By CampusSplash.com blogger and John Main Center for Meditation and Interreligious Dialogue co-founder Ray Schillinger.
You've probably already read this piece of unsurprising news: College freshmen are more stressed than ever.
Despite the inevitable pressures of classes, exams, grades, internships, and post-grad plans, there are some easy and effective ways to alleviate that stress.
Here are a few suggestions from my own playbook:
Meditation -- ditch the stereotypes; it's not just for the Dalai Lama anymore. Neuroscience is finally expounding the physiological benefits of regular meditation, and nearly 10% of Americans admit to having practiced it in some form.
After I picked up the habit about halfway through college, I found that my concentration, patience, and general contentment had measurably improved in just a short time. The key to success is regular practice, so either stick to a personal schedule or seek out other meditators on your campus and set up a group. As for length, 10 minutes twice a day is a good place to start.
Pro tip: When starting out, focus on a single, stationary object such as a candle. It'll keep your mind from thinking of the million things you have to finish by next Friday and dramatically improve the quality of your meditation.
Volunteering -- Serve food at a local homeless shelter. Start a new fundraising project for a local charity. Tutor at an underprivileged elementary school. The list is virtually endless. Volunteering can be an immensely satisfying and welcome distraction from school. And I'll openly admit that it can serve as an excellent resume piece, as it speaks volumes about your character and ambition.
Pro tip: Contact a non-profit organization that provides a service related to your career interests and find out if they have volunteer opportunities. You'll be helping out a good cause and opening the door to excellent informal networking in your field. Double win!
Travel -- the destination does not have to be Aruba for it to qualify as a vacation. Thanks to the regional bus renaissance that is now well underway, it has never been easier or cheaper to take a much-needed break away from campus. Set aside a weekend when you aren't swamped with deadlines and call up a few high school friends who have settled in other cities. Plan to return the favor down the road.
Pro tip: if you're in for a real adventure, try out http://www.couchsurfing.org and visit a city you've never been to before. It's free and an awesome way to meet new people.
Exercise - it seems like a no-brainer, but it's worth hammering this one home. Need to blow off some steam after getting a C+ on that Psychology midterm? Hit the gym. Didn't get that internship (perhaps because you didn't follow James' resume tips)? Go for a run. Let those endorphins flow.
Pro tip: Find an exercise partner and agree on a mutual workout schedule. It'll make it that much harder to come up with excuses.
Remember, you can carry these beneficial habits well beyond your college years. So the next time you find yourself contemplating another weekend of drinking away your sorrows into oblivion, try one of these alternative stress-relief techniques. Your liver will be forever grateful.
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