Categories
Audrey Wint Mental Health Uncategorized

Meditation: A Tool For Non-Traditional College Students

by Audrey Wint RYT 200

I decided to explore the question, “How can meditation help lower stress in non-traditional college students?”.  The “why” behind my question focuses on why is it so important to lower stress, especially for non-traditional students and what we can do about it. A non-traditional student is one that is generally older, may have a family and children, and may be holding down part-time or full-time job. The academic journey comes along with stress as is and when you throw in a challenge like work, life, and school, balancing it can cause added stress. This paper will explore the history of meditation, address potential adverse effects, explain why meditation is a valuable and accessible resource to help manage stress for non-traditional college students, and elaborate on why it’s relevant to community health. 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Meditation is based on a practice that originally began in India around 1500 BCE and then spread to surrounding countries such as Japan and eventually the United States of America. The practice involves “seeing things as they really are” and begins with the individual observing their breath, physical sensations, thoughts, and emotional states as they arise in the present moment. (Lustyk, 2009, p. 20). Non-traditional students with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) could have the potential experience of flashbacks, hallucinations, and feelings of depression. Epileptic students have the potential to experience hallucinations, panic, and or tension. Spiritual students could have the potential experience of religious delusions and meditation “addiction” (Lustyk, 2009, p. 22-23). Therefore, the mental, physical, and spiritual health of the non-traditional student should be taken into consideration before practicing meditation. If adverse feelings and emotions become more serious the student should seek guidance from a teacher they trust or seek professional medical assistance. 

Meditation should be practiced by non-traditional students because it is an effective holistic therapy that supports cognitive health. The components of Meditation include the following: attention regulation, body awareness, emotion regulation, and change in perspective on the self (Hölzel, 2011, p. 539). Self-reported and experimental behavior findings revealed that meditation contributed to enhanced performance which is associated with the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex and increased scores on enhanced body awareness associated to the brain’s insula, temporo-parietal junction. It also showed increase in positive reappraisal which is associated with the brain’s (dorsal) prefrontal cortex, increase in no reactivity to inner experiences associated to the brain’s hippocampus and amygdala, and change in self-concept associated with the brain’s medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, insula, temporo-parietal junction (Hölzel, 2011, p. 539). The impact that meditation has on the brain is extraordinary because the individual can change the way their brain processes information and their reactions by focusing their attention on the present moment and breathing. Meditation is an amazing holistic practice that allows students to control their stress by simply using their mind. Once a non-traditional student begins to form a consistent practice of meditation, they will recognize that they are thinking differently and possibly more optimistically leading to a better quality of life with less worry and less anxiety. 

Meditation is convenient and affordable. Meditation is virtually accessible anytime and anywhere. In the year 2020 there are so many outlets that allow us to practice meditation and some of them are free. For example, Mindful Meditation can be done comfortably at home sitting in a chair, a meditation pillow, or even in bed. If students don’t know where to begin their meditation or how to start there are now online channels and mobile applications that provide thousands of different guided meditations depending on what is most beneficial to the individual. To name a few: Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, and many more are associated with the mobile application route. The online meditations are free and mobile application meditations can be purchased at an extremely low price with a student discount. There are also resources such as magazines and books from the library that provide insight for guided meditations with various yoga teachers and mediation experts. Another route for guided meditation could be in the student fitness center located on campus or a local yoga studio. Here a student can incorporate yoga exercise and mindfulness at the same time with a certified instructor. Yoga has been associated with mindful movement connecting the body and mind. When it comes minimizing financial obligations and seeking help there is an ever-growing community as well as resources that help non-traditional students tackle stress. 

For our community, the accessibility and awareness to a holistic therapy like meditation would help address and prevent substance use, a coping skill commonly found among stressed non-traditional students. Stress can lead to students dropping out along with individuals and families continuing to struggle while continuing to be trapped in the socioeconomic struggle that determines their health outcomes. I would like to see a world where the rate of stressed out non-traditional students and students goes down and the rate of self-awareness and mindful meditation increases creating a better quality of life for society with less stressed individuals. 

I hope to encourage research and spread the message to non-traditional students about a coping mechanism, like mindful meditation, that helps them to manage stress, be resilient and push back against adversity while continuing their education so that they may thrive in every dimension of health. 

Mental Health Information

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). If you are in a crisis or looking for mental health information, you can call NAMI’s helpline for free support.

Headspace Student Plan :

https://www.headspace.com/studentplan

@MorganHarperNichols

Amazon Links

Meditation Cushion 

Practicing Mindfulness Book 

References

Lustyk, M. K. B., Chawla, N., Nolan, R. S., & Marlatt, G. A. (2009). Mindfulness meditation 

research: issues of participant screening, safety procedures, and researchers training. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, 24(1), 21-27. Retrieved from 

Cho, H., Ryu, S., Noh, J., & Lee, J. (2016). The Effectiveness of Daily Mindful Breathing Practices on Test Anxiety of Students. PLoS One, 11(10), E0164822.

Hölzel, B., Lazar, S., Gard, T., Schuman-Olivier, Z., Vago, D., & Ott, U. (2011). How Does Mindfulness Meditation Work? Proposing Mechanisms of Action From a Conceptual and Neural Perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(6), 537-559. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41613530

Yeung, D., & Martin, M. (2013). Interventions to Promote Spiritual Fitness. In Spiritual Fitness and Resilience: A Review of Relevant Constructs, Measures, and Links to Well-Being (pp. 31-33). RAND Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt5hhv6n.9

Newman, M. G., Llera, S. J., Erickson, T. M., Przeworski, A., & Castonguay, L. G. (2013). Worry and Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Review and Theoretical Synthesis of Evidence on Nature, Etiology, Mechanisms, and Treatment. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology9, 275–297. http://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-050212-185544

Carriero, J. (2009). The Second Meditation. In Between Two Worlds: A Reading of Descartes’s Meditations (pp. 65-127). Princeton University Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7sv63.7

Categories
Cassandra McCoy Mental Health Physical Health Sophia Pollalis

Stress: How We Can Use Recovery, Sleep and Breathing to Overcome and Heal

By Sophia Pollalis and Cassandra McCoy

In today’s society, stress is a commonly occurring factor in our lives. Join by Be HEaRd contributor Sophia Pollalis and Positively Balanced founder Cassandra McCoy as they discuss a few things everyone can do to manage, overcome and heal during times of stress! Be sure to leave us a comment below about what your favorite stress management tip is!



Show notes:

Key focal point: Stress

Stress can be physical, mental, emotional

Recovery

  • It’s not always about over-training(stressing), but about under-recovery
  • Has a lot to do with the autonomic nervous system
    • Which can be influenced by sleep and breathing
    • ANS is SNS and PNS, both “fight or flight” and “rest and digest”
    • Can think about stress and recovery as opposites, which we need to balance out

Sleep

  • Every system in your body is influenced by sleep
  • Life enhancer for any goal
  • Sleep is the low hanging fruit in terms of recovery, performance, etc. To improve performance, we always try and reach for the high fruit like supplements, specific techniques or trainings, expensive equipment, but sleep is the first, easiest, and CHEAPEST step we can try
  • Most sleep issues are behavioral, meaning we can change our behavior and get better sleep (and better our lives)
  • Circadian rhythm – cued from our biological clock that comes from light/dark cycles. Influences with wake/sleep cycles along with exercise and food timing.

Breathing

  • Pelvis is included in respiration, not just the ribcage
  • Creates pumping motion throughout the entire abdominal cavity and thoracic cage. Creates cerebrospinal flow, organ movement
  • Meditation/breathing/yoga can help increase PNS response and decrease SNS response
    • For our anatomy nerds out there, stimulates the vagus nerve by activating the diaphragm.
Categories
Mary Holtrop Mental Health Occupational Health Uncategorized

In Search Of Patience

by Mary Holtrop

I work in administration at a public library. My library is in a town of about 18,000 people and we have 25 employees. Since mid-March our library has been closed due to COVID-19.  My responsibilities in the library include finance, human resources and building maintenance and contracts.  When we first began to discuss the COVID-19 virus we talked about what we were going to do in regards to our staff. Of course at the time, we had no idea that almost two months later we would still be closed. We are now beginning to plan re-opening in a phased approached.  During this closure we have paid our employees. The expectation was employees were to work at least half the hours they are normally scheduled to work in a week. This work includes planning and implementing online programs, story times, crafts, collection development, attending training and webinars. I have been in our building working every day Monday-Friday since we closed. Some much needed building projects were addressed. I tackled some long planned records disposal and organizing files.  I have updated essential paper work and created some long needed databases. All this including supervising a window replacement project in one of our buildings, paying bills, paying employees and assisting in updating policies we will have to implement when we open. 

Today the department heads had a long overdue meeting to begin discussing our phased in approach to re-opening the library. This week of each month is my busiest week. I have to coordinate the paying of bills, library reports, paying employees, reconciling bank statements, putting together our board packet and on top of this our fiscal year ended last Thursday. I started suggesting in mid-April to begin these phased in approach conversations, but my suggestions fell on deaf ears. Now here we are, possibly a week away from either accepting checked out materials or doing drive up service, and I am sitting in this 5 hour meeting trying not to be angry, frustrated, or talk myself into walking out of the meeting. 

These are difficult times as we all know and are experiencing. What I am experiencing is nothing compared to those who have lost income and attempting to file unemployment, get loans for their small businesses, or front line health care workers trying to save patients. I am fortunate that I am getting paid, I am healthy and I am still working. But for many reasons I am in search of patience. I have learned that in crises we all respond differently. We all perceive this pandemic in a different manner. We have people who are angry, protesting, and want their lives back. We have businesses who are trying to stay afloat and find innovative ways to sell their goods and services. We have families who are struggling to keep children safe and happy and well educated. We also have couples who are finding their love again. We have dogs who have been walked more in the past two months than in the past year. And it’s so good to see children outside and playing again. The sidewalk chalk art makes me smile.

Yet, during this meeting today I found I was barely holding myself together. I could not understand my feelings of anger and frustration. I sat in this meeting trying to find patience. What was making me feel so anxious, uncomfortable and frustrated? I had my phone and started to search for meditation and phrases that could bring me back. I contributed about how we should all feel fortunate and blessed. But all the while my anxiety level continued to rise. A co-worker saw this and sent me encouraging statements, some pictures of her beautiful children and offered to get me coffee.  I decided during this meeting I needed to do something to turn me around. My goal for the month of April was to do yoga daily. I achieved this goal about 2/3 of the month.  In conversations I have had with others we talk about people we see at the stores and some who are so helpful, friendly and encouraging and others are so angry and rude.  The positive experiences uplift me but the negative bring me down immensely. 

During the meeting today I decided I have to dedicate May to finding patience and serenity. I cannot continue to view the world as I have in the past two months. I want to believe we are better and stronger than this virus. I can try to be part of the solution and I can help myself.  I will let you know in June how I do. 

Categories
Megan Spears Spiritual Health Uncategorized

Meditation for Women who want to clear their mind (but can’t).

by Megan Spears


I was 17 years old when I decided to  try a formal meditation class. I don’t remember if it took place on a Monday or a Sunday, at 5am or 5pm, but I do remember the smell of nag champa and the feeling of quiet reverence as I walked up the stairs to the space. I also remember, and will never forget, the  first bit of advice from the meditation teacher. He said, simply and clearly, directly to me, “try less”.

“Try less?”, I thought. “What the hell?”

I immediately became both frustrated and intrigued by the concept of trying less. I was so new to this practice; I couldn’t gauge my level of effort. It boggled my mind and stayed with me for several years, coming up randomly in my mind as a grew in my yoga and meditation practice.

I eventually (five years later) became a yoga teacher and started leading both power yoga classes and meditation classes. I purposefully did not cue “try less” in my meditation classes, simply because I hadn’t unpacked that cue for myself. I guess you could say I was sitting with it.


Photo by Molly Thrasher.

A few years into my teaching, I was invited by a fellow teacher to begin a meditation training with Dr. Lorin Roche and Camille Maurine. In this training, my teachers  shared the amazingly rebellious notion that neither have to try less or clear my mind in meditation.

I don’t have to clear my mind? Wait, what? Isn’t that what meditation is about?

No, ma’am. You sure don’t have to clear your mind or try less.

What I offer to you is what my teachers offered to me – the 8 Rs.

Rest. Release. Remember. Rehearse. Repair. Restore. Relax. Recharge. Remember that you’re meditating. Then Rest again.


Photo by Molly Thrasher.


Imagine this as you read along:

You settle into a seated position, or lie down. As you rest in your posture,  you feel your muscles release. As you release, you might remember why your muscles were tense in the first place. As you remember why you were tense, you then commence your rehearsal of the experience that made you feel tense. You problem solve, build a list of things to do, have that discussion that you’re putting off, budget your finances – all of this happens in your rehearsal stage.

(This is traditionally where you get frustrated and think you’re not meditating.  As your meditation teacher, I’m here to tell you that this is a part of the rhythm of meditation. Keep going.)

As you sense yourself in rehearsal, you might step out to jot down notes of who to call or what to do after your meditation. You might have a seriously creative moment where you finally solve that problem or think up the next best step in your business. When you come back, you will feel that you’ve repaired something – lightness ensues; you feel restored. Then you relax because you remember that you’re meditating. Sense your muscles, and the deeper layers of your awareness, rest again.

This cycle could happen 2-3 times in the span of 10 minutes. As you become aware of where you are within the 8 Rs, the time spent in each R may stretch or extend – you might find yourself in a restful state for a long time. 

Now I can appreciate the cue to “try less”. Rather than  pushing or over-effort, sense what happens when you rest into your meditation. With this understanding of meditation as a rhythm, we can appreciate and respect said rhythms. Play with the rhythms. You may start to look forward to your practice the same way you look forward to the first sip of your morning tea (or pourover cup of coffee, if you’re boujee like me). 

I hope you feel free to meditate knowing that you don’t have to clear your mind. Rather, develop a sense for what each R feels like for you.

Rest. Release. Remember. Rehearse. Repair. Restore. Relax. Recharge. Remember that you’re meditating. Then Rest again.

-Megan Spears RYT 500