Try meditation to regulate anxiety, improve emotional regulation skills

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Photo Credit: Gianna Shahdad | Daily Texan Staff

A hundred pages of reading, a lab report due tomorrow, an extra shift at work. It all tends to pile up on top of busy students.

Personally, I have struggled with anxiety since I was in middle school. I began meditating freshman year of high school, and since then, meditation has become a powerful tool for me to calm my nerves and slow down my thought process. It helps me take things one step at a time and escape from the mental claustrophobia that anxiety brings along with it. 

Stress and anxiety are barriers that the majority of students experience during their time in college. According to a study by the American College Health Association, 63.4% of college students felt overwhelming anxiety within the past 12 months. 

UT is not excluded from this anxiety epidemic. 76% of the issues that students seek help for at the Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC) are anxiety related, making it the largest category of issues the center encounters. Given that these symptoms are so ubiquitous, students should consider meditation to regulate their stress, and UT should provide a more concrete way for them to do so. 

Although anxiety and stress are common features of the human experience, they often cause mood or personality changes and can detract from students’ academic performance. According to integrated health counselor Geeti Mahajan, there are a plethora of components that contribute to student anxiety, such as academic distress, living away from home, personal relationships and even the prospect of graduation. 

Given that stress-inducing experiences are an unavoidable part of attending UT, meditation can provide desperately needed, medication-less relief for many students. Meditation can be performed for a short amount of time in any location without the need for any equipment, making it an accessible option for all students. 

The mental benefits of meditation are varied, but they all make an important contribution to our calmness and awareness. 

“The goal is to be more mindful and aware of what’s going on so you can take knowledgeable and wise actions to help yourself,” Mahajan said. “Breath regulation when meditating has a deep effect on the nervous system and helps to calm people down, so they have more insight and awareness to their problems and they’re able to find solutions more clearly for themselves.” 

Meditation is unique for everyone, and there’s no right way to do it. It generally consists of sitting upright in a quiet space and devoting all brain activity to focusing on the breath and the body. 

Electrical engineering junior Ashwin Hareesh experienced these positive benefits after meditating regularly. 

“Just being quiet and staying away from technology and everything else helps you regulate your brain so you’re not so frantic all the time,” Hareesh said.“The break really helps and reduces my anxiety, at least.”

UT could make a more distinctive push towards encouraging students to integrate meditation as a healthy coping mechanism through a required stress management skills course, as well as further publicizing meditation workshops already offered through CMHC. 

Clinical nursing associate professor Rosa Schnyer, who teaches a stress management course to undergraduates, supports this kind of integration. 

“I would be a really big advocate for having a part of orientation or a first-year requirement dedicated to helping students gain the skills for emotional regulation because students could really use them at that age,” Schnyer said. 

The need for positive coping mechanisms for anxiety goes beyond academic performance and mood. Some students have found strategies to manage their anxiety, but many are at risk of developing bigger problems. 

“A lot of them may have maladaptive behaviors, especially if they are first year students, like drinking or using other substances to numb themselves,” Schyner said. 

The rise in mental health disorders among students and youth is alarming, and it is imperative that we find safe and healthy methods to cope with them. Meditation can provide this kind of relief for UT students if our community and University makes it a priority. So if you’re stressed, put meditation to use and discover your inner zen. 

Lazaroski is an international relations and global studies sophomore from Dallas.