when there is real reason to worry. In a stressful situation, you don’t have to suddenly sit cross-legged on the floor and close your eyes, but concentrating on your breathing, which you would have been practising, helps to reduce the intensity of the situation, making you feel calmer and more in control of yourself and your decisions. Personally, meditation has given me a more positive perception of both myself and the world around me, which has proven to be valuable. Instead of focusing on what could go wrong, I am able to focus on what is going right. Therefore, I am able to enjoy life a lot more than I used to.

Let’s take exams as an example. Feared, dreaded, despised… they’re notoriously malignant. Every year there’s always one or two kids looking like they’re on the verge of tears, shaking and clutching their graphics calculator and 8 pens, exuding stressed vibes to the other students. I was one of them in both Year 11 and Year 12 – I let myself stay awake the night before imagining failing everything. Then, I turned up the next day and panicked some more about this ridiculous possibility. My mind repeatedly told me that it was all going to go wrong, and I actually believed it. It was meditation that helped me to stroll into mocks in Year 13 feeling less stressed than ever before. Did I sweat? No. Was I shivering in fear? No! I simply took some breaths and remained calm. Meditation made mocks feel a lot less intimidating, and thus, a lot more manageable.

If you want to reduce some stress and increase positivity in your life, I strongly recommend meditation. I am somewhat making it sound like an easy fix – just remember that it takes a lot of patience and practice. Mindfulness isn’t achieved in a day, and it can disperse if not fostered. I suggest you give meditation a go. It might just change your life and make being a student a lot simpler.

Sarah is a Year 13 student who loves writing and the subject of English. She intends on one day becoming an editor or technical writer.

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