How meditation helps me relieve stress during finals

woman sit in circle meditating
Students take part in the meditation exercise lead by Amelia Soto, a Kundalini Yoga teacher. (Loren Townsley / The Sundial)

The dread is creeping in as we get closer and closer towards finals week. The stress of it feels completely uncontrollable. There is a constant desire for just one measly day to relax, one that does not involve heavy textbooks, confusing essays or frustrating word equations to complete. When will we finally be able to relax? It seems like that time will only come once we finish the semester, but it won’t last long since the next semester is only a few weeks after. There seems to be no end to the stress.

But what if I told you there was a way of relieving that stress while still keeping up with a web of school work, your job and whatever other drama is going on in your life. There is just one simple answer to your problems: meditation. If students take the time to meditate at least a few times a week, they will build the skills to help manage their stress or anxiety, they will become more aware of their emotions, and they will be doing so at an extremely low cost.

My entire life I have always tried really hard in school but always saw few results. I remember back in high school, before some of my classmates would take an exam I would hear them say, “I didn’t study, I am going to fail”. I, on the other hand, studied for hours and felt relatively confident I would do well. Then came time for the teacher to hand back our grades. This is always where the disappointment set in as I would see those students who claimed to have not studied at all be rewarded with an A, whereas I would receive a C. It felt unfair. I wanted to give up so many times.

So one day I went to see a therapist about my struggles. We came to the conclusion that I get anxious when it comes to test taking. That even though I might know all the answers, the anxiety takes up a large space in my mind that prevents me from being able to focus. She recommended that I try meditating to free up some of that space in my mind, which would essentially help manage my stress. I took my therapist’s advice and I began meditating everyday for five minutes, since anything more than that felt like a decade. The results were exactly what I was hoping for; I began to get better test results and I was physically able to calm my anxiety throughout the exam taking process. Ever since then, I have become an advocate of meditation. There are so many benefits to it.

Not only does meditation help manage stress, but it also reduces negative emotions. We all go through stressful situations in our lives such as finals week, a breakup or loss of a loved one; it is beneficial to learn the skills of how to properly manage these stressful situations. According to Dr. Maria Camara’s article on mindworks.org, when we meditate we become more aware of our emotions and she explains that “when we’re not aware, our emotions tend to color our perception and judgment.” Rather than letting our emotions cloud our judgement while taking a test, we can clear our mind before an exam through mediation.

Meditation also promotes a healthy mind at zero cost. Now, I know mediation might seem too time consuming for students since it takes time out of their hectic schedules, but all it really takes is 5 – 10 minutes just once a day. There is absolutely no equipment necessary; the only thing requirement is your body and mind. Meditation simply involves sitting upright in a still position with the eyes closed, with a consistent inhaling and exhaling; the idea is to clear the mind of any distractions of past and future worries by bringing one’s focus onto the present. Again, the only cost is 10 minutes out of your day, just 10 out of 1,440 minutes. That is priceless when it comes to having a healthy mind and body.

Ultimately, meditating can help a student gain the skills necessary to manage their stress or anxiety, bring awareness to their emotions, all at a low cost. When you’re feeling anxious and the stress feels overwhelming, do not forget that you have the power of meditation anytime and anywhere you need it.

Just remember, inhale and exhale.

Written by Rivka Hayman