As an online student, you are often balancing work, family obligations, health and fitness, and your school work every week. Trying to make all of this fit in your schedule can be incredibly stressful, as I discovered during the four years that I was an online doctoral student at Northeastern University. I graduated with my Ed.D. in 2015, but as I reflect back on my online education experience, I am always struck by how stressed I sometimes felt and often wonder how I got through the program successfully. I frequently lost sleep and motivation ruminating about all that I had to do, and I regularly questioned whether I would get everything done to make it to the finish line and earn my degree.
How Meditation Works for Me
In 2017, I began practicing Transcendental Meditation, or TM, at the suggestion of a colleague. TM is just one of a wide range of meditation practices that are popular today. I strive to meditate twice daily for about 20 minutes per session as suggested by those who teach TM. I originally started meditating to feel calmer and mentally healthier. While it has definitely helped with those things, what has surprised me is all of the other benefits that it has brought me that I was not necessarily expecting, some of which would have been very helpful while working toward my online degree.
Perhaps the most striking and impactful change is that I seem to have lost the tendency to ruminate and worry about things continuously the way I always have in the past. A certain core level of anxiety that I have felt my entire life is just gone, and I have a very difficult time summoning that type of anxiety on a day to day basis, regardless of the stressful situations I face.
I also don’t have the sleepless nights before big presentations or important meetings at work, and I have a much higher sense of self-confidence about my ability to do the things I need to do each day. While I still get agitated about things from time to time, these things don’t cause me loss of sleep or the cycle of repetitive negative thoughts like they used to. My mind seems to have learned how to just let these things go.
I’m not sure why meditation works this way, but there is quite a bit of research that validates that meditation can help to reduce stress and anxiety (see tm.org and mindful.org for further information). Meditation could help you manage your time and commitments to school, work, and your family in a more relaxed and effective way. Other potential benefits could also include a more positive state of mind, better sleep, clearer thinking and a healthier heart — all super positive impacts on our busy and multifaceted lives!
How Meditation Can Work for You
I strongly believe that I would have dealt with the demands of my online doctoral program in a different and more effective way if I had discovered meditation before I embarked on my program. I would have had fewer days where I didn’t think I was going to make it! Perhaps I would have enjoyed the educational journey a bit more, as well. That calm and confidence are things I wish for everyone.
While I missed out on this opportunity, if you are a current online student, there is still time for you to do this! You can take advantage of one of the many meditation programs available to help you more effectively deal with the stress and anxiety. It takes a daily time commitment ranging from 10 minutes to 40 minutes a day depending on which practice you follow, but it is time well spent. Tm.org and mindful.org share information about two of the most popular methods. There are also apps such as Headspace and Calm that are good options for learning to meditate.
If you are not an online student, meditation can make your life better too. It could help you with your education now and with all aspects of daily living for the rest of your life!