Stress stops us achieving our full potential. Let that resonate for a second.
Yes, your stress is probably not helping you be who you want to be, and Covid has been about as stressful as it gets. All this change and uncertainty can really mess up your academic performance. So, how can you push back and perform at your best?
Imagine yourself sitting in the lotus position, chanting and envisioning a glinting northern woodland framed only by the purest waters. Well, that’s not mindfulness, so scrap the traditional meditation image. Mindfulness is only about the moment, helping you manage stress and anxiety, and letting you perform at your best.
Do you want to quiet those negative thoughts, the voices that tell you that you aren’t good enough? Mindfulness can deliver this (with enough commitment).
Obviously this goes further than just study, but the formula is definitely “too much stress = poor performance”. Just think about those exam situations, like the UCAT and BMAT, where time pressure and stress can feed each other like a whirlwind.
So are you ready to be mindful? Here are some suggestions.
Practise Daily - mindfulness only works if you have disciplined yourself to be able to use it in any scenario, especially stressful ones.
Breathing Techniques - there are a variety of breathing techniques you can utilise, but the basic principles are:
focus on only your breathing
count breathing in and out
don’t hold your breath
don’t let other things distract you
Recognise Negative Thoughts - when you have a negative thought - whether pessimistic, stressful or unhelpful - take a moment to recognise how it makes you feel, what caused it and make sure to record it. Once you know your patterns you can stop them before they start.
Combat Negative with Positive - when you have a negative thought chain, disrupt and divert it with a positive such as your hard work, your improvements and achievements, the tasks you have completed. It’s amazing how seldom we congratulate ourselves.
Body Scan - focusing on your body, relaxing one muscle group at a time. As you do this, close your eyes and allow your breathing to slow and become rhythmic.
Notice the World Around You - we often try to distract ourselves with social media, videos, and music, but take the time to unplug. Go outside and focus on the air, the sounds, the light. It doesn’t need to be long or anywhere especially beautiful - although being in a park or garden can be the most calming environment.
Enjoy the Silence - allow yourself to sit in silence. Be comfortable, be quiet, be alone. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing and how you feel - with just 10 minutes a day, you will start to feel changes.
If you struggle to focus on these activities then try an app that guides you - Headspace, Calm or The Mindfulness App are the most highly rated and are a great place to start.
Mindfulness can be a great tool for you to use both for exams and in your future career, giving you a useful and rare life skill.
Access example video responses to interview questions from real students