As graduate students, each semester we juggle many responsibilities that lead to hectic schedules. Often, we must balance our time between classes, homework, lab meetings, work, clinical rotations, and extracurricular commitments. Sometimes, it is difficult to reserve personal time to de-stress and unwind. This busy schedule alone can add a significant amount of stress to our lives; not to mention the added stress from other social issues occurring in our country. What tools are available to help students manage all these stressors? Many people have turned to mindfulness-based techniques to handle day-to-day stress.
Mindfulness is defined as the quality or state of being aware of something (Mindfulness, 2020). More specifically, it is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings or thoughts (“Mindfulness”, 2020). While mindfulness does not remove the stressors we face, it can help us navigate how we react to them. There are many studies demonstrating the benefits of mindfulness. These benefits include increased positive emotions, reduced stress, boosted self-compassion, stronger sense of self, and increased attention skills (Greater Good, n.d.). Interested in giving mindfulness a try? Here are three exercises you can do to start practicing:
1. The Five Senses Exercise: Do you ever feel like your mind is moving one million miles per second? Maybe you are about to give a presentation to your cohort, and you are so nervous that you can hardly think straight. Try this exercise to refocus.
Step 1: Pick five things you can see. Try to pick objects that you don’t normally notice like a spare dome on the counter or a small toy in your booth.
Step 2: Pick four things you can feel. Become aware of the ground under your feet or your clothes on your skin.
Step 3: Pick three things you can hear. Listen for sounds in the background that you don’t normally notice like the humming of your computer.
Step: 4 Pick two things you can smell. Determine if these smells are pleasant or unpleasant.
Step 5: Pick one thing you can taste. Take a sip of your beverage or a bite of your snack if needed.
2. The Gratitude Jar: Do you ever find yourself in a rut? Maybe you had a rough day at your clinical rotation, or you did not do as well on an assignment as you hoped? If you are looking to shift your focus, try this exercise.
Step 1: Find a jar and decorate it however you would like. (This exercise can also be done in a journal).
Step 2: Write down one to three things you are thankful for and place them in the jar.
Step 3: Repeat step two on a daily basis.
Step 4: From time to time, re-read some of the notes in the jar.
3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Do you ever feel overwhelmed from the responsibilities you have? Maybe you have a long clinic schedule and do not have the time you desperately need to study for a test or submit an assignment due that evening. Try this exercise to help yourself reset.
Step 1:Begin by either lying flat on your back or sitting comfortably in a chair.
Step 2: Briefly tense a specific area of your body for 5-8 seconds and relax.
Step 3: Start with the muscles in your toes and work your way up to the top of your head.
There are many different ways to practice mindfulness. Check out the resources below for more ideas and find an exercise that works for you!
Lily Rollins, BS, is the current President-Elect of the national Student Academy of Audiology. She is a third-year student from the University of Texas at Dallas. She is interested in adult diagnostics and hearing aids.
References and Resources
- Mindfulness. (2020) In Oxford Online Dictionary. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/mindfulness
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