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How to be mindful

Amidst midterms and a pandemic, there are ways to keep your cool
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RANIA PHILLIPS/THE VARSITY
RANIA PHILLIPS/THE VARSITY

As most students enter their first online midterm season, it’s more important than ever to maintain mindfulness and find a healthy balance between life and school. Term tests already create a stressful environment for students, but as the pandemic continues to pollute the outside world, finding times in the day to take a step back and focus on yourself can help you be successful.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that provides people with the ability to relax and focus on the present. According to Mindful.org, it is “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

The trick is to focus on breathing and feeling your body, clearing your mind of unnecessary or intrusive thoughts for a few moments. Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as shutting down your screen and opening up your mind. It should rejuvenate your mind and get you ready to tackle the day’s work. 

Most people think of meditation as a mindful escape from the daily grind, but there are plenty of other ways to zone in on yourself and get relief from outside pressures like school or the pandemic. 

Going for a walk

Sometimes, nothing beats the great outdoors. Going for a nice stroll is a classic method of winding down and relieving pent-up anxiety. Moving your body can also ground you in reality, which is especially needed after spending long, stressful hours in Zoom lectures. 

Take in the nature around you, absorb the sounds of your neighbourhood, or put on your favourite podcast or album. What matters is that you relieve that overwhelming feeling of stress and get a chance to relax.

If you live in Toronto, I recommend walking along the waterfront or biking the Evergreen Brickworks near Rosedale and going for a stroll in the ravines there, which transports you out of the city and into a green oasis. A great relaxing playlist for meandering through the woods is “Hanging out and Relaxing” by Spotify. 

Guided meditation

Perhaps the most obvious method of mindfulness is meditation. Although it may sound complicated, guided meditation is a great and simple way to get into mindfulness and reap the stress-relieving, relaxing benefits. 

Many free apps are available to help get you started. Headspace, The Mindfulness App, and Calm, among many others, provide great — and free — guided meditations, alongside a few premium options that come with in-app purchases.

Take a social media break

Believe it or not, mindlessly scrolling through social media is not a great way of taking a break from studying for your next test. In fact, a recent study discovered that the use of multiple social media apps leads to symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

Logging out of Instagram for a day or two might actually be good for you. You don’t need to see what island your favourite influencer is visiting this week; maybe you should look for your own mental paradise instead. Focus instead on making a study break snack, reading a relaxing book, and resting your eyes in order to really rejuvenate yourself before getting back to work.