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Breathing In Less Stress

It’s that time of the semester again – when project due dates are fast-approaching, and all you want to do is book a ticket to a beach somewhere to sip on a refreshing beverage while watching the sunset. It seems like every time this point in the semester comes around, you lose motivation and your goals become evermore blurrier. When will the semester end?

Whether you are ready to tackle the deadlines but extremely worn out and sleep deprived, or you feel like you just want to run away from all responsibilities to vegetate somewhere, integrating some mindfulness practices can help you avoid the slump and refocus on your work. Practicing mindfulness is a way to get us through these stressful times – to relish peace and joy and release stress and anxiety.

Mindfulness, originally a Buddhist meditation technique, is where one tries to notice present thoughts, feeling and sensations without passing judgements. Spiritual practices can sometimes feel disconnected from or even irrelevant to our daily lives. Here are some ways to apply and incorporate Buddhist practices into our busy schedule.

Waking Up

Upon waking up and before getting up, we should feel incredibly grateful and ready to face a new day. Every day is a new beginning and you have an opportunity to become a better version of yourself. Take the time to do some morning meditation. Some tips to staying alert during meditation:

  1. Avoid meditating immediately upon waking up because you’d not be present but dozing off the entire time.
  2. Avoid meditating on the bed or near the bed (pretty self-explanatory here).
  3. Meditate before breakfast because after eating the body feels heavy.

Sit comfortably with your back straight, shoulders back and facial muscles relaxed. Close your eyes and calmly focus on your breathing while being consciously aware of your thoughts. Counting tens in- and out- breaths helps to gently stop the mind from wandering and bring the attention back to the breathing. Meditating stabilizes the mind as the serenity slowly permeates through the rest of our body.

During Breakfast

After meditation, have a healthy breakfast and feel gratitude for the food. Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating, both inside or outside the body. Avoid the need to check your phone and pull the attention to the food you are eating. Am I eating enough food to fuel my morning class? Am I satiated?

After eating, plan the day. The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule what’s on your priority. Categorize the tasks to tackle first based on the importance and urgency. Identifying and planning tasks will reduce later stress and overwhelming feelings. Our minds will be calmer before the day starts.

Throughout the Day

Be in the present with kindness and compassion. Remain mindful of how you’re acting, speaking, thinking, and feeling. Take notes of any unsettling emotions like anger, resentment, and arrogance. This attitude is often forgotten as we get caught up in the continuous demands in our lives. Focus on what you are doing at the moment. Be aware to recognize and release any unwanted distractions.

Mindful working enhances focus and awareness to increase efficiency and productivity. Pause to access what’s happening around you. Take a moment to access your sensory – being aware of your body, listening to sounds, hearing your thoughts and being conscious of your emotions. Blessings happen more frequently when we take the time to notice them. We will then find ourselves being more appreciative and living more in the present moment.

Before Going to Sleep

Review the day’s event and our actions toward each situation. Did I make a mistake? Did I say something hurtful? Resolve to make tomorrow better than today. Focus on what you can change. If you can’t change something that’s bothering you, then change your mindset towards it. Don’t stress over what you can’t control.

The conscious mind tends to get deep enthralled at night, when we suddenly stop and everything around us is muted. So before going to bed, take the time to do another short meditation to calm down from the day. Focus again on the breathing and eliminate the stream of thoughts that may be clustering your mind. Only then, when we relax the mind and rest the body, the tranquility makes it effortless for us to wind down and drift off for a truly restful night.

Jidapa Sodwatana