If I could create one class in college that everyone would have to take it’d be a class on mindfulness and self-care. On learning how to reflect, prioritize ourselves, love ourselves and take the time to stop and be intentional about how we proceed forward.
As we all know too well, the daily little things that make up life can be stressful. It’s easy to complain about the little things and the big things without understanding how that pessimistic perspective seeps in and changes our physical and mental capacity to be happy.
When we aimlessly go through life, taking on the stress, accepting the complaining and not slowing down we’re allowing ourselves to lose control of who we are, how we act and how we see the world.
My sophomore year of college I was constantly sick. I had heart problems which resulted in far too many trips to the cardiologists and a heart monitor. I had a cold that never went away. A sore throat that never healed. And I could never fall asleep.
I was also interning 3 days a week, babysitting on the weekends, taking leadership positions in two different organizations and taking a full class load. I felt obligated to go to every social event, every party and accept every invite that I was given. I was constantly stressed. I was overwhelmed. But I thought that was how college was, I thought that doing the “most” and being the busiest was deemed as successful and encouraged, I thought it was normal.
What I learned was that I was making myself sick. It wasn’t the weather, allergies or an unfortunate case of genetics. It was myself. I was too stressed out and I wasn’t taking any time to care for myself. In other words, I wasn’t being mindful. I didn’t even know what mindful meant then.
After a not-so-kind talk with my doctor, I realized that I was the only person or thing that could change how I felt. I was the only person that had the capability to change what was happening. It is my responsibility to live a life that I enjoyed and it was only going to change if I was intentionally striving to be better, healthier and happier.
So, I did less. I went on a journey, not an easy one but a rewarding one, to find peace in giving myself time to just be me, with no obligation to anything else. It’s a journey I will always be on.
I decided I needed to slow down. Way down. I needed to breathe and acknowledge what was happening so I could actually enjoy the things I was doing instead of simply doing them and then moving on to the next.
I started to prioritize time to do things that make me happy. Whether that is writing in my favorite coffee in Georgetown or going on a run to watch the sunset at the monuments. I schedule time for myself. And sometimes I prioritize that time over my assignments, work or friendships because I realize that in order to do my best in class, in relationships and in life, I have to feel my best. And in order to feel my best, I need to make time to be mindful.
By being mindful, by practicing mindfulness I was able to get healthy, to physically feel good in my own body. I also found myself happier. I found myself craving positivity and shaming negativity. I found myself discovering what I loved and what I could go without. I found myself content with the present. I found comfort in the uncomfortable and peace in hectic situations. And most importantly, I found myself not stressed. No matter crazy life was, I found myself centered amidst it all.
I realized that I didn’t need to do what is perceived as normal if I wasn’t genuinely happy doing so.
And while I hope no one comes to the conclusion that mindfulness is a necessity because you are physically ill from stress, I do encourage you to try to be mindful, to relieve yourself from stress and strive toward a more positive and happy life (as cliche as that may sound).
To me, being mindful can look like a lot of different things.
Here are some things that I do to be mindful,
I’ve found a lot of comfort in setting intentions. An intention is a hope/promise you make to yourself that will lead you in how you proceed forward. Each month I make my coffee, pull out my notebook and physically write down a couple intentions that I want to lead me through the next month. When I’m done, I keep them in my planner so I’m reminded of them every day. They can be as simple as,
“Find comfort in where you are and who you are with right now”
“Don’t succumb to gossip”
“Run four times a week”
“Go somewhere new in DC once a week”
“Seek out positivity, always”
“Assume good intentions”
“Drink five water bottles a day”
I’ve also used intentions to guide any trip or adventure I go on. Before I go I write down (on my phone or in a journal) the intentions I want to take with me on the trip. I remind myself of them throughout.
It’s also an amazing thing to share with people or as a building block in a relationship. Set intentions in the car or on an anniversary and hold each other accountable.
You can’t set intentions without reflecting on them afterward. The biggest part of self-care and mindfulness is the ability to reflect on how you are feeling and what you are doing. Take time to go over your intentions, whether that’s at the end of the month or end of a trip. Did you follow through with any? Why or why not? Use this to move forward and set new intentions. One thing I’ve learned is that if you don’t do all the intentions you hoped, that’s not failing. You don’t need to feel guilty. Instead, use that as a chance to grow and learn about yourself.
I favorite type of reflection is high, low, high. After each month, trip or adventure I always find a high of the month/trip, a low and another high. I use those to guide my future intentions and (most importantly) to remind myself to be appreciative and grateful for how life is going because we all know it’s easy to get stuck on the low’s and forget about all the high’s.
Time for yourself.
This is the most important. Find time for yourself. Find things you enjoy and prioritize them. Look at them like a meeting (that you would never miss) with yourself. This could be a Netflix movie, a walk, yoga, a meditation session, a hike or just a coffee date with yourself where you write or read. Find time to escape from your obligations, your to-do list, your work and just be present with yourself.
That’s all for now,