There is beauty in silence. These five words passed through me like ocean waves, not calling me to shore. I have never been fully anchored down by the concept of simplicity — instead, the frantic crashes of the sea made it easy to get swallowed up and drowned. In a world where it feels difficult to steer your ship, learning to minimize your mind (and your daily to-do list) is essentially all that you need to create your own safe haven.
I’ve never thought about mental health as much as I have this coming semester. After all, I can dabble into different work and social activities to satisfyingly get the job done. But when the hustle and bustle of your productivity kick slows down — and you’ve crossed off the final thing on your to-do list — a lack of self-worth can easily creep in. Should I write another paper? Get ahead on my syllabus? Start a nationwide community service initiative? Yes, it’s so simple for your mind to shoot a million times up (not to say starting a nationwide nonprofit is a bad thing: Royal Figure Meghan Markle just went on tour hugging children in Africa). But sometimes, that rocketship is going too far into space with more fuel than you can force.
My view on mental health really took off during my internship in New York City this past summer. Now, I do not want this to get misconstrued — I absolutely loved my work experience and was so grateful to have contributed as a digital editorial intern for The Dr. Oz Show (Dr. Oz even gave me honey that he harvested himself, which is currently on my spice rack. #workperks). But after transitioning to city life after being used to, for the most part, the suburbs of New Jersey, I started to catch onto the atmosphere: half-awake and groggy commuters who frantically ran to catch a bus, the half-stressed mother heading off the subway with a crying baby in her stroller, the uptight taxi drivers who are on the verge of starting World War III on Broadway and 66th St. All I knew was there was way too much noise and way too little stillness.
In retrospect, all noise isn’t so bad. I mean, I’m a College Ambassador, so enthusiastically taking families on tour with me is part of my reputation (and that’s something I have and will always treasure!) But sometimes, if my life gets too noisy, I can’t be the best College Ambassador those prospective students deserve. I can’t be the best student in a class that I’m passionate about. In order to always ensure that I am putting 110% into every responsibility I take on, I have to make sure that to-do list doesn’t haunt me as soon as I am ready to relax at night and get to bed.
Too many things jumping out at you is a recipe for disaster. One of the foul ingredients that led me to a simpler way of living was my way-too-much planner. My old agenda was so extremely color-coded and written in that it ended up being a silent killer — a secret source of stress that made me want to never open up my monthly overview. Almost all of the boxes had something each day! So, I did what any normal college student would do. I grabbed a new one — a much more compact one — and only wrote down things I knew I could commit to. Instead of stretching two days of volunteer work, realistically, I can only make it to one. Instead of feeling the urge to make a never-ending list of article pitches for audiences to read, I decided to only pitch ideas when it’s been on my heart to share whatever that topic may be. Knowing your limits is, and always will be important.
As a college student, the term self-care is always floating around. Instagram stories creatively depict a plan to start your “self-care detox” filled with face masks and matcha tea galore, but it is easy to shrug it off to complete just one more assignment. Yes, the term can be sensationalized and almost represented as selfish, but even five minutes a day to read, stretch, or even to close your eyes can make a world of a difference (and of course, that isn’t selfish!).
So, how can you start to appreciate the silence and forget the noise? Be still. Only do things out of intrinsic passion and for the betterment and growth of yourself. Make time for those moments you say you never have time for, like going on long walks when the weather is bright or throwing a karaoke party in your dorm. Stop feeling imprisoned with your restrictions (after all, you made them!). Balance is key, and you certainly can’t pour into success from an empty cup. You have to make sure you are nourished in your heart, mind, and soul. Being still this semester has encouraged me to start taking ballet classes because I always wished I appreciated it more when I have been dancing for years growing up (and I never realized how much of a creative outlet it truly is because I was always running around as a child…typical).
I encourage you to dance as well. No, you don’t have to whip out a pair of ballet shoes and a tutu, but prioritizing your mental health stems from first realizing what’s best for you. Because, when you start following authentic intuition, “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”