Don’t Panic, Just Write!

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Published on May 6, 2015

It doesn’t matter what university it is, or what type of major you pursue, one of the non-negotiable job descriptions of a student is being a writer.  The usual suspects are introductory English composition, history, and sometimes even psychology or sociology courses. For some students, writing those required papers hurls them into one of those scenes in  an action flick where a big red SELF DESTRUCT button flickers from a metal console in some military base.

Yet these students don’t realize is that it doesn’t have to be like this. Writing is something that becomes infinitely more manageable if mindfulness is brought into the mix.

Mindfulness has recently become a buzzword, and with good reason. The principles of mindfulness are powerful and can truly be life changing.

Fairfield- based psychiatric nurse Marie Thrasher, has been using this approach along with dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) , in sessions with her patients for about three years.

Thrasher says, “Mindfulness, as I understand it, is the conscious act of paying attention to the present moment in a specific way without judgment.  It is not a practice of  tuning out. . . [it’s] a practice of tuning in.”

Thrasher explains there has been a lot of scientific evidence in medical and psychological literature today that says mindfulness can reduce the  impact of stress, increase focus, and improve the general quality of life. It’s important to add that practicing mindfulness doesn’t just apply to people in therapy or seeking to improve their mental health.

“How can anyone not benefit from being more present, more truly present . . . this moment of our life?” Thrasher adds. “Most mindfulness practice occurs with people who aren’t in therapy.”

Photo by Universal Images Group, made available through Brittanica ImageQuest

Photo by Universal Images Group, made available through Brittanica ImageQuest

Here are just a few of the ways mindfulness techniques can make writing that paper a whole lot more manageable.

1) Take a Moment to Pause

Deep breathing isn’t limited to meditation. A Newsweek article says setting aside a few minutes, especially when getting emotionally wound up or overwhelmed, and closing your eyes and doing some deep breathing can be beneficial . By concentrating on breathing and body sensations, stress levels should drop so when you face the assignment again you won’t get swept up in another panicked frenzy.

2) Be One-Minded

Being one minded is to fully participate in what is going on around you. In other words as Thrasher said above, it’s about limiting distractions. This means not waiting until the last minute to write a paper, or trying to write it while there’s a lot going on around you. Some people thrive in bustling study environments, while others need quiet. For whatever kind of student you are, know what situations will help you most to be able to focus on writing your paper.

3) Be Non-Judgemental

This is all about sticking to what’s factual instead of worrying about opinions or the various what-ifs. This means picking up the guidelines your professor gave you and reviewing them as they are. Read out loud and take it in– how many pages does the paper need to be; what is the prompt you’re expected to answer; how does your professor want it formatted– double spaced, MLA or APA, to name just a few.

4)  Have a Teflon Mind

Much like the non-stick coating on many frying pans, this principle of mindfulness means to let thoughts “slide right by.” Notice the thoughts or fears that you’re having, but don’t let them start to bog you down. All-or-nothing thinking, and other self-defeating thoughts are what tend to make this writing process so scary and painful for many people. Instead, try to let those negative feelings, and worries go. A brief free write is a good way to get started using this skill. By putting those words onto paper, it clears up your mind to be able to get back to the task at hand and focus on that.

So pick up that pen, or fire up that laptop, and stop stressing! It’s time to get writing!