How to manage stress during challenging times is a big struggle for a lot of us. Now that exams are over, it can be difficult to relax and take time off when results are looming.
So, we spoke to one of our lecturers in Health Psychology, Michael Mantzios, to share some mindfulness tips and techniques* to help you stop worrying over Summer.
How to beat stress with mindfulness
Mindfulness is described as focussing on the present moment and having a non-judgmental attitude. It’s all about redirecting your attention.
For example, if you think “I did badly on this exam” you are in a way judging yourself, and you are dwelling over something that already happened and belongs to the past. This will indeed be a source of stress.
Our minds do this all the time – they wander away to the past and the future. These are the times when you need to be in the present moment and recognize when your mind drifts.
Judging yourself is counter-productive and will cause you more stress, simply because there is no way to act on what happened in the past, apart from pondering over what went wrong. Instead, try to be kind and accepting.
One technique to reduce your stress is a psychological (and now mainstream) practice that is called mindfulness.
Consider thoughts and phrases like “exams stress me out” or “I stress over the results”. While these examples might be true, how much you pay attention to it – and how much emphasis you give to it – is what will define your levels of stress. In other words, constant thoughts of what stresses you create even more stress.
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Studies show that practicing mindfulness can:
Help you become more resilient to everyday stresses such as:
be more socially interactive, but make sure that’s not only through social media
be more optimistic
take care of yourself, both body and mind (exercise, eat healthily, laugh and smile)
remain open to new experiences.
All these basic attitudes and behaviours will make you more resilient to stress, and will make you control stress instead of stress controlling you. Openness to new experiences may be more helpful than everything else mentioned because it gives you the flexibility to explore healthy avenues to reduce your stress.
3 minute meditation
The process of being more mindful, more attentive of the present moment, less judgmental and more kind and accepting can be practiced through meditation.
Michael recommends a quick three minute audio file if you want to practice. "Remember that it takes some time, and you need to be kind and patient with yourself," he said.
*Everything mentioned in this text relates to relevant research that has been published in the past 10 years.