A few months ago, I was dazing off in class per usual. My eyes glazed over due to the countless hours I’ve deprived myself of sleep. I had forgotten to turn in an assignment in an earlier class, so that all-too-familiar feeling of stomach-flooding anxiety still hadn’t subsided. Like most days, it was safe to say I was on autopilot. Helplessly tuning in and out of my professors’ lectures, one thing woke me right up. A chord of relatability instantly struck inside of me when my mind tuned in at the right moment. I heard my professor make the claim, “College students are the most stressed-out people I know.” Although this statement was a little troubling, I couldn’t help but feel a little sense of relief.
Everyone says it all the time — college will be the best few years of your life. And in a way those people are right. College is the place where you meet some of your lifelong friends, take a path down self-discovery and spawn some of the finest memories in your life (even if some parts are harder to remember than others). But what a lot of people don’t acknowledge is that college can also be the most self-deprecating time of your life without you even realizing it.
It wasn’t really until my professor made this remark that I began to think about what could be done to aid with the feeling that the weight of the world is on a college student’s back. I thought about my typical daily routines and the routines of those close to me, and there was an obvious recurring pattern. Very few college students dedicate quality time for themselves. Instead we spend ourselves getting caught in a web of bad habits.
I realized I had spent the past 3+ years of my college life wrapped up in these bad habits, always acknowledging how “messy” my life was but never really searching for a solution to my mess.
A few weeks later I was talking to my old college roommate about how stressed we always were and how much hasn’t changed. But this time talking to her something was different. She had a newfound lightness about her. We caught up as expected. She asked me about all the bad dates I had been on recently, and I asked her if she had finally found a major yet. In between laughs and getting caught up to speed, I had to ask her — “What’s so different about you?”
She went on to tell me no matter how busy she is she does something every day for herself. As simple as that sounded to me, I couldn’t help but be sold solely based off her demeanor. And even though I thought I did something for myself by binge-watching “Desperate Housewives” whenever I could, I realized that just wasn’t enough.
It was then I started looking into things that promote self-vitality. Something that kept coming up on my internet feed was yoga and meditation. I’ve never really been one to channel my inner chi, but you could say I was pretty desperate.
By the end of the day, I was signed up for a month’s trial of diverse, unlimited classes at a local yoga studio.
The morning of my first class I was super uncomfortable. I had no idea what to expect. I had never yoga’d before and frankly, if you asked me before my class, I would’ve told you I thought meditation might of been a crock of shit. Much to my surprise, my class left me in complete shock. It would soon be true that yoga would not only salvage my sanity but also create a quality of life I didn’t know was even possible.
There are countless benefits that come with my newfound practice of yoga. Yoga increases flexibility and muscle strength, maintains a balanced metabolism and improves respiration, energy and vitality. But most importantly yoga is the best stress reliever I have ever come across. I think many college students and people in general who have high levels of stress can relate to being told “just relax” or “stop stressing yourself out” as if it is something we can control. And unfortunately, sometimes the management of stress is out of our hands.
However, I really believe yoga can actually bring you to attaining a manageable level of stress. I was a definite skeptic before beginning my practice. I mean, how was guided breathing supposed to solve the daily battles I tried to face and combat the negative effects that stemmed from a lack of sleep or a buildup of too much anxiety? After starting yoga on a regular basis, I couldn’t help but notice the peace of mind I found. According to Yoga Journal, “Slow down the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear and desire that can cause stress. And since stress is implicated in so many health problems — from migraines and insomnia to lupus, MS, eczema, high blood pressure and heart attacks — if you learn to quiet your mind, you’ll be likely to live longer and healthier.”
The most important thing yoga has done for me is brought me a sense of self-awareness and self-reflection. Through the sessions I have taken thus far, I am reminded to grant myself some sort of deserved self-gratitude. Instead of beating myself up for the assignments I didn’t get to or being late to class, I instead focus on all the things I accomplished. And surprisingly enough this has allowed me to be more productive during my day. Instead of wasting time dwelling on things I didn’t do right, I now allow myself more time in the day to stay on task and complete things.
Another factor that contributes to my newfound productivity is my new sleeping patterns. Because yoga has been able to reduce my usual angsty feelings, I have found myself getting a better night’s sleep. This allows me to get more done since I feel less groggy during the day.
I know yoga isn’t for everyone, but I urge you wholeheartedly to give it a chance. However, if finding your “inner self” still isn’t your cup of tea, I suggest you take some quality time for yourself. Sub out the binge drinking every weekend or self-deprecating anxiety sessions for some time reminding yourself what you have accomplished. Change your mindset from what you’re not accomplishing to what you have accomplished. Most importantly, allow quality time for yourself. The stress isn’t going to solve itself, so go kick its ass.
Ali Schultz studies journalism. She can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.