In sixth year there is an awful lot of pressure on my shoulders to be constantly studying and working hard. The combination of studying for exams and COVID-19 has made everything much more stressful. I found myself feeling like I was constantly studying or doing homework and never had any downtime to decompress. I needed to find a way to manage the pressures I was facing in school and ended up incorporating mindfulness into my daily routine to help me manage stress and worry.
So far, I’ve found sixth year to be quite challenging. There are so many tests and important deadlines each week, with homework and studying on top of all that too. It can be really hard to juggle school and everything else in your life.
Sometimes, it certainly does feel like the leaving cert and the CAO is the most important thing in your life, that can be scary and stressful. Worrying about points, exams or deciding what course you want to do can have a big impact on your mental health and overall wellbeing. This is why it is more important than ever to make sure you’re doing your bit to look after yourself, and your mental health during those busy, stressful times.
What drew me to mindfulness?
I heard about mindfulness in school, my class did group meditations and wrote daily wellbeing journals. During group meditations, I just kept getting distracted by my classmates and could never remember or figure out what to write in my journal each day.
My teacher mentioned some articles, apps and websites to try at home. I was excited to try these out, hoping that if I could try mindfulness without anyone else distracting me, I might have better results. I googled them and found loads of different lists and how-to videos on YouTube. I tried some of them out and did things like breathing exercises and guided meditation.
This didn’t work for me, and I didn’t feel relaxed at all. I couldn’t understand why nothing was working. I had expected mindfulness to make me feel at ease and more in the moment straight away, but I didn’t feel any different or less stressed.
Why I decided to give mindfulness another go
Starting sixth year, I was instantly stressed out. I knew it wasn’t good to be so stressed and anxious about school. I decided to give mindfulness another chance, but this time it would be on my terms; I would try it for a week and do different things each day instead of following a list. I was going to find what worked for me, not somebody else.
It took a while and was very hit or miss as I tried out different things like waking up early or listening to podcasts. I found that taking time in the evenings after school, even just 30 minutes to light some candles or put on some calm music and read a book did wonders for me and lifted a lot of that stress off of my shoulders.
I found it was easier to be mindful this time around because I didn’t have big expectations and was focused on finding my own mindfulness routine that fitted me, and I wasn’t trying to adopt someone else’s.
Through finding my own mindfulness routine I discovered a lot more about myself, which I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Mindfulness is much more than just sitting in silence, it can be anything and it’s up to you to decide what ways you should be practising mindfulness.
My advice if you want to try mindfulness for yourself
What works for me might not work for you because we are all unique and mindfulness isn’t one size fits all. Being more mindful is all about the journey. I think a good way to start is by trying out different things with an open mind and no expectations. If you find something you enjoy that works for you, build it into your daily routine.
It’s important to remember that you might not feel different or more relaxed straight away, mindfulness doesn’t always happen overnight so stick with it, be patient and keep trying. In my experience, it’s worth it. . When it comes to mindfulness it’s really up to you. There is no right or wrong way to be mindful so do give it a go and find your way to be mindful.