The Benefits of Practicing Meditation and Mindfulness During the Pandemic

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Jacob Sazon

Taking a few minutes out of the day to breathe and be present may help fight off COVID-19 anxiety.

Along with taking basic precautions, such as wearing a mask and getting vaccinated, prioritizing mental health is key to staying healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Counseling Center (UCC) staff. As if being a college student isn’t stressful enough, COVID-19 has added another layer of responsibilities and worries for students. “Our students had plenty of worries prior to the pandemic, including managing academics, jobs, and relationships. Now students are also worried about contracting and spreading COVID-19 on top of that,” UCC Associate Director Claudia Ayala, MS, LPC-S, LCDC expressed. “The pandemic is stressful for everyone and it has taken a heavy toll on our students. Many students struggle with the transition from face-to-face to remote courses. Students also deal with fear of getting ill and distress from losing family members. These worries have contributed to burn out and mental exhaustion in students, which ultimately impacts their motivation, focus, and productivity,” UCC Director, Theresa M. Sharpe, Ph.D stated. 

The UCC staff recommend that students practice mindfulness and find ways to be present in the moment. “Students facing anxiety need to build up their coping tools, and meditation can be one of those tools. There are so many apps and YouTube videos students can use to learn to meditate,” Ayala stated. “Meditation is a wonderful tool for reducing stress and managing anxiety, as well as improving focus, memory, and quality of sleep. Meditation is something anybody can do. I recommend students use meditation as a tool to de-stress,” Dr. Sharpe stated. 

According to a 2018 research study published by the Journal of Positive Psychology, just 15 minutes of meditation relieves as much stress as a full day of vacation. Participants in the study reported “lower levels of negative affect and higher levels of wellbeing, positive affect, and the mindfulness facets of observing sensations, describing thoughts and emotions, and non reacting to feelings.” Additionally, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH) claims that “practicing meditation may reduce blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression, and insomnia.” Research suggests that meditation may even change the structure of the brain ultimately promoting a healthier aging process. According to the NIH, “meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal aging.”

As COVID-19 continues to spread and exams start to creep up, TAMU-CC students may benefit from in-person and online meditation and mindfulness resources through the UCC. “Most of our workshops include meditation exercises and we offer meditation resources in the self-care section of our website. We also offer online workshops on topics like extinguishing burnout and the importance of Black mental health. Students may meet with counselors on Zoom or by phone call for same day appointments. Students can also access Togetherall, which is an anonymous online platform for connecting with others,” Dr. Sharpe explained. 

Along with meditation, there are many other ways to improve and prioritize mental health. “It’s important for students to find ways to slow down, whether it be through meditation, grounding and breathing exercises, praying, reading, exercising, and/or journaling,” Ayala stated. 

For more information on mental health resources visit: https://www.tamucc.edu/counseling/