Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years. It often conjures up a picture of someone sitting still, legs crossed, deep in meditation. However, there is much more to mindfulness than that, and mindfulness can be included in our lives in many ways. The key thing to mindfulness is to find some ways that it works for you in your life and to run with that.

Research indicates that mindfulness can help to reduce exam stress, but what does mindfulness actually mean? Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to whatever is happening in the present moment and experiencing it without judgement. That means that while mindfulness can include meditation, it doesn’t just include meditation, and in fact they are two very different things. Meditation is the practice of intentionally spending time with our mind.

Some people find meditation difficult, and in fact, for people with certain mental illnesses in can worsen symptoms. As a result, it’s important to find other ways bring be mindful in our daily lives. Mindfulness can be particularly helpful for anxiety as anxiety is rooted in worrying about the future whereas mindfulness focuses on the present moment, and can help to ground us when we are feeling panicked.

Anything really can be made into a mindful action by focusing on the action as we are doing it, and not letting ourselves be distracted by other thoughts or feelings. Yoga is an example of mindful movement, but any exercise can be done mindfully by focusing on the movement itself, your breathing, the sensation of moving through the exercise and so on.

One of the benefits of mindfulness is that it usually brings our focus out of our minds (and thus our possibly troubling thoughts and feelings) and into our bodies. There are two ways that mental health practitioners often guide people to do this. The first is through a body scan, where starting either at the top of the head or the toes, you move through all the muscles groups in the body, slowly and consciously tensing and relaxing each one. The other way is through a grounding technique, where you follow the following steps:

  • Name five things you can see around you (anything at all)
    • Name four things you can touch near you
    • Name three things you can hear (focusing on things outside of your body)
    • Name two things you can smell (you might need to walk around to find something)
    • Name one thing you can taste (anything at all, even if it’s something from earlier)

If possible, name these things out loud. It will help you to focus on those things and your environment in the moment.

Being creative is inherently mindful, and is one of the reasons why adult colouring books have become so popular in recent years. Any kind of crafting or art can be mindful, and so these activities could be a good idea to incorporate into your study breaks to help ease exam stress and anxiety.

If you’ve read this, and you’re still struggling to study, reach our for help to your lecturers, tutor, librarian, SU, family and friends, campus counsellor or GP for help. You don’t ever need to struggle on your own.

No matter how you feel an individual exam our the overall exam period has gone for you, remember that is not a reflection of who you are as a person. You are important and of value, and no exam or assessment is worth compromising your wellbeing. If you are struggling with your mental health in a way that is impacting your life, please reach out for help. Sources of support are available here.