Happy October! In Texas, this is the actual start of autumnal weather - the temperature leaves the 90-degree range, and I can start to wear cardigans...for segments of 5 minutes at a time. Iced pumpkin spiced lattes for everyone!
More importantly, this is a season of change: the leaves are turning, the drinks are changing, and we are finally hitting that stage of school where things start to get... stressful.
As college students, we strain ourselves to crazy levels of stress. We're always scrambling around, trying to accomplish a billion and one things from our ever-growing to-do list. And we don't accomplish everything and we're freaking out about that? Well, that's where today's article comes in.
Stress and Pumpkin Spice Bread
To keep with the autumnal theme of this article, imagine if you will that you and I are in a kitchen, baking vegan pumpkin spice bread. I'm in charge of mixing stuff together, and you are in charge of adding the ingredients into the bowl.
We chat while we do this, and it's going swimmingly. But then we take the bread out of the oven, and you realize that you never handed me the spices, or the vanilla extract.
The bread is lovely on the outside, cake-like and bronze. But we taste it, and it's...bland. Something is missing, and the bread we made is now unfulfilling...and now you're scolding yourself for not being able to do a seemingly simple task and get your life together.
Here I am, practically shouting at you, "It's just a loaf of bread!" And you're freaking out because this loaf of bread means so much more than that. Do you see where this is going?
Sometimes the little things - like the lackluster outfit you wore today, or the homework you didn't do well on, or even that moment you embarrassed yourself last week - can really get us down. This is especially true in college, when we're juggling so many little things.
I want to be here to let you know, it's okay. Most college students feel this way. It's normal. And we can do something about it.
So, with my autumnal metaphor in mind, let's talk about millennials and why mindfulness is the key to a lot of our problems.
Staring at Stuff Online... as a Coping Mechanism?
I mentioned pumpkin bread for a reason: In today's society, we place a lot of importance on things like Starbucks, iPhones, Instagram, and strange trends that go viral online.
What separates us from other generations is that we grew up with the internet. As the world wide web grew, we did too, using it for everything. We went from ignorant bliss, unaware of the things we didn't have, to being so aware that we now create digital boards of things we want, almost believing that if we stare at these things enough, they will appear.
I for one applaud our imaginative skills, but this manner of living is not sustainable or healthy. And I know this firsthand.
As I write this, I'm sitting outside, trying to get some sun while I work. Normally, I'm a vampire, browsing online in my room like a fiend. But a few weeks ago, I caught myself staring longingly at my "dream closet" Pinterest board, then glanced at my 5 tabs open on loaded shopping carts. (More about that here.) I knew I could never afford any of this, but I couldn't stop myself from thinking about these items.
That, my friends, is when I realized that I needed a break. I needed to recharge, and my mind was begging for it.
I went and sat outside and listened to music. I eliminated the phrase "if only" from my vocabulary for a while, and closed my laptop every time I compared myself to someone else and wanted to buy something to feel better.
I realized that I had started pining over things online as a coping mechanism. I did this whenever I felt like I had failed at something, like if I hadn't done as well as I had hoped on a quiz in class, or if I felt like I had written something subpar for CF. Whenever this happened, I would turn to something digital to feel better.
The worst part? It wasn't even working! I still felt awful.
So for me, sitting outside and hearing music, or just the wind blowing the tree leaves around, was enough to get me out of that rabbit hole. I stopped beating myself up for not getting the bread recipe just right.
Where Do We Go from Here?
If you feel that some aspect of your life is slacking right now, I strongly recommend trying some mindfulness techniques, like my "go outside and listen to music" trick. They will serve multiple purposes: you'll become calmer, you won't fall prey to the comparison game or feel the need to be plugged in all the time.
You'll also have more time on your hands than you could have possibly imagined before. That energy and serenity in your brain will lead to creativity that you can use for school, or for better sleep, or for anything you're passionate about.
So let's get you there.
3 Mindfulness Techniques to Get You Out of a Rut
In the name of all that is Pinterest-worthy, let's get mindful!
Method 1: Go out and enjoy nature!
As I mentioned before, I found it incredibly helpful and enjoyable to just sit outside for a while!
I have since eased myself into sitting outside whenever I can to do homework, or just whenever I want to listen to music. Not only is it a great change of scenery from your typical four walls, but you get vitamin D and fresh air.
In addition, avoiding screens and really focusing on the sky or things far away from you will exercise your eyes without straining them. This is a wonderful break from having to stare at tiny words on a screen or page all day.
Method 2: Find better inspiration!
I have also found solace in getting creative with where I find my inspiration. I've ditched my Pinterest boards and shopping carts (for now).
I have gone back to listening to classical music (this is my playlist of choice) when I get tired of having to hear words or too much cluttered noise.
On the book front, I am lucky to be taking a Shakespeare class, so I am currently reading classical literature, but I recommend reading new books or watching new films to get your creativity flowing! Soak up some inspiration on your next chill night in. If you're into it, you could go for an emotional film that will provoke the feels in you and get you thinking differently than before.
I'll also use this opportunity to suggest going back to a good old fashion magazine and flipping through it for style inspo. Another aspect of being a millennial is that we've forgotten how great non-digital, tangible stuff is. It can be awesome now and again!
These things will all stimulate new thoughts in you and will get you out of your same old routine.
Method 3: Embrace your friends! Your relationships, your people!
FOMO is real. When it seems like other people are doing more fun stuff than you, there is nothing more tempting than wallowing in self-pity. Whenever FOMO would hit me, I used to wallow by going shopping -- nothing like Steve Madden shoes to fix that sense of missing out. Totally healthy.
Let's stop that right now and reach out to people we want to see.
If there is someone, maybe a friend, significant other, parent, sibling, etc., who has left you feeling neglected, go talk to them. Reach out and invite them somewhere, even if it's to join you as you sit outside with music and enjoy nature. And then they can benefit from a break as well.
And Finally, a Meditation:
Those are my top three suggestions for how to relax, rejuvenate, and heal as we head for midterms. And it's important you do this: Style, going out, and all those cherry-on-top things are deeply enjoyable when you are mindful and calm enough to make time for them. Priorities are important, and being mindful will let them fall into place.
And because I promised a meditation, I'll leave you guys these images that made me feel better on Instagram:
Lastly, don't worry about the vegan pumpkin spice bread. Focus on areas where you could do better next time. Don't beat yourself up; just work on improvement.
If you can put down the comparisons, let your mistakes become lessons, and be a little more mindful, I promise you'll survive midterms, look fabulous while doing it, and you will feel better inside because you took time off for yourself.
How are you being more mindful?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this! Do you struggle with FOMO and comparisons online? How do you unplug and get your inspiration back? Let me know in the comments.