Self-care and mindfulness

You may have seen a study from University of Waterloo that found that 10 minutes of meditation can help anxious people focus in stressful situations. The study of meditation and mindfulness is promoted by many as an effective tool for anyone’s self-care arsenal. 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the process of being present-focused (which means attending to the moment and not being pulled away by worries or regrets), non-judgmental (observing and describing our experiences), and accepting (not actively struggling against your experience). The great news is that you don’t need to spend a lot of time to practice mindfulness. Research shows that there are many benefits to practicing mindfulness:

  • Giving you a moment to pause before reacting (having a greater awareness and ability to step back from your thoughts)
  • Reduced activity in your amygdala, which contributes to decreased stress
  • A calmer mind, which can help you process emotions differently and can change your attitudes towards stress
  • Greater sense of care and compassion towards yourself and others
  • Increased muscle relaxation, slower heart rate, improved immune functioning and more
  • Better memory and improved focus

There are many different techniques for meditation and mindfulness exercises, including the following:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation
    This exercise type teaches you how to relax your muscles using a two-step process of tensing particular muscle groups in your body, and then releasing the tension and noticing how your muscles feel different when you relax.

    You can find a progressive muscle relaxation video from our Strengthening Motivation seminar, on our YouTube playlist.
  • Mindful breathing
    Maintaining a calm controlled breath can help you feel more grounded in the present. A mindful breathing exercise follows a script to help you focus on your breathing, allowing your mind to focus only on that process, and helping you to let go of any intrusive thoughts that might occur during the exercise.

    You can find a mindful breathing exercise from our Cultivating Resiliency seminar, on our YouTube playlist.
  • Guided imagery
    Guided imagery exercises consist of a series of directed thoughts that guide your imagination toward a relaxed, focused date. This relaxed state can help you feel more in control of your emotions and thought processes.

    You can find a guided imagery exercise from the Managing Emotions seminar, on our YouTube playlist.

Meditation and mindfulness practices work best if you are able to do them regularly. Even if you aren’t particularly anxious or stressed out right now, meditating in times of calm can make it easier for you to deal with times of high stress. There are many different recordings of mindfulness and meditation exercises out there, and some can be found in apps like the Stop, Breathe, and Think app, or as online videos.

Want to learn more about mindfulness and meditation? Each of our Coping Skills seminars includes a mindfulness or meditation exercise and can help you build your toolbox of skills for self-care. You can complete them in-person or online.

Sources:

Bourne, Edmund J. “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook.” New Harbinger Publications, Inc. Oakland, California, 2005.

Self-care

Self-care and distraction techniques can help you relax and feel restored for the next term ahead. There are a variety of different ways you can you can practice self-care, including self-soothing, being creative, connecting with others, changing the scene, and getting some exercise. Let’s take a look at each of these categories and explore some examples.

  • Self-soothing. Self-soothing techniques are skills that help you relieve stress and calm your mind and body. There are a variety of self-soothing activities you can try, including:
    • Watching a relaxation or guided meditation video on YouTube
    • Listen to music you love
    • Eat a comfort food
    • Take a nap or a shower
    • Cuddle with a pet
    • Cook your favourite meal
    • Paint your nails or have a bubble bath
    • Read a comic book
    • Watch a good bad movie or a comedy
    • Open your window and breathe in the fresh air
    • Do something goofy
  • Engage your brain or create something. Doing things that engage your brain or encourage your creative side can help you turn your thoughts away from anything you are worried about. Some examples include:
    • Do a puzzle
    • Play solitaire with physical cards
    • Sing something
    • Draw
    • Watch a cooking show
    • Knit, crochet, or sew
    • Read a book by an author you love
    • Write in a journal
    • Plant a garden
    • Write a poem
    • Take photographs or make a video
    • Play a musical instrument
    • Scrapbook
  • Connect with others. Doing something with others can decrease any loneliness you might feel and can boost your spirits. Here are some ways to connect with others:
    • Talk to or text a friend
    • Meet up with a friend for coffee
    • Volunteer for a great cause
    • Do a random act of kindness
    • Buy a coffee for the person behind you
    • Bake muffins for someone
    • Talk with a family member in person or on the phone
  • Change the scene. This strategy can help if you are feeling restless in your current surroundings. Try one of these ways to change the scene:
    • Go for a drive
    • Take a bus ride
    • People watch at the mall
    • Go to a movie
    • Go to the library
    • Sit by a stream and listen to the water
    • Go to a place of worship
    • Go to a café
    • Watch the sunrise or sunset
  • Exercise. Physical activity is a great way to relieve stress and keep your body healthy. It doesn’t have to be complicated or mean a trip to the gym either. Here are some easy and free ways to get some exercise:
    • Go for a walk in nature
    • Dance
    • Ride your bike
    • Do yoga
    • Go for a jog or run
    • Play outside with a younger sibling or cousin
    • Hop on a swing
    • Stretch your muscles
    • Clean up your room

Identifying your signs of stress and having a plan for how to handle them, as well as practising self-care on a regular basis can have a positive impact on your academic success!