As an IB student, chances are you know how it feels to have a million things buzzing around your mind – IA deadlines, CAS projects, ToK, how not to fail maths, EE… but you can’t seem to concentrate on any of them for long enough to get the job done! Instead, you sit there feeling lost, out of control, weirdly guilty, and STRESSED OUT!
Cue the all-too-familiar IB meltdown:
When you’re doing the IB, sometimes the pressure can be a bit much. Luckily, practicing mindfulness may be able to help you to regain a sense of control and to start feeling like you’ve got this after all.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist meditation practices that have been around for thousands of years. It is a way of focusing your attention on the present moment, and taking more notice of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the world around you. With practice, you will start to realise that your thoughts do not control you; they are just events in your brain which can be noticed, acknowledged, and gently moved away from the forefront of your mind. This should hopefully enable you to stop panicking about the big picture, and start focusing on the now! All this can be achieved by spending just a few minutes each day following a series of practices and guided meditations.
The Sciencey Bit
If you’re thinking this all sounds a bit wishy-washy, let me try and convince you why mindfulness isn’t to be sniffed at. Scientific studies have shown time and again that students who practice mindfulness regularly are less stressed, have a greater sense of wellbeing, and are able to learn and concentrate better. And the experts agree: in the UK, the NHS has been prescribing mindfulness-based cognitive therapy as a way of treating stress, anxiety and depression since 2004. Mindfulness also improves your working memory, attention span, mental stamina and resilience – all pretty handy things when you’re focusing on studying for those IB exams!
How can mindfulness help me as an IB student?
By practicing mindfulness regularly, you will hopefully find that spend less time panicking about how much you have to do, and more time actually getting stuff done! Mindfulness helps you to focus your attention on one task at a time, and not panic about everything at once. This way, you will be more productive, calmer, and more ready to tackle everything you have to get done in your day.
Mindfulness can also be brilliant for getting into the right mindset before an exam, and for calming yourself down if you’re feeling the pressure. Taking yourself off into a quiet room and listening to a mindfulness meditation for 10 minutes before you head to your exam will leave you feeling less panicked and more able to focus on the task at hand to the best of your ability.
Sounds good, where do I sign up?
There are plenty of ways you can learn how to be mindful. Probably the best way is to find yourself a mindfulness teacher who can guide you through the meditations to start off with, as it can take some time and practice before you start to feel the benefits, and can be frustrating at first – this is all part of the process! Have a search online and see if there are any courses being run near you. Equally, if you’ve not got the time to go to classes, there are plenty of online courses, apps, and books you can use to teach yourself, sometimes even for free! Again, just have a little look online and find an option that works for you – there are thousands out there. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
- ‘Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world‘ by Mark Williams and Danny Penman is a fantastic book which takes you through an 8 week mindfulness course developed at the University of Oxford. It comes with a series of guided meditations for you to listen to, which can be downloaded for free here.
- Headspace is an app for your phone which basically works as a mindfulness personal trainer in your pocket! The first ten days (the ‘Take 10’ programme) are free, and teach you the basics of meditation in just 10 minutes a day.
- Be Mindful Online is exactly as it sounds – an online mindfulness course taught by Ed Halliwell and Tessa Watt from the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice, Bangor University, UK. Through a series of video sessions, assignments, and audio downloads, you can learn how to be mindful without ever having to leave your room!
So, stressed-IB students of the world, go forth and be mindful! Learn how to be a less stressed and more productive version of yourself!