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Believe it or not, stress isn’t caused by a situation itself, but instead it comes from how we think about the situation. For some parents, their child is about to start applying to colleges for the first time. This is an exciting, but also stressful time for most students. The student’s worrisome thoughts include “what if I don’t get into my dream school?”, “what if my resume isn’t good enough” or “should I have taken that extra AP class last semester?” Their minds can be consumed by the “what ifs” instead of dealing with “what is.” One way parents can help their child reduce stress is to model a skill called mindfulness.
In a nut shell, mindfulness is being consciously present in what you’re doing, while you’re doing it, without analyzing it or judging. In order to manage your mental and emotional state, you simply recognize and acknowledge your emotions and thoughts in each moment-to-moment experience, without judgement. Mindfulness is the opposite of multi-tasking. As life continues to get busier and technology tries to keep you more connected, it may feel counterproductive to slow down and only focus on one thing at a time. However, research shows that practicing mindfulness regularly can actually improve concentration and increase productivity, reduce the symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression, reduce impulsivity, and increase overall happiness. One study even found that students who engaged in a mindfulness meditation before taking an exam actually performed better than students who did not.
Parents: When you notice your child starting to worry about the “what ifs” of getting into college, acknowledge and validate their feelings of worry and doubt. They’ve spent the last 4 years of high school preparing for this, so of course they’re worried about this next step! Then, in a supportive and loving way try to redirect their attention to the “what is” of the situation, meaning what do I actually know for a fact in this very moment? For example, this is a new experience and they don’t know what to expect. What they do know is their GPA and the admission requirements of the school they are applying to. They’re freaking out, and you probably are too! Helping bring their attention back to the present moment will keep their brains from going down the rabbit hole of worry.