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Mindfulness

Ok, Sharks, it’s week 4 (or 3.5 if you count like me); with that comes the looming dread of midterms– exams and papers out the wazoo! So, I figured we all need some reminders that everything will work out if we strive for equilibrium. Now, this is usually where people chime in telling me to meditate, try yoga, or take a bubble bath, but with a busy life on the quarter system, I don’t have the time to add new habits to my routine.

Instead I strive for mindfulness. It is simply being aware and present in the moment and fully immersing yourself in whatever you are doing (this is an article that breaks it down further by definitions). Simply put, it’s single-tasking. In a society that asks us to to simultaneously talk to masses of people while reading an e-book and eating dinner at the movies; you physically cannot put your full efforts into one of these tasks, for your brain will delegate your attention and focus halfheartedly on one thing at a time. Cut your brain some slack! It’s constantly whirring, and it takes a lot of energy to keep going, so here’s some techniques to allow it to cool down without forcing yourself to miss out on the important things that don't take a whole lot of time.

   1. Chew with your eyes closed.

Weird, I know (unless your Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa). But, there’s a reason chefs always taste their recipes with their eyes closed. It allows your brain to better process the olfactory and gestational senses without the added hindrance of sight. Seriously, try eating anything with your eyes closed, and it’ll be like that scene from Ratatouille where the fireworks go off while Remy tastes cheese and strawberry together—you know the one. Boom, mindful eating.

   2. Walk without your headphones.

First of all, headphones are pretty bad for your inner ear; earbuds are worse. That’s a fact of life, which I try to blissfully ignore for the most part. But, it’s also a good reason to stop constantly plugging your ear-holes with music, however wonderful it is, as you make your way around campus. It opens you up to the world, and it is definitely safer– you can hear someone coming up behind you, better for your ears, you can hear if a car is about to hit you. Try it a few times; mindful walking is a very common meditative practice that really allows you to tune into yourself and observe the world freely. Try leaving a few minutes early for your morning class to walk at your own pace and still beat the clock!

   3. Take a break from your break…

Sometimes you just gotta put the phone down. I use my phone as an excuse to take a break, but maybe the real break I need is from my phone. We live online now, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it can have some adverse effects. Without getting into those, here’s some ideas for a couple digital breaks.

            People watching. Always a good time, I like to make up stories for strangers walking by me (not judging them, just narrating their actions). It helps with writers’ block and is just a lighthearted way to observe how people interact with their environment.

            Rest without sleeping. This is a little harder for me to explain, but sometimes when you want to take a nap, the nap just won’t come. In that case, I let my mind wander and concentrate on my breathing while laying down. Sure, it’s like meditation, but I allow my mind to wander, the less restraints I place on myself, the more relaxed I feel afterwards. I’m all but asleep, and when I get up, I have that same refreshed feeling without the grogginess of sleep. If you have some trouble with this, try listening to a podcast (my favorite is Lore) or some music and maybe toss on a face or eye mask. Do it for as long or as little time as you feel is best for you, because it’s your break.

   4. Be present in the shower.

A lot of times, our minds wander while we’re in the shower. Again, not a bad thing, but if you try to stay focused on your shower routine and experience it in a new light, it’s honestly very therapeutic and can be comparatively quicker than a bath. Sniff your soaps and shampoo, massage your scalp, wash your face, and whatever else you do, but while doing so, just be present. I like to count and hum to myself, not really a tune but just a manifestation of whatever emotions I’m feeling. A lot of people consider mindful showering or Shower Zen as a method to reduce anxiety (kinda works, not gonna lie), and to visualize the cleansing of the body or mind. Take it however you will, but give it a try.

   5. Relax before bed.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ll get ready for bed in 10 minutes and then go back to doing homework before I sleep. My sleep is never restful, and I’ll wake up more tired than the night before even with a full 8 hours! Imagine how an all-nighter makes me feel. I realized, recently, the importance of a pre-bed routine. It’s nice to de-stress from the day by gradually winding down until I’m really ready for bed. Again, it’s nice to turn off electronics (the blue light in the screen can upset your melatonin production which is your body’s way of getting you sleepy) or at least use an app like Twilight that turns off the blue light in your screen and dims the backlight, preventing a lot of strain on your eyes—especially in the dark. I’m also a fan of night shower routines– getting clean and then going to bed just makes more sense to me, but to each their own– followed by some stretches and washing my face with cold water (this doesn't actually close your pores, but it feels good and hot water will strip your skin of oils and hydration) and listening to a podcast or some music. There are lots of playlists on Spotify perfect for getting in the sleepy-time mood. Do whatever helps you to get into the right mindset to maximize your rest.

 

All these techniques are things that help me in my day to day life, some of them are anxiety coping mechanisms and some are things I do to treat myself. In any case, I hope you found something that will help you!