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  • Kara Tolman, LCSW

Cultivating Mindfulness in College

College is both stressful and exciting- and a lot of other feelings in between. Whether you are a non-traditional or traditional student, academics can be overwhelming and can make managing your mental/physical stress challenging.

Mindfulness can help you cope with the stress of school and social pressure by increasing your mental focus, relieving stress, and reducing negative thought patterns. It can help you become more aware of your body sensations, thoughts, and emotions. And, it can help you be less reactive.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of non-judgmental awareness of what is happening in the present moment. Rather than a particular action or exercise, mindfulness is considered a state of mind. When our minds take flight, we become disconnected from our body and immersed in our thoughts; mindfulness helps to keep us present.

Mindfulness has two important components: Awareness & Acceptance.

While practicing mindfulness, you will observe your thoughts, emotions, and the feelings in your body (also known as somatic responses) as they come.

Mindfulness is not stopping your thinking completely or having a completely empty mind.

Think about mindfulness as your life raft and your thoughts as the water. You simply are trying to bring awareness to the thoughts and float with them. Once you are floating in your life raft, practice acceptance by stating to yourself: “I notice that I am feeling nervous”. Once you practice awareness and acceptance, you can then move into a mindfulness exercise.

Mindfulness Practice

Now that you have the basic understanding of mindfulness, you may be wondering how you can incorporate this into your everyday routine or even in your dorm room before class. Try these two exercises to see what works for you.

· Deep Breathing

1. Slowly exhale through your mouth to push out any air that is sitting in your lungs.

2. Inhale slowly through your nose and count to 4.

3. Hold your breath for another slow 4 count.

4. Exhale slowly through your mouth to the same slow 4 count. Focus on puckering your lips like a straw when blowing out slowly.

5. Hold your breath again for the same 4 count slowly. Repeat process.

· 5 Senses Exercise

1. Notice 5 things that you can see

2. Notice 4 things that you can feel

3. Notice 3 things that you can hear

4. Notice 2 things that you can smell

5. Notice 1 thing you can taste

Mindfulness comes in lots of forms. These are two examples, but there are so many more. If this is a practice or a mindset that really resonates for you or appeals, seek out additional resources online or reach out to get scheduled! Individual therapy is a great place to tailor mindfulness specifically into a tool you can use every day!

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