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Stop and Smell the Coffee

Stop. Whatever you are doing just stop. Close your eyes, take eleven deep breaths, and focus purely on your slow, steady counting. I know, you probably think I’m really weird, but just do it. I’m getting to a point, I promise.

Chances are that felt really strange and foreign, and that’s a problem. In America, we are groomed to constantly be on the go, to constantly ask ourselves what’s next and what we need to do by when. We constrict ourselves so much with worrying about the future that a large percentage of the time we forget about what’s going on around us in the moment. It’s not your fault, and you’re definitely not alone. It’s caused by our surroundings and fast-paced culture that we have grown accustomed to.

Take eating as an example. As Americans we eat fast, we text when we eat, we do work when we eat, and often times we don’t even realize when we are eating because we are so preoccupied with other rambling thoughts and worries in our minds.

If we are always living for the future and asking ourselves where we are lacking and how to fix it, it makes it pretty hard for us to appreciate what we have worked so hard to attain and what we have been given. To be honest, I am almost writing this as a warning letter to myself. As I am sitting in an apartment in Florence during my brief time studying abroad, I am obsessing about whether my credits will transfer instead of thinking about how lucky I am to be here and to have these experiences.

Although obviously not all of you fit into my situation, looking back onto my past couple years spent at Duke makes me realize how many times I allowed myself to get sucked into the contagious, constant flow of stress that moves through the Duke campus. Yes, there are a lot of reasons to be stressed out at Duke—we have a lot of work, we are competitive, and we are all viciously driven—but does that mean it’s imperative to be constantly be on your toes?

The best thing that you can do to solve this problem is to separate your life into distinct chunks and not let everything blur together. Don’t let your leisure time become engulfed with the stress of school. Instead accept the fact that although a predominant amount of your day may be spent worrying, you can carve out 15-30 minute chunks throughout the day to give yourself a break, clear your head and get your mindset to a better place.

Without periodic brief breaks where I force myself to sit down and focus on nothing other than the here and now, it’s virtually impossible for me to get things done a lot of the time. I get so consumed and wound up from the stress of all the things piling on top of me that I stop being productive and start just spinning my wheels. You would be shocked at the difference that taking a step back, removing your mind completely from all obligations and immersing yourself in something completely mindless can make not only on your productivity, but also your mood.

So go buy a cup coffee in Perkins, sit down in the new Refectory with your grilled cheese and tomato soup, turn on your favorite show on your computer or do whatever it is that allows you to completely remove yourself from all the stress around you, and just appreciate the here and now.


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