How to Tackle Exam Stress with Meditation

Discover the benefits of mindful meditation to help reduce anxiety, stress and improve resilience.

Forget pulling all-nighters, slamming energy drinks or cramming on exam morning, the key to surviving exam season can be found within - and without endangering your health.

Across Australia thousands of students are embracing the benefits of mindful meditation to help reduce anxiety, stress and improve resilience.

In fact, a study recently published by The British Journal of Psychiatry found students who meditate can better handle school stress and are less likely to suffer anxiety and depression later in life. Essential, considering 75 per cent of mental illness has its onset in adolescence.

Meditation has also become a proven method for coping with the pressures of Hollywood, with Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom and Gisele Bundchen just a few celebrities who have embraced the age-old practice.

But how do you get started?

Meditation is all about clearing your mind and training it to pay attention, which requires relaxation and focus. So it is best to start off in a comfortable position in an environment where you won’t be distracted.

There are a number of meditations you can try, ranging from focusing on your breath to using a mantra to help focus your attention.

However, one of the easiest ways to get started is with a little guidance. While classes and online videos can be a great start, the convenience and cost-effectiveness of apps have seen meditation via smartphones and tablets on the increase – probably because they make meditation portable. Hanging by the beach? Why not meditate? Got a few minutes before a big exam? Do a quick five minute session.

Different apps offer different types of meditations at lengths from five minutes to an hour. It’s often good to try a few until you find one that fits with your tastes and lifestyle.

Popular among students is the Aussie-invented mindfulness meditation app Smiling Mind. Currently used in more than 1500 schools and community groups, its education programs are particularly formatted to help reduce stress among students and promote resilience.

Backed by youth and child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, the app has four age specific programs for 7 to 11-year-olds, 12 to 15-year-olds, 16 to 22-year-olds and adults. Each program takes the listener through a guided session using relation and breathing techniques.

So once you’ve found your app or guide of choice, how often should you spend meditating?

Meditation fans say just five minutes a day can help promote clarity and focus, while longer 40 minute sessions can be essential when trying to overcome major obstacles. In general, start small and work your way up.

Described as a workout for the mind, meditation gets easier over time. Like exercise, it’s a skill that improves with practice. But, when stressing over looming exams and thinking about how long your to-do list is this week, it can sometimes be easy to get discouraged. Some days quietening the mind can be more difficult than others. However, it is important to remember the mind is a busy muscle - it can take a while to get it into shape.

Whether you are squaring off against exams at the moment, or just looking for a mechanism to cope with peer pressure or family issues, meditation is an easy, free and accessible way to get mentally fit and focused. Happy meditating!

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