Meditation is a helpful tool for relaxation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic
By Courtney Cohn
November 9, 2020
Image Credit: Courtney Cohn for The Campus Trainer
Meditation can be a useful tool to help people relax and reframe their thoughts, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, where each day brings new challenges and unknowns.
While many people have been doing meditation prior to the pandemic, meditation and other self-care methods have gained a lot of popularity this year. COVID-19 adds to the stress and anxiety people have in their day-to-day lives.
“I feel like it's really helped me during the pandemic to take time for myself and reflect on what areas I'm struggling in and like taking a step back from the pressures of the outside world and all the things that are going on,” said Lauren Keen, a junior behavior and community health major.
In addition to helping with heightened stressors people face during this uncertain time, meditation can help connect people when they participate in group meditation sessions.
UMD’s Health Promotion & Wellness Services hosts daily online group meditation sessions, since they aren’t able to hold in-person sessions. These sessions are held over Zoom and are open to all students, staff and faculty.
“In a really interesting way, the pandemic has pushed our meditation into a new light, into a new place, where we're able to reach far more people than perhaps we were even prior to the pandemic which is a really, really cool and powerful thing,” said Sarah Wilson, Stress and Mental Wellness Program Coordinator at the UMD Health Center.
Each day’s session has a different host and features a variety of meditations to accommodate for people’s preferences and to allow them to try out numerous meditation types. These meditations include message card meditation and mindfulness, and movement meditation.
Specifically, on Wednesdays, there is a community meditation where there is an “opportunity for students, staff, and faculty to join together as a community, pause, and focus on the present moment,” according to the University Health Center website.
“The benefit during the pandemic is knowing that they can connect with like-minded folks in their community, even if they are separated by hundreds or thousands of miles,” Wilson said.
Even if students are at home this semester, they can still connect with fellow students at the university.
In addition to helping people cope with the ups and down of the pandemic, meditation has many other benefits.
Meditation can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, make it easier for people to fall and stay asleep, and improve our immune system. Also, meditation can help with chronic diseases that are exacerbated by stress, including people with chronic pain, according to Wilson.
“For some folks, meditation can be a helpful tool for managing pain,” Wilson said. “It doesn't take away pain, it doesn't get rid of our pain [as] it's not a treatment for that. But it can help people manage their pain a little bit better.”
Additionally, meditation can help in ways that many people may not have considered. It can help individuals learn more about themselves and enhance their creativity. Also, it can help with academics because it can improve focus and productivity, according to Wilson.
Meditation can produce many benefits, which may make people more inclined to try it. However, it is never easy to start something new and different, so people should ease into meditation and discover what works best for them.
“Starting off, taking out a little time in the day is the key. Not like trying to allocate too much time at first, so maybe starting with two minutes in a day and then going up from there,” Ishika Strivasatava, a sophomore finance and information sciences major, said.
Additionally, it may take people some time to decide what type of meditation they prefer. For example, Keen’s favorite type of meditation now is body scan meditation, but it took her some time to discover that.
“Meditation is a very personal journey, and it's not going to work automatically, like it's going to take a couple of times and trying different types of meditation,” Keen said.
Additionally, Wilson explains that a misconception with meditation is that you cannot let other thoughts pop into your head while meditating. She debunks this and says that this is not the case, especially for people just starting out.
“Meditation is more so about not placing judgment or trying to dig into those thoughts, just allowing them to be there acknowledging that they're there and still continuing your practice and focusing on your breath,” Wilson said.
Also, following an app or guided meditation may be helpful for beginners. The UMD Health Center’s daily online meditations are a great place to start, along with meditation apps. For example, the Calm App is a popular app for meditation and managing stress.
Even though meditation may be difficult to start and perfect for each individual, it has many benefits for anyone who tries it, especially during the challenging, stressful times of this pandemic.
“I would say overall I'm very glad I got into it, and I would recommend it to everyone in this world,” Strivasatava said.