Finding Inner Peace at College

The middle of the semester sometimes feels as if a thousand tasks are coming at you from every direction – whether it’s assignments, clubs/organizations, a job, or imposter syndrome. Don’t forget to make time for the activities that keep you mentally balanced. 


Person sits cross legged on a rock in a lake at dusk

Be calm in the storm 

Inner peace means a state of physical and spiritual calm despite stressors. Finding inner peace is a process – it won’t happen overnight – but working towards it will help you focus and have a clear mind. 

6 Strategies to Maintain a Peaceful Mind 

  1. Spend Time in Nature. Take a short, mindful walk where you notice your senses – the breeze on your face, the ground beneath your feet, the warmth of the sun. Remind yourself to relax, take your time, and notice sensations – especially in moments when you feel stressed.
  2. Meditate.  You can try yoga or listen to a guided meditation on a podcast. Meditation has many proven benefits and can help you find your path to peace and happiness. 
  3. Give yourself time to worry.  Spoiler alert: You won’t be able to get rid of all your worries for good. In fact, the more you tell yourself not to stress, the more you probably will. What can help is to schedule a “worry time” during your day. Choose a small window of time to sit quietly. Let yourself go over all the things that have you concerned, as well as some ways you might solve them. You may find that this allows you to worry less — and ultimately feel more peaceful throughout the rest of the day.
  4. Declutter. Do you notice how your environment can be a reflection of your inner world? Create an environment around you that supports your goals. Organizing your space, tasks, and thoughts, can help your mind be more peaceful.
  5. Be accountable and take responsibility. Even when it’s difficult, admitting your mistakes helps you find peace and happiness. Criticisms are an opportunity to improve yourself, and accepting that you’re imperfect and make mistakes makes you more resilient.  
  6. Practice acceptance and contentment. Accept that you are imperfect and figure out strategies to deal with problems. Release yourself from self-criticism and comparison. Remember that your journey at UNC-CH is your own unique experience. Be kind to yourself.

Pause. Reflect. Act.

Three simple words with a whole lot of power to make your wellness days – and time at UNC – more beneficial for you.

Pause. Take a moment. This could mean as small as stopping in the midst of something evoking strong feelings or as big as initiating a meditation practice. It could mean just taking a few deep breaths.

Pausing for a moment – or several – to separate ourselves a bit from what’s happening allows for us to regain sight of what’s important.

Reflect. This is the MOST IMPORTANT step to any growth or learning. You can read all the books, watch all the films, listen to all the podcasts, but without taking time to consider what you’ve learned afterwards, most lessons will be lost.

Reflect means to think deeply and carefully. Give yourself time to consider what you need and how you add value to your community. What motivates you? What brings you joy? How can you make space in your life for what’s important? What can you do to better meet your needs? How can you make space to have a positive impact on your community?

Act. Based on your reflection, take the first step to get what you need. Reach out to ask for help if you need it!

Searching for Self- Compassion?

As we all do our best to navigate a global pandemic, we must find kindness and compassion for ourselves. This will also assist us in extending these same virtues to others during this time. The uncertainty and stress is difficult for everyone, but especially challenging for some due to their specific identities.

How to Be Kinder to Yourself - Mindful

Consider these questions when beginning a self-compassion practice:

  • How am I feeling right now?
  • What does my self-talk sound like?
  • Is this self-talk something that I would say to support a small child or friend?

Try these phrases to exercise self-compassion:

  • I am doing the best that I can right now, and that is enough.
  • This is a difficult time. It is natural to feel stressed. I am here for you.
  • I am safe and supported.

Remember that self-compassion is about radical self-acceptance. It does not mean that pain and suffering does not occur, it means that we care and support ourselves through these tough experiences. Like all things self-compassion takes practice including checking-in with yourself regularly and reframing as needed. Soon you will be ready to spread kindness and compassion everywhere.

Time to practice!
Enhance your self-compassion skills by trying one of these:

Meditation: Self Compassion Break

Healing Music to Enhance Self Love

Self- Compassion 101

Ted Talk “The space between self-esteem and self-compassion”:

You Forget It All the Time, and It’s Probably Stressing You Out…

Okay sure, if you’re reading this, you’re most likely breathing already, I’ll give you that, but what is the quality of your breath?

Breath is at the root of everything our bodies do. And even though I know this–and I even teach this–I regularly forget to really breathe. Multiple times a day, I’ll check in to find myself holding my breath or breathing only into and out of the top part of my chest.

Breath and Behavior

When I work with actors (as a part of Interactive Theatre Carolina) or when I teach yoga, I start exercises with or even center entire lessons around the breath. New actors will often glance around wondering if I’m for real. I can see the wheels turning in their heads: “What does this have to do with being onstage and laughing and yelling and crying and looking believable?” Well…

What happens when you get onstage? People look at you. It’s stressful. You get nervous. What happens when you get nervous? Your breath gets shallow and fast. What happens when your breath gets shallow and fast? Your voice gets softer, your movements are compromised, and your attention is less available to the people trying to interact with you.

Even if you have absolutely no theatrical aspirations, our breath is linked to stress, and being aware of our breath can help us manage stress.

Breath and Health

It’s not news that our muscles, organs, brains, and other innards function best when they’re provided oxygen and rid of carbon dioxide. Think of the unhealthy chain reactions that can happen when we regularly shortchange our physical selves of the breath we need.

The sympathetic nervous system (the system responsible for the “fight or flight” response), while evolutionarily useful for getting us through dangerous moments (like…if you find yourself needing to outrun a lion), still gets triggered when we’re stressed (like…when your printer jams 5 minutes before you’re supposed to turn in that thing that’s now crumpled in the paper tray), and when engaged too often, this reaction takes an understandable toll on our bodies.

 AND HERE’S THE THING:

If we’re not breathing to the best of our abilities even in times when we are NOT stressed, it still makes our bodies feel like we ARE stressed.

Life is stressful enough, y’all. Why would we do that to ourselves?

I can’t answer for you, but I can speak for my own bad breathing habits. I’ve started to watch and I notice I hold my breath when feeling guilty, when pretending to listen to someone but thinking about something else, when trying to walk quickly because I’m late, when avoiding something, when not being present—just to name a few. See if you can notice your own sticky moments. It can be revelatory. And shifting the experience of those moments is as simple as inhaling deep into your stomach and letting the breath slowly out.

AND ANOTHER THING:

As a young woman, I was taught–like many others–to suck in my stomach to keep myself attractive. I’d be lying if I told you that I’ve totally gotten over that, even though I know it doesn’t feel good, it robs me of breath, and it’s a messed up idea. Why should I stress my body out daily in an attempt to satisfy some unhealthy thin ideal I don’t even agree with? But letting go of these habits and these old ideas takes practice.

Ever gotten the advice to change the way you react to things you cannot change? Depending on the situation…that can be really annoying advice. And I’m not seriously going to tell you that deep breathing will solve all of the things that stress you out or even dismantle the social structures that perpetuate a thin ideal.

But breathing deeply is good for you. And it’s a little thing you can definitely do. And it will help to keep you healthy so that you CAN do the important stuff…like dismantle the social structures that perpetuate a thin ideal 🙂

 

But you don’t have to just take my word for it…

http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858

http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update1006a.shtml

http://www.oprah.com/health/Benefits-of-Breathing-Breath-Exercises

http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/stress-management/deep-breathing.htm