Live a zen lifestyle in college

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Mark Capapas

A buddha statue stands on a table of Amara and Arts Yoga Studio located in Urbana on Jan. 22.

By Jillian Little, Buzz Editor

College is a different experience than most are accustomed to. It can be difficult balancing both classwork and finding a social belonging on top of dealing with generalized anxiety and depressive disorders, which a majority of college students are said to have. It doesn’t help that some of the mental health resources offered by universities don’t help as much as they should. No one should ever have to deal with problems all by themselves, but self-reflection is vital for change. People often underestimate the relationship they have with themselves. Not only does it teach you to keep your cool in stressful situations, but it helps you maintain positive relationships with others. 

Now, this doesn’t mean the only things you can do are get a yoga membership, buy a bunch of healing crystals or become a forest hermit. In reality, there are so many ways to connect with yourself beyond the “zen” stereotype. 

One of the most important things to do is to breathe. We’ve been doing this since the day we were born, but breathing techniques can significantly improve the college experience. Every time you take a deep breath in and out, you’re sending signals to the brain that it’s time to chill out. As a result, your body goes into a state of relaxation, which can alleviate stress and improve focus. Another good thing about these is that you can do them virtually anywhere, and they only take a few minutes. 

Breathing helps momentarily, but keeping a balanced and healthy lifestyle is long term. Some of us fell victim to overeating junk food with little exercise during the quarantine, but this can be said for college as well. Eating junk food is part of keeping things balanced, but excessive consumption can lead to elevated cortisol levels, which increases stress. It’s better to have a varied diet with the primary food groups to make sure your psyche is happy. 

Likewise, exercise can be what your body is craving after a long day of studying and being in classes. CRCE and the ARC are great places to lift weights, run on the track and participate in fitness classes, but not all exercises have to occur in a gym. Now is a perfect time to appreciate the beauty of the natural world. Consider taking a walk around the neighborhood. Urbana has some of the best paths for those who love looking at cottage-esque houses and listening to wildlife. It’s not uncommon for people to see animals like owls, opossums and even garter snakes. 

Brain stimulation is an excellent complement to physical activity. Listening to music and podcasts are classic examples and also aid as an encouragement to continue whatever you’re doing. Spotify just launched a “Daily Wellness” playlist of songs and motivational podcasts to keep you calm throughout the day and night, if needed. It’s worth listening to.     

Out of all these, the most important thing to do is to assure yourself that you’re doing your best. Sometimes, people fall into a mindset of self-doubt and think others might have a negative perception of them. In a stressful environment like college, this only leads to adverse outcomes in the future. Reach out to others for help, but there’s nothing wrong with setting some time aside for yourself. That time will aid you in your infinite path to acceptance and love.

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