On my way to school on Monday morning, I followed my usual routine. I hopped on the streetcar with my backpack in tow and my mind racing, thinking about an assignment due later in the week, my schedule, my readings and how on earth I would find the time to get everything done.
I was feeling particularly stressed, so I decided to try out the Mindful Moments program with a friend. Mindful Moments are free meditation and yoga classes offered on campus. I didn’t really think it would work for me but I figured that, at worst, it would force me to take a break from working.
In the class, we sat in a circle and were asked to say one thing that we had noticed that morning. I struggled to think of anything because I had been running on autopilot, doing everything automatically and focusing my energy on my anxious thoughts. Other people mentioned things like the change in the weather and funny people on public transit, but it seemed like everyone was also too preoccupied to meaningfully observe their surroundings.
We then did a practice in mindful eating, where the counselor leading the session guided us through eating a snack slowly and thoughtfully, noticing its texture, smell, and taste. After some reflection, we ended the session with a meditation practice where we sat in silence as the counsellor gave us instructions on paying attention to our breath and our bodies.
I realized from the class that I rush through a lot of my day because I’m stressed about getting work done, and I’m always thinking about my schedule – what I have to do the next day and the day after that.
What I learned is to try to actively engage with moments in my day. Rather than use my walk from the Koffler Centre to Robarts as a time to stress, I’m now trying to look around and notice things. My friend who came with me to the class pointed out, for example, that everyone seems a little more oriented and relaxed on campus this week.
On Tuesday before class, I got up for an early morning breakfast. I took my time with my coffee, appreciating each sip, and I focused on the experience rather than on the day ahead. I got to school feeling alert and clear-headed and I noticed that I was feeling just a bit better about getting my work done now that I was fixating on it less.
It’s normal to feel stressed about school and about our lives. The counselor was quick to remind us that a bit of stress is healthy – we’re in university, so of course we are being challenged every day! But mindfulness is a really simple practice that can make a huge difference, even in small doses: just breathe, look around you, and pay attention while you do it. When I was doing my work and started to feel myself begin to feel overwhelmed, I closed my eyes and took a deep, focused breath and I pushed on with a level head.
Want to go to a Mindful Moment? Check out the schedule at this link.
Got questions about mindfulness, or want to chat about coping with stress? Talk to me in the comments below!