As someone living with pretty intense anxiety, I have years of experience teaching myself to keep calm—mostly via trial and error. Though not everyone has anxiety like I do, no one is safe from stress, especially with the never–ending onslaught of midterms. So, what do I do when everything around me is moving too quickly? 

I practice meditation.

You’re probably imagining someone sitting with eyes closed and legs crossed, breathing rhythmically and exhaling to let a soft “Ommmmm” escape their parted lips. But that’s only one of the many ways to clear your head. 

You could do it while drawing, or doing dishes, or lifting weights. Meditation isn’t an action, it’s a state of mind. That’s why you practice it.

What is that state of mind? It’s hard to describe, but think of it as your thoughts being a blank canvas. It’s thinking about nothing. Not about your grades, or your partner, or your shitty roommate. Just nothing. Attempting this clean slate seems like a great way to battle stress for one major reason: we, as students have a tendency to pack our heads until it feels like we’re about to explode. 

Thinking about one problem reminds you of another, then another, then another until suddenly all the things render actual productivity impossible. This then feeds into a self–fulfilling prophecy: the fact that you aren’t being productive stresses you out, and that makes you feel a little worse about yourself. Round and round it goes until you’ve done no work and you also feel like shit.  

The hope here is that if you take the time to dump out all your brain garbage regularly, it won’t pile up and cause a stink that keeps you from getting anything done. Now, there are so many ways to do this—I couldn’t possibly list them all. What I can do however, is tell you about the two I find most useful: mindfulness and loving–kindness. 

Mindfulness is a Western offshoot of an ancient Buddhist practice called Vipassana. It involves paying attention to your internal and external experiences and framing them in a compassionate way.

There are thousands of exercises one can use to practice mindfulness, my favorite being musical stimuli. It’s my favorite because I can do this with headphones while going from class to class, or while running, or even in the middle of parties. If that isn’t your thing though, here are things you can do nearly anywhere and here are things you may want to be alone for.

Loving–kindness, for me, serves a different purpose. Penn students deal with lots of people on a daily basis. Some days, it’s easy to just sort of hate everyone. So, when I’m feeling this way about someone who’s wronged me in some way, like a crappy roommate or a patronising professor, I choose to send them love and wish them well. This can be done by first thinking about someone who loves you, then really connecting to that feeling of being loved, and channeling that back to whomever’s bothering you. Genuinely wish them well. Be real in hoping they live a happy life. This is a longer resource about this kind of loving–kindness.

If anything, things like listening to music you enjoy while walking around campus, deep breathing exercises, and learning to let go of negative feelings towards others are things that could vastly reduce your stress levels over time—even if your meditation never graduates from being practice. 


Some useful resources to check out: 


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