Here at Wake Forest, our mental health is very important to keep in tact.
When our Google calendars are filled with classes, work shifts and assignments — not to mention all of the extracurriculars we participate in — it can be overwhelming, anxiety-inducing and raise your blood pressure. But the week always manages to go on. We get our assignments in. We make it to all of the social events. We get all of our tasks crossed off our lists. And it is exhausting. Or, we do not get any of it done. We skip four classes. We fail to turn in several assignments. We keep ourselves inside our dorms and away from human contact due to shame. Neither exhausting ourselves nor ignoring everything that is piling up are great time management. The biggest factor in all of this, which we can control all by ourselves, is our mind. How we choose to step away from the activity around us. This is where meditation comes in.
Do not fear — you are not required to do yoga or make weird noises in order to meditate. When I meditate, which is everyday when I feel anxious, I focus on my breathing. If that is not working, I listen to relaxing music and attempt to set aside my running list of tasks for a couple minutes. Apple Music has a really good station right now called “Chill” and it is nothing like the yawn-worthy classical music that simply puts me to sleep. That is another thing about meditation, it is often depicted as an activity that only monks on high mountains participate in for days on end. But all it takes is a few moments of focus.
How does intensely focusing on something help one to feel less stressed? It does seem to be contradictory; after all, if I am going to take myself away from my work, I should not think about anything. But that’s the thing, you do not really stop thinking about your to-do list just when you stop working. By focusing all of your attention on a simple task — like breathing — you are taking a true break, or breather, from your workload.
Sometimes setting your work away from you, closing your eyes and simply breathing is an impossible thing to do. For instance, when you have back-to-back classes all day. Finding a mantra, a simple phrase or string of words, to say silently to yourself as you walk over to your next class can be helpful. It takes a similar effect as breathing does because it focuses your mind. A mantra can be something that sticks true to Buddhist tradition, like Om Mani Padme Hum, or it can be something secular like song lyrics. Do whatever works for you.
If focusing on breathing does not work for you, something I think is pretty cool that takes much more focus, is imagining that there is a ball of light floating around your toes, up your leg, around your arms, and finally ending at the top of your head. A lot of meditation that includes visualization works really well to help focus my mind and helps me remember my goals and priorities.
Meditation has helped me immensely in my first year at Wake. I believe that when I set a little time every once in awhile to focus, it has helped me get my work done even faster.