It is amazing to think of all of the responsibilities, obligations, and personal motivations a student at the College of William and Mary has. Whether it is worrying about one’s academic and practical competence (in my case, counseling), or stressing out over midterms and papers, or even just making sure you can get through the day… there is a lot to think about as a W&M student. Most people fail to recognize the importance of balance, though. I believe we (including myself) far too often dismiss the importance of self-care in life. One doesn’t need to be a student, or a Counselor, or a Higher Education Administrator to recognize the importance of self-care; the concept of balance can aid us in effectively conquering our daily tasks and life challenges.
Recently, as part of a class project, I had the amazing opportunity to learn more about and practice the art of Mindfulness Breathing Meditation. While I found this particular activity and way of living to be helpful for myself, it may not be as helpful for others. However, this is where the beauty of positive psychology and relaxation techniques. As humans, we often have an inherent need to alter our consciousness. Some individuals use caffeine to help them stay alert or study for a test; some use nicotine to cope with stress whereas others may pour themselves a glass of wine at the end of the day. Altering one’s brain and feeling subsequent relief of stress can be done in a myriad of ways that does not include ingesting a substance or engaging in unhealthy behavior: exercise, maintaining a consistent sleep-wake schedule, starting a healthy diet, practicing gratitude, or just simply being kind to others. These are all different kinds of positive psychology techniques we can engage in everyday to help reduce stress, become more aware of our mind’s tendencies to distract us, and be thankful for what life has given us. I believe that during times of stress our brains tend to automatically think of the daily stressors and challenges we face in life. But as the Dalai Lama recently said during a visit to William and Mary, we should all have some sense of optimism in life, especially when dealing with stressful events. In thinking that on a human level we are all the same person, a test or a paper or a project becomes just a small speck in a world that is infinite with opportunities to be mindful of the present moment and focus our energy on the impermanence of life’s stressors. When we are mindful, we become more aware of how, when, and why our thoughts wander. Yet, by recognizing these tendencies, we can learn how to become more aware of the fact that worries will always be with us, but a simple act of kindness or gratitude may change a person’s life.