In the fast paced world we live in today, feelings of stress and anxiety are not uncommon. If you’re not a student worrying over your deadlines and degree, you’re an adult having to face the world of work and mortgages. It is not surprising that there is widespread discussion over student mental health and burn out, and that nearly everyone experiences stress, depression or anxiety at some point in their lives.
But, is there a way to cope with this stress?
Over the past few weeks I have been getting to know an app called Headspace, recommended to me by a friend when I was experiencing some prolonged stress. She sold it to me within minutes, and since my 10 day foundation course ended, I have wanted to continue my journey with it. Headspace is a mindfulness app that helps people deal with negative emotions through ten minutes of guided meditation. It also gets you thinking about what it means to be living a mindful lifestyle, and offers ways to deal with everyday life when the mind is busy and loud. The meditations are given by a man called Andy, who has been a Buddhist monk for ten years, but recently decided he wanted to share his methods of finding peace and clarity with the rest of the world. His approach is gentle and non-intimidating, which makes it accessible to everyone, even those who have never meditated before.
One of the things that really spoke to me was Andy’s ideas surrounding thoughts and emotions. He describes them as being similar to traffic. If you try and analyze, keep up with or control each car as it zooms through your mind, you’ll begin to feel overwhelmed. He suggests the idea of simply observing a thought when it enters the mind. He explains that by doing this, you begin to learn that a thought does not mean it is the truth or your reality, and it does not need to affect your mood. Obviously this is easier said than done, but after a few weeks of practicing this I have begun to really understand what he means by that.
The stigma surrounding mental health is still a big issue, especially among students. During Fresher’s Week, nobody talks about the fact that they are actually really freaked out and have no idea what they are doing, or that they really miss their family. This might not be the case for everyone but when I finally approached some friends about this in my first term of uni I was so relieved to know I wasn’t the only one feeling a bit displaced. Talking about mental health is really important, and apps such as Headspace contribute to this stigma by providing access to ways of dealing with the mind, but also show that you’re not abnormal if affected by it.
My housemate Lottie has taken Headspace a lot further than me, opting to buy an annual membership for it. She explained that “Headspace has been so useful because it makes meditation accessible. There are different themes which relate to difficulties such as stress or anxiety, and how meditation can be used to accept and overcome these issues.”
“Also it’s only 10-20 minutes per day and is guided which makes the idea of sitting silently less daunting.”
There has been some dispute over whether these mental health and mindfulness apps are effective, and whilst it may be true that some aren’t that beneficial at all, meditation and mindfulness do not fall into that category.
A family friend who is a professional psychologist and counselor really rooted for the app when I spoke to her about it, and she encouraged me to continue using it as there have been endless studies proving that mindfulness and meditation work, for both personal and emotional means as well as everyday stress. It is so easy to get lost in the realm of the human mind and get sucked into the complexities of emotions that we often forget to pause for a minute and just breathe. Just taking a moment to think about how you are feeling and mentally stepping away from your day can have the most profound effect on your mood and way of thinking.
Don’t believe me? Find out for yourself.