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Staying Still in the Midst of Life Chaos

Whenever life gets hectic, uncertain, or dull, I can’t keep my mind from going a thousand miles an hour, overthinking every little thing. I start questioning everything, from my academic goals to my career prospects and personal relationships. Sometimes I can’t just shut my brain off and be quiet, choose to observe rather than act.

Over a year ago I introduced myself to meditation. At the time I struggled with the anxiety of applying into universities abroad and hardships of long-distance relationship, all amid the pandemic. Meditation became the ritual for me that kept me grounded. Every day I would sit on my bed, concentrating on the breath and listening to the simple soothing words.

A year went by, I’ve acquired some pretty good meditation skills but started feeling like it was too passive for me. I wanted to combine meditation with some movement and, naturally, I came to yoga. I’ve never been a sports person, just the opposite, to be honest. But I instantly fell in love with yoga. Everything that yoga represents just clicked with me. The combination of exercise and relaxation, the work of body and mind. I’ve realized that yoga was it for me and dedicated time and energy to make it a regular part of my daily life.

For no-chill mind like mine, having an activity that allows you to let go and relax is crucial. It’s something I’ve learnt over the last year, thanks to meditation and yoga. Yet outside the classes and sessions I struggle to keep my mind at ease. I tell myself that this is the way life is supposed to be in your twenties. But is it?

I always thought I wanted to have some stability in my life, until a wise friend of mine told me that stability is just an illusion and a way to “manage” the fear of uncertainty. So I replaced stability with predictability, implying that when my life is predictable, it means I don’t have any urgent open situations I need to act on. I’m allowed to just live, conquering small and big challenges of every day, without making or contemplating life-changing decisions.

When I lack predictability, which has been most of the time for a while now, I start going into the flight mode. I can’t just be present in the moment, embrace uncertainty, do as much as I can and have trust that things will work out (because they always do). I feel like if I don’t drive myself crazy, I’ll fail and won’t be able to handle the guilt and shame that we’re trained to feel for every little misstep.

Being in the state of openness is hard. Applying to the university, waiting for the decision from the employer, looking for an apartment or wondering what to do with your relationship. Someone may say that such challenging, almost conflicting moments stimulate us, drive to success and growth. And I completely agree with that. But being on edge for too long (over a few months) is draining and exhausting. And what you need isn’t another cup of coffee or an all-nighter, but stillness and relaxation, just like in yoga.

Stepping out of your desk in the evening, spending a restful Sunday afternoon, catching up with your partner or your friend, not checking your email every five seconds. You don’t need to have a full-blown morning or evening routine (does anyone outside social media actually do that?) but creating little anchors is what will help you keep sanity. You don’t need to earn rest or deserve joy. Rather think about it like that. No matter if I get this job or not, I’ll still read this amazing book, go for a long walk and make delicious coffee in the morning. No matter how busy the day gets, at the end of it I’ll cuddle up with my partner to watch some Netflix or meet with my best friend for dinner. The truth is, the little anchors are the life, and they help you not to lose your mind in the storm, when you battle the wave of uncertainty and have your life scattered all over the ocean.

Staying still in the midst of the storm is something I’m learning to do. When my life is settled, it’s easy for me to slow down and enjoy it. But when it’s unpredictable, I feel like I can’t spend precious minutes not acting upon the situation, even when it’s 3am in the morning and I’m exhausted. Or when I skip lunch only to be more productive, which is absurd, because fueling yourself with food and sleep (and joy!) is essential to get prepared for whatever comes.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to stay still. Transition from the warrior pose to metaphorical shavasana and just be there for a few breaths. Things will always work out. So stop your boat, go to the shore and do whatever you need to be ready to face the water again tomorrow.

Leila Askerova

Helsinki '22

English major with a love for slow life and all things cozy.
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