Mindfulness Meditation a great way to relieve stress

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Mindfulness Meditation a great way to relieve stress

Kimberly Wilson, Opinion Editor

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Inundated with final exams and seemingly never-ending project due dates, the last few weeks of school is a stressful time for many. Finding ways to deal with this stress isn’t always easy, which just highlights the relevance of the guided meditation sessions offered here at College of DuPage.  

COD Mental health counselor Dennis Emano collaborated with Margaret McKenzie (who leads the sessions) to introduce the meditation group. McKenzie also developed COD’s first meditation class and taught it for 10 years.

The sessions’ goals were to aid the Counseling Office “meet the needs of the growing number of students experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression.” As we reported late last year, there were only 2 mental health counselors for over 28,000 students at the college. The college has since added more.

The idea for McKenzie’s sessions also garnered support from faculty and staff who expressed interest in meditation.

“What we do is try and do some introduction, to begin with, so just some general explanation of what meditation is, which is really pretty simple,” McKenzie said.  

She continues with guidance instructions throughout the meditation. “If you have not ever meditated before and somebody asks you to just sit down and be quiet for 15 minutes, it’s pretty intimidating.”

Since the sessions started about two years ago, attendance has been fairly consistent from students, who’ve noted an improvement in their overall concentration skills.

Origanus Ramfate, a regular attendee of the sessions, said they “help me calm down and think positively about my week.” He tries to meditate as much as possible, and the sessions are particularly helpful. “It is a great time to pay attention to what is going on with you [and] how the body and mind [are] doing.”

The sessions are well supported by staff and faculty as well. “There are four or five [staff members] who come and meditate really regularly,” McKenzie said. “We had a man last week who’s a professor, and he said, ‘You know, this is really nice. I think I’ll come again.’”

According to an article on NBCNews.com by Susan Donaldson James, mindfulness meditation has been on the rise at colleges and universities around the country. The practice has been touted as a minimalistic and effective way to relieve stress and minimize anxiety.   

Research shows increased mindfulness can offer several benefits, including improved attention, working memory, and increased cognitive flexibility. All of those, Emano said, “are important for students’ functioning in school, especially those that complain about test anxiety.”

The Mindfulness Meditation sessions are every Wednesday from 11-12 p.m. in BIC 3431 and are divided into two sessions. If you’d like to try mindfulness meditation but can’t make it to the sessions, Emano suggests checking out websites such as www.freemindfulness.org and www.kourmindfulness.org.

He also mentioned apps “Insight Timer” and “Headspace,” all of which can provide guided meditations and information about the technique. This time in the semester can be particularly difficult to manage, so dedicating some time to mindfulness meditation might be exactly what you need to de-stress.

Emano put it best, “Mindfulness practice can help students see that the sky is not falling, but instead, notice that they are OK right here, right now, in the present moment. Students learn to sit with difficulty and still be ok.”