As high schoolers, we have felt stressed out at least once throughout our four years at school. Some of us more than others, but together we’ve all at least felt this feeling of anxiety, worry or pressure at some point. According to an NYU study, they found that out of a total 128 juniors from two private high schools “nearly half (49%) of all students reported feeling a great deal of stress on a daily basis and 31 percent reported feeling somewhat stressed. Females reported significantly higher levels of stress than males (60% vs. 41%).” Beyond that, they found “a substantial minority, 26 percent of participants, reported symptoms of depression at a clinically significant level.” This stress comes from many different things but some main causes are pressure from parents, teachers, classmates, and finally, oneself to succeed.
This is a huge issue for high schoolers around the world. Many of which don’t know what to do with this feeling of stress or how to get rid of it. That is what my project is about. The NYU case study found that “active or problem-solving strategies for coping with stress included listening to or playing music, playing video/computer games, meditating, or getting away from school.” I have decided to focus on mediation as a coping mechanism because it is also a part of positive psychology. Below I have done research on a variety of different meditations to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
Breath Focus Technique
In this simple meditation technique, you take slow, long, deep breaths (also known as belly breathing). As you breathe, you try to disengage the rest of your body and just focus on your breathing, the inhale and exhale. Your mind should be at rest from distracting thoughts and sensations. It is a short practice, 15 minutes daily for at least a week (though evidence suggests that mindfulness increases the more you practice it).
First, find a relaxed, comfortable position. You could be seated on a chair or on the floor on a cushion. Keep your back upright, and hands resting wherever they’re comfortable. Next, notice and relax your body. Try to notice the shape of your body, its weight. Relax any areas of tightness or tension. Just breathe. Third, tune into your breath. Feel the natural flow of breath—in, out. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. Not long, not short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. Stay here for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence. From time to time, you’ll get lost in thought, then return to your breath. Finally, check in before you check out. After a few minutes, let yourself relax even more deeply and then offer yourself some appreciation for doing this practice today.
Benefits Include: Improved Focus, Improved Ability to Relax, Enhanced Self Awareness, Improved Self-Control, Better Emotional Health, and Reducing Stress Levels
Guided Imagery Technique
Guided imagery is a gentle but powerful technique that focuses the imagination in proactive, positive ways. For this technique, you must use your imagination to put yourself in soothing scenes, places, or experiences in your mind to help you relax and focus. There are many different videos or apps you can use just make sure to choose imagery you find soothing and that has personal significance. Guided imagery involves all the senses, not just the visual sense and it is experienced throughout the body. Guided imagery helps you reinforce a positive vision of yourself. It is another short technique that only takes 10 minutes a day.
First, find a relaxed, comfortable position. Next, find a video to play that will bring you to your relaxed state. If you aren’t using a video use your imagination to bring you to this ideal place. Third, tune into your breath. Stay here 10 minutes and focus on imagining your best self in this special place.
Benefits Include: Reduce stress, blood pressure, cholesterol and hemoglobin A1C levels in the blood. It can heighten short term immune cell activity. Guided imagery lowers anxiety and pain. Confidence boost. Regular use of guided imagery can heighten access to emotional depth, humor, responsiveness to music, spirituality, intuition, creativity, abstract thinking and empathy.
Body Scan Technique
Body Scan. This technique blends breath focus with progressive muscle relaxation. After a few minutes of deep breathing, you focus on one part of the body or group of muscles at a time and mentally releasing any physical tension you feel there. Attention is given to every inch of the body. The purpose of this practice is to cultivate the ability to notice what is being experienced in the body- this includes all of the systems of the body- bones, skin, internal organs, digestion, etc. You should take as much time necessary to complete your entire body or just a section.
First, close your eyes to allow you to focus on only your body. Next, bring awareness to the body breathing in and out, noticing touch and pressure where it makes contact with the seat or floor. Afterward, intentionally breathe in, and move your attention to whatever part of the body you want to investigate. You might choose to do a systematic body scan beginning at the head or feet.
Benefits Include: Enhances your ability to bring your full attention to real-time experiences happening in the present moment—helpful when emotions or thoughts feel wild. Help boost your awareness of the mind-body connection. Reduce stress and over time depression and anxiety.