Business of Well-being

Meditation can Help your Stressed College Student (and You!)

It is no secret that corporate wellness extends beyond our employees. Our staff not only receive stress from work, their personal lives are often contribute stressors that we, as employers never see. However, unresolved family stress leads to unhappy, less motivated, and less productive employees.

We know that pre-teens and teenagers can be particularly challenging, but what happens when our kids are "technically" adults? We can still help them relieve their stress and heck -- we might be able to take some of this advice ourselves. Why not start to utilize meditation?

Why is meditation helpful for students who are college-aged?

College students have unique stressors that other groups do not necessarily have to deal with. For new students, this is their first experience on their own, juggling multiple demands of school and social life, and many are carrying more intense academic loads than they did in high school. Also, college students have notoriously poor sleeping habits.

If you take all of those factors into consideration, you can have a very stressed population. There are several studies on meditation in college-aged students that show benefits across many areas, including self-confidence, sociability, and overall well-being.

It is thought that if students can learn meditation techniques to reduce stress, then they can apply these concepts to other areas of their life as well. Meditation has also been shown to prevent alcohol and other drug abuse among this population.

What are the benefits of meditation for this age group?

There can be many and these benefits can extend to any age group, even younger children. One of the largest suggested benefits of meditation, regardless of the age of the person who meditates, is the ability to relax in the face of a stressor instead of immediately reacting to that stressor.

Therefore, if you take the example of students having "too much to do", the student can use meditation techniques such as self-guided relaxation, or focusing of thoughts to prioritize their task list instead of fostering a "negative" behavior like procrastination or shutting down.

But my college student is so distracted with multi-tasking, cell-phones, etc. How can I get him or her to concentrate?

There are two schools of thought here. Students need to be pretty disciplined to do away with their technology completely, so you have to start small. Learning meditation also starts with short time-periods. So, I would recommend having the students put away all distractions and seek a quiet place in the early AM to prepare for their day.

Everything electronic can be turned off if possible. To get the best results from meditation, it should be done in a quiet place when the individual is still alert and able to focus his or her thoughts. On the other hand, technology can be a great tool to learn how to meditate, or be prompted to do so.

Students can set their phones to chime at a certain time, to remind them of when to make some quiet time for themselves to meditate. Also, there are some great free guided meditations for the iphone or ipod. Technology can actually help.

Are there any US colleges using meditation? What are good resources for students who want to meditate?

Yes, there are many studies of meditation using college students as subjects. A great resource to start learning about meditation is a website hosted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.

What meditation fundamentals can you recommend?

A few fundamental ideas for the beginner are as follows:

  1. Meditate while sitting up straight. If you lie down, you might just doze off.
  2. Meditate with a little food in your stomach - not too much, not too little. You don't want thoughts of too much or too little food to keep you from relaxation.
  3. Seek a quiet place.
  4. Practice, practice, practice. Be regular and punctual about your meditation. See if it can be a normal part of your daily life.

About the Author

Rachel Permuth-Levine, PhD, MSPH, is a public health practitioner and an expert in worksite health promotion. As a health behavior theorist, she strives to use evidence-based programs that produce the best results for her employees. Rachel is also a yoga and fitness instructor.

Learn about how you can become a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist→