Breathe In, Breathe Out, Repeat

After a busy first day of classes, I decided to take a lunch break in the middle of Aldrich Park. While eating my poorly prepared peanut butter sandwich, I couldn’t help but notice that all these people walking past me were in a rush to get to class.

On a typical day, each Anteater has a combination of classes, deadlines, extracurricular activities and relationships that they have to juggle. Each of these facets of our lives demands our time, and if we are not efficient enough, our health is ignored and we feel like failures.

The struggle to balance everything is a difficult one, and we tend to ignore our mental health as we try to be superheroes during the quarter. In more than one way, placing our inner peace on a lower priority level will end up hurting us in the end. Taking a few moments a day to seek inner peace can help us avoid mental breakdowns during midterms and finals.

The problem is, then, what we should do to alleviate the stress. This is why I asked two Anteaters about their coping mechanisms during the quarter.

Mansi Varma is a third-year public health science major who spends most of her time in class, studying or working at Karate For All, which provides occupational therapy for children with disabilities.

“During the academic year, it is pretty stressful for me,” she said. “There is a lot of rigor involved in being a science major.” Not only in school, but Varma has also taken on the stress of mapping out her career. She knows that her unknown future is definitely another source of tension on her life.

Varma’s busy schedule has made her very stressed in the past. She said the way she tried to cope with it was to run. “I am an anxiety runner,” she said. “Every day during finals, I would wake up early in the morning and go running. I felt less anxiety during the daytime if I went running.”

The most exhilarating moments of her runs was when she would reach the top of Turtle Rock and stand over all of Irvine.

“I just feel so powerful by seeing that, and it is my own sort of liberation,” she said.

The only downfall with this type of stress reliever for Varma came through physical pain. Varma said that she had to diminish the amount of running during the week because of the toll it was taking on her body.

However, she has recently discovered meditation that she believes wholeheartedly is the key to keeping inner peace. The whole point of meditation is centeredness. Through this activity, the meditator is acutely aware of their body.

Every morning, Varma stops her brain from taking off sprinting and sits through a session of Mindfulness Meditation, a free meditation podcast online. For just 16 minutes, the session will call for her to focus on different parts of her body and notice the sensations of each one.

“Because of what my body needs, I am more focused on the present, whereas in the past, my mind went in seven different directions at once,” Varma said. “Now I focus what I need to do in the present, without worrying about in the future.”

The benefits of meditation for being only 16 minutes have helped her tremendously. Her insomnia has waned, she feels more happy and at peace with herself and she focuses more in school. Due to this, Mansi advises anyone that is feeling stressed to try out meditation, even if they think it is strange at first.

I also spoke with Yesenia Carvajal, who is a third-year English and Spanish double major. During the quarter, she makes sure to have a number of activities that bring balance to her life, which include keeping an agenda, praying, meditating, exercising, having daily goals, taking B complex (Vitamin B) and sleeping well. All of these in combination are what keep her grounded. She has been taking Vitamin B because it levels her nervous system so that she won’t feel as stressed.

Her religion is a huge factor in dealing with stress.

“I am a Christian, so I completely surrender my worries to God,” Carvajal said. “And when I am at a brink of screaming, I just pray and clear my mind.”

Instead of pitying herself for all of the stresses of school, she gives thanks to God for giving her the gift of an education.

After listening to how other students seek inner peace, I have realized that what works for one person might not work for the other, so the main advice I can give you is to seek what gives you liberation.

Find something that gives you that relief and make time for it. It might seem daunting to take on another task, but it will be an investment in your mental health.