It’s impossible to completely eliminate some of the things that cause us to be stressed. And a certain level of challenge is useful in our lives – otherwise, we might sit in bed all day eating party pies and posting on social media.
But what you can do is manage your stress.
One way to do this is to meditate. Meditation is where you try to focus on one thing and tune out from what’s around you, sometimes by chanting a mantra. It’s easier said than done, and some people who live at the top of mountains practise for years to get it right.
Or you can do yoga. Get out your mat, kit yourself in activewear and get all stretchy.
But you don’t have to do yoga to manage your stress. It turns out the very best thing you can do is to learn to breathe.
Breathing is cool. It slower reduces cortisol (often referred to as a "stress hormone") and helps gets you back to a state of equal balance.
And the good news is: you don’t need to go to a yoga class or a Buddhist monastery to do it. You can do it right now.
Close your eyes.
Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.
Hold your breath for 4 seconds.
Breathe out for 4 seconds.
Keep your lungs empty for 4 seconds.
Repeat all this 4 times.
You should feel just a little bit calmer.
You can deep breathe anywhere – in class, at home, while watching TV – and you don’t need to close your eyes at all.
You can go further and practise what is called "mindfulness". It’s a cross between meditation and deep breathing.
In mindfulness, you try to clear your mind of thoughts and just breathe.
When a thought comes into your head, try to imagine it’s a cloud crossing the empty sky. If you have a thought like "I’m worried about that assignment", try to stop yourself doing any more worrying. Just let the thought drift by like a cloud.
This can be quite hard, so start small with a minute of mindfulness and work your way up to longer and longer.
Luckily, the people who practise mindfulness have some neat tricks to help you out.
One is called the "body scan". You can try it right now.
Sit in a chair and close your eyes. Breathe slowly. Then, starting at your little toe, focus on each part of your body as you slowly move your attention up your body until you get to the very top of your head.
You’ll find that you've spent a long time thinking about nothing else and breathing deeply. This will help you feel more in balance. This will help slow your heart rate. This will help you feel calm.
Like deep breathing, you can practise mindfulness anywhere, at any time. You might only get 30 seconds, but it’s better than nothing. It’s like doing a mini tune-up for your stress levels.
What’s this got to do with learning?
Good question. You’ve been paying attention.
When your body is in balance, your brain works better.
The areas of your brain responsible for learning will function more efficiently. This means you take in more information and remember it. You can recall it more quickly and make more connections between different ideas. This is a good thing if you want to do your best in your schoolwork.
Practising mindfulness also helps keep you healthy. Your body functions more efficiently, and you can deal with the usual bumps and scrapes and headaches we all get without getting stressed about them.
And this is not just some strange made up nonsense. Lots and lots of scientific studies support it, and there are hospitals that use mindfulness to help patients deal with pain or overcome anxiety from traumatic events.
So try to practise a little bit of breathing or mindfulness every day. You can do it just before an online class starts or when it's finished or at a set time.
There are also tons of mindfulness apps to help out, if you want to try them, like the free Smiling Mind app.
Or check out series 4 of the Mindfully podcast, which is especially for students – made in collaboration between the ABC and Smiling Mind. There are episodes to help you get the most out of learning, get happy, love yourself and relax.
Check out more helpful ways you can level-up your online learning with this student handbook.
To talk with someone about mental health call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or visit headspace, beyondblue or ReachOut.
This story has been shared by our partners at ABC Education. See the original story.