Why college students need mindfulness

With high demands, little time, and few coping skills, mindfulness can be the key to surviving college.

Whether you are a screaming toddler, an overwhelmed teenager, an exhausted college student, or sleepless parent, we all experience stress. The unfortunate reality is many of us are not taught effective coping skills for dealing with stress.  The strategies we often use are temporary, ineffective and can lead to more problems. College students face a unique chapter in life by gaining independence while learning to manage time, finances, friends, priorities, and copious responsibilities all in one bundle. 

Alcohol is a high social trend on many college campuses and is often used as a way to cope with stress. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a report was made in December 2015 stating, “almost 60 percent of college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month, and almost 2 out of 3 of them engaged in binge drinking during that same timeframe.” When stress affects all of us, there must be positive alternatives to managing it. The Journal of American College Health conducted a study that concluded, “Mindfulness-based stress reduction or other mindfulness programs may be useful in decreasing alcohol problems on college campuses via the effects on stress.” 

So, what is mindfulness? Michigan State University Extension teaches a 5-week course called, “Stress Less with Mindfulness.” This course teaches the three components to mindfulness: awareness (of thoughts, emotions, and body sensations), shifting your perspective, and practicing daily. What the Journal of American College Health focused on was the shifting of perspective. The way we view the world creates our reality. Mindfulness can help us become aware of what our perspective is, and we can choose to shift that perspective if it is not serving us.

3 strategies that can guide us into effectively practicing mindfulness:

  1. Registering for an MSU Extension “Stress Less with Mindfulness Class.”
  2. Listening to guided meditations. Try downloading the free app: Insight Timer.
  3. Going to your local library and checking out a book on Mindfulness.

The sooner we practice mindfulness as a coping skill to stress, the sooner we can let go of our unhealthy responses to stress. Let us be the example for our youth, and encourage them to find healthy coping skills for everyday stressors.

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