The Calm Before the Exam: Mindfulness Exercises for College Students

April 2, 2023
By AdmissionSight

The Calm Before the Exam: Mindfulness Exercises for College Students

The college experience can be an exciting time for many students as they embark on a new journey towards their future careers. However, it can also be a time of stress, anxiety, and depression.

According to the American College Health Association, 63% of college students reported feeling overwhelming anxiety within the last year, and 42.6% reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function. That’s where mindfulness exercises come in.

Mindfulness exercises, which involve paying attention to the present moment without judgment, have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus and concentration, and enhance emotional regulation.

a male student sitting and looking at the camera

By incorporating mindfulness exercises into their daily routines, college students can improve their mental health and academic success.

What exactly is mindfulness? Mindfulness is a practice that involves paying attention to the present moment, without judgment.

It is often associated with meditation and has roots in Buddhism. Mindfulness can be practiced in many ways, including breathing techniques, body scans, and mindful walking.

Breathing techniques involve focusing on the breath as it enters and exits the body, which can help calm the mind and reduce stress.

Body scans involve focusing on different parts of the body, starting from the top of the head and working down to the toes, and noticing any sensations or feelings without judgment.

Mindful walking involves paying attention to the sensations of walking, such as the feeling of the ground beneath the feet and the movement of the body.

Female students holding her book while smiling at the camera.

These mindfulness exercises can be practiced in a variety of settings, and with regular practice, can help students become more present and focused in their daily lives.

What are the benefits of mindfulness exercises for college students?

What are the advantages of practicing mindfulness for those who are enrolled in a college or university? The benefits of mindfulness exercises for college students are many. Research has shown that practicing mindfulness exercises can improve focus and attention, decrease stress and anxiety, and enhance emotional regulation.

Feel more relaxed

When we practice mindfulness, we focus our attention on the present moment, without judgment. This can help us become more aware of our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, and develop a greater sense of acceptance and calm.

Mindfulness exercises such as deep breathing or body scans can help to release physical tension and reduce feelings of stress or anxiety.

As we become more skilled at practicing mindfulness, we may find that we’re able to relax more quickly and easily in stressful situations.

a female student holding her school stuff and standing in the staircase

This can be particularly helpful for college students who are facing a range of challenges, from academic pressure to social stressors.

Additionally, feeling more relaxed can have a positive impact on overall well-being, improving mood and helping us to feel more energized and engaged in our lives.

Develop more compassion

Mindfulness teaches us to observe our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations without judgment.

This non-judgmental awareness can help us to develop greater self-acceptance and compassion towards ourselves, even in the face of difficult emotions or experiences.

By cultivating self-compassion, we can become more resilient and better equipped to manage the challenges that come our way.

In addition to self-compassion, mindfulness exercises can help us develop greater compassion towards others.

As we become more aware of our own thoughts and emotions, we may become more attuned to the experiences of others.

By practicing mindful listening and empathy, we can learn to understand better and relate to the perspectives of those around us.

This can lead to more positive relationships, greater emotional intimacy, and a greater sense of connectedness to others.

Become more aware of thoughts

In their personal lives, mindfulness exercises can help students become more aware of their thoughts and emotions.

This increased awareness can help us to identify negative thought patterns or habits that may be contributing to feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression.

By becoming more aware of our thoughts, we can begin to challenge and reframe them in more positive and constructive ways.

In addition to identifying negative thought patterns, mindfulness exercises can also help us cultivate a greater sense of focus and concentration.

By learning to bring our attention back to the present moment, we can become more aware of our surroundings and better able to engage in our daily activities.

This can be particularly helpful for college students who may be facing a range of distractions and demands on their time.

How to practice mindfulness exercises?

How should one go about performing exercises in mindfulness? Incorporating mindfulness exercises into a busy college schedule can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

Start with short sessions

By starting with short sessions and gradually increasing the length and frequency of practice, students can build mindfulness into their daily routines.

For example, students could start by practicing breathing techniques for five minutes a day and gradually increase the time to 10 or 15 minutes.

Look for resources

There are many resources available to help students learn and practice mindfulness exercises, including meditation apps, guided meditations, and mindfulness courses.

Meditation apps such as Headspace and Calm offer guided meditations and mindfulness exercises that can be accessed anytime, anywhere.

A woman sitting on a desk while searching for mindfulness exercise.

Guided meditations can also be found on YouTube and other online platforms. Mindfulness courses, such as those offered by universities or local community centers, can provide more structured learning and support for those looking to deepen their mindfulness practice.

By incorporating these resources into their daily routines, college students can reap the benefits of mindfulness exercises and improve their mental health and academic success.

How to overcome common barriers to practicing mindfulness exercises?

How might often encountered obstacles to the practice of mindfulness exercises be overcome? Although mindfulness exercises can be beneficial, there are common barriers that college students may face when trying to practice.

Set goals

One of the most common barriers is a lack of time. College students often have busy schedules filled with coursework, extracurricular activities, and social obligations.

However, by setting realistic goals and prioritizing self-care, students can make time for mindfulness exercises.

Find a quiet space

Another common barrier is distractions, such as social media or noise. To overcome distractions, students can try finding a quiet and calm space for their practice or using noise-canceling headphones.

Find a community

Finally, self-doubt can also be a barrier to practicing mindfulness exercises. Students may worry that they’re not doing it correctly or that they’re not experiencing the benefits.

To overcome self-doubt, students can find a supportive community, such as a mindfulness group on campus, and remind themselves to be kind and patient with themselves.

What are some mindfulness exercises for specific challenges facing college students?

College students face various challenges that can impact their mental health and academic success. Fortunately, mindfulness exercises can be tailored to specific challenges.

Breathing techniques

Breathing techniques are one of the most commonly practiced forms of mindfulness exercises. When facing academic pressure, students can try breathing techniques to calm their nerves or a body scan to release tension.

The idea behind this technique is to bring one’s attention to the present moment and to let go of distracting thoughts or worries.

Breathing techniques can take many different forms, but one of the most popular techniques is called “deep breathing.”

This technique involves taking slow, deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, with a focus on filling the lungs completely and exhaling fully.

By focusing on the breath and counting the number of inhalations and exhalations, individuals can become more attuned to their bodies and learn to control their breathing more effectively.

Another popular breathing technique is called “box breathing.” This technique involves inhaling deeply for a count of four, holding the breath for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four, and then holding the breath again for a count of four.

This pattern can be repeated several times, with a focus on relaxing the body and calming the mind.

Self-compassion meditation

Self-compassion meditation is one of the many mindfulness exercises that can help individuals to cultivate greater self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion.

When facing social anxiety, students can try a mindful self-compassion meditation to cultivate self-acceptance and reduce negative self-talk.

This type of meditation involves directing feelings of warmth, kindness, and care towards oneself, particularly during times of difficulty or pain.

Self-compassion meditation typically involves finding a comfortable and quiet place to sit or lie down, closing one’s eyes, and bringing one’s attention to the breath.

Once the individual has established a comfortable breathing pattern, they can begin to direct feelings of warmth and kindness towards themselves, using phrases such as “may I be kind to myself” or “may I give myself the compassion I need.”

The goal of self-compassion meditation is to develop a greater sense of self-awareness and self-acceptance and to learn to respond to oneself with greater kindness and understanding.

By cultivating feelings of warmth, kindness, and compassion towards oneself, individuals can learn to cope more effectively with negative emotions and experiences and develop greater resilience and well-being.

Visualizing happy memory

Finally, when facing homesickness, students can try a mindfulness exercise that involves visualizing a happy memory or a loved one.

This exercise involves bringing to mind a happy memory or moment in one’s life and visualizing it in vivid detail.

Research has shown that mindfulness exercises can be effective in helping students cope with these challenges.

To practice this exercise, individuals should find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down, and then begin to bring to mind a happy memory or moment from their past.

This memory should be something that evokes feelings of joy, contentment, or gratitude. Once the memory has been identified, individuals can begin to visualize it in as much detail as possible, imagining the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of the moment.

The goal of visualizing a happy memory is to bring to mind positive emotions and to promote a greater sense of relaxation and well-being. By focusing on a positive memory, individuals can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and cultivate feelings of joy and contentment.

Visualizing a happy memory can be particularly helpful for individuals who are experiencing homesickness or who are struggling with negative emotions or stress.


Mindfulness exercises benefit college students, including improved focus, decreased stress and anxiety, and enhanced emotional regulation.

By incorporating mindfulness exercises into their daily routines, students can improve their mental health and academic success.

Overall, mindfulness exercises can be a valuable tool for college students looking to improve their mental health and academic success.

It is encouraged that all college students try incorporating mindfulness exercises into daily routines and seek out additional resources for learning and practice.

By practicing mindfulness, students can find the calm before the exam and navigate the challenges of college life with greater ease and well-being.

Segue to AdmissionSight

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