Ways to Combat Stress and Remain Mindful
Once again, the cold has set in, seemingly later than it should yet sooner than expected. Returning to campus brought three things for all of us: Covid, cold and constant stress. I am neither a meteorologist nor an epidemiologist, but I do know a thing or two about constant stress. One strategy that is often cited to ease the pains of stress is increasing mindfulness in everyday life. I spoke with Diana Dimitrova, a leader in the Mindful IC community about her thoughts on the relationship between mindfulness and stress management.
Diana and I met after I walked in on one of her private mindfulness classes.While the class was not public, she invited me to one of the drop-in sessions at noon on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. These classes are open to all students.
I walked to the International Studies office on one of these cold winter days to talk with Dimitrova to find that the door was locked. I returned a smile as I was let into the room. International flags adorned the upper walls of the space. We walked through a hallway at the back of the room to Dimitrova’s office. I was offered tea which I accepted. We sat in her office and had a conversation not only about some strategies to mitigate stress, but also about some of the possible causes of stress.
After quitting social media a couple months ago, Dimitrova and I both agreed that apps such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are huge time sinks. I felt that they occupied my time when I could be spending 15 minutes doing something more productive like reading or writing. Dimitrova proposed that social media caused us to be less mindful even when we are doing things that are productive. For example, while writing a paper it’s easy to check your phone for various reasons, but every time that happens your mind has to “reset” to get back in the academic zone.
Do the Readings: One of the worst parts about learning in college is the negativity that comes along with it. Overhead conversations include sentiments about lengthy readings which are explained by professors in class. It’s hard to stay mindful about your work. However, I would like to propose that doing the readings helps mitigate stress. We’re here to learn. Sure, the parties are great and the music is good, but at the end of the day, you’ll be able to buy seven-dollar beer your whole life. Really diving into something isn’t going to get any easier. I have found great success in changing my mindset from one that emphasizes getting things done to pass the class to doing things for the express purpose of learning the material.
Doing things OTHER than zoning out: It seems easy to take time for yourself when it’s written in a self-help book or magazine, but when it comes down to it, taking time for yourself isn’t so simple. From personal experience, it’s hard to zone out when I’m stressed about the Spanish test I have on Monday. If my brain isn’t occupied, it can’t relax (as counter-intuitive as that may seem). An active approach to taking time for yourself is finding something that interests you that doesn’t let you zone out. Suggestions include climbing, playing games, joining clubs, weight lifting, and making snowmen. Find something that doesn’t let your imagination run back to the stresses of school, like watching TV or scrolling through social media. Ithaca College offers lots of extracurricular activities and clubs that are open to all students. A good place to start is to talk to people you know about what they are involved in. In addition, the college publishes a weekly events newsletter that is open to all students. Also, books are a great way to occupy time in a productive way; find a genre that’s interesting and go crazy.
A Complete Life Change: I’m not just talking about dyeing your hair. If you don’t find joy in what you are studying or doing, you should change that. Ithaca College specifically has hundreds of programs. You can absolutely (especially if you’re a sophomore or a freshman) change your major and still graduate on time.
Patrick Kuehl is a third-year environmental studies major who knows the value of finding ways to combat stress. They can be reached at [email protected].