This time of the semester comes with a lot of difficulties: midterms, stress, not to mention the extra burden of going to college during a pandemic. It is often that I find myself becoming overwhelmed and near tears because of how much work I feel I must do. Sometimes it does get the best of me and leads to a minor temper tantrum; however, I have begun to look for ways to mitigate those instances! During January, I took an amazing course on Buddhist Meditation in the Modern World, where I picked up some easy, but useful, techniques to ground myself in the present moment to avoid spiraling into a stress breakdown.
- Four-Square Breathing
This practice can be done any place, anywhere, so long as you can breathe! I usually like to close my eyes to begin. It goes like this: Breathe in for 4 seconds, pause for 4 seconds, exhale for the same amount of time, and then pause for 4 seconds. Repeat this simple process with as much focus as you can muster. Doing this usually allows me to calm myself down and cope with my stress a little more effectively.
- Pick a Sense and Focus On It
Another simple de-stressor can be closing the eyes, picking a sense (I usually opt for sound and hearing), and focusing on what arises. When thoughts arise that try to distract you, simply notice, and let them go, before bringing your focus back to the sense. This simple meditative practice allows you to ground yourself in the present moment. It is enough of a distraction to allow you to distance yourself from any immediate stress and begin again.
If you have tried practices such as those listed above, maybe visualization is something different to try. I usually close my eyes and then envision myself breathing in golden light and breathing out black smoke. I tend to think of this as breathing in calm and serenity and breathing out the gunk and the stress I have been holding inside. Visualizing such concepts can help to better imagine ridding yourself of the things that are overwhelming you.
Hopefully, these simple practices will allow you to better cope with the stress that has become so common. If you’d like to learn more along with some of the Buddhist background, consider taking RELB 2165. Also, all UVA students get free access to a premium account on the app Insight Timer, which has many useful guided meditations if you are looking for more.