Thriving Together Series

Thriving Together Series: Mindfulness and Exercise are Powerful Stress Relief Tools for College Students


By: Cameron Baker, a Mason student studying Communication

It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz

College is a very stress-inducing stage of life for many students. Tackling academics, jobs, and extracurricular activities can be a lot to balance. Students’ mental health can take a huge hit when juggling all these different aspects of life all at once. However, college students have two powerful stress relief tools available: mindfulness and exercise.

Stress in College

About 8 in 10 college students frequently experience bouts of stress, and many of them seek counseling for help managing stress, according to this American Institute of Stress article.

Our culture of productivity can make simple tasks such as writing a paper feel overwhelming. Students undergo large amounts of stress and anxiety associated with academics every day. This New York University article states that “55 percent of college students, nationally, claimed their biggest stressor to be academic.” That means more than half of the United States college student population claims that academics is their leading cause of stress.


Practicing mindfulness meditation can be a powerful practice to combat stress. “Psychological scientists have found that mindfulness influences two different stress pathways in the brain, changing brain structures and activity in regions associated with attention and emotion regulation,” according to this American Psychological Association article.

Your mindfulness practices can be as simple as taking time for yourself each morning, breathing through difficult times, and journaling. Practicing mindfulness doesn’t have to be a daunting task that requires following a structured set of rules. You don’t have to close your eyes or even sit still for a mindfulness session. There are many diverse ways to practice, so you can do so in whatever ways work best for you.

Mason offers free mindfulness sessions called Mindful Mason Moments on weekdays at noon during semesters. You can choose from in-person or virtual sessions. Each session features different types of mindfulness practices to try. Participating in Mindful Mason Moments gives you a midday break to use to relieve stress and boost your well-being for the rest of the day.


Another useful tool to relieve stress in college is to move your body and participate in some form of physical exercise. This Anxiety and Depression Association of America article points out, “Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins – chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers, which in turn reduce stress.” As these Thriving Together articles on exercise show, there are many highly effective ways to use exercise to manage stress. You can relieve stress from a physical activity as simple as taking a brief walk, or even just stretching your body through mindful movement.

A great opportunity to exercise with your fellow Mason students is the Mason Nation Thriving Together 5K this fall. The 5K will take place on Saturday, October 29 at the Fairfax campus. Participating in this event not only lets you be physically active, but allows you to be mindful of the stress that is present in your life, and to intentionally look for ways to eliminate it. Aerobic exercise offers many well-being benefits that you can gain from either running or walking the Mason Nation Thriving Together 5K.


The lifestyle of a college student can be overwhelmingly stressful, so the need to focus on well-being is of utmost importance. However, if you incorporate simple mindfulness and physical activities into your schedule, you can experience a significant well-being boost. Implementing mindfulness and physical activity into your daily routine can help you and other students you know thrive despite the stress of college life.

Additional Resources

Discover Mason’s well-being resources at the Patriots Thriving Together website.

Learn more stress relief strategies from these Mason Counseling and Psychological Services stress relief tips.

Enjoy these Mindful Minute videos produced by Mindful Mason Moments facilitators.

Find a diverse variety of exercise opportunities through Mason Recreation.

Write one of these Thriving Together Series features! We’re looking for contributions on all topics related to well-being. Read other Thriving Together Series articles here and contact us at for guidelines. Thank you for helping our Mason community thrive together online!