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Stressfulness of relaxation

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Before college, I was never really into the appeal of things like yoga and meditation. Living in Los Angeles meant always driving past SoulCycle studies and smoothie bars. I couldn’t go to the post office without having to encounter swarms of women leaving the yoga studio next door.

Of course, I was naturally distrustful of the many examples of healthy and meditative practices, all of which come at a steep price. There was a whole industry to feed into this fad of kale smoothies and disco meditation (whatever that is). I was wary of anything the city was trying to sell me.

Fall quarter of my freshman year, however, I was surrounded by people who loved all of the trends that I had tried to avoid for so long. I talked to girls who had the times of their lives doing yoga at eight in the morning. Guys who swore by the Headspace app to meditate. People in my dorm who religiously wrote down things they were thankful for in cute bullet journals every single day. Classmates who raved about juice cleanses and boutique exercise bootcamps.

I was skeptical, but they seemed extremely happy — or at least less stressed — after doing these activities. I decided halfway through fall quarter that I, too, would participate in these practices in an effort to become a more patient, peaceful person.

I have to say, I did not expect finding peace to be so stressful. It is so hard to wake up at 8 a.m. to have enough time to journal three things I’m grateful for (in order to attract abundance) when I keep hitting the snooze button. It’s even harder to remember to write three good things that happened at the end of each day, after I’ve stayed up until 2 a.m. finishing p-sets.

And how does anyone find the perfect time to meditate? I cannot find a calm, quiet room to save my life. There are a million sounds coming from outside the hall and windows, distracting me from focusing on the guided meditations. How am I supposed to realign my heart chakra when there are people yelling about CS and physics outside? Or, even worse, how can I focus on clearing my mind when my room is begging me to clean instead of meditate? Occasionally I find myself so tired that as soon as I close my eyes, I fall asleep in the middle of my meditation.

Don’t get me started on yoga. My friends and I found the perfect place to do our warrior poses and downward dogs: Baker Beach, during sunrise! Two problems: First, it’s not really sunrise — the yoga class starts at 11 a.m.! Second, we don’t have reliable means of transportation. We have to take the Caltrain up half the Bay, then find a passing BART to take us halfway into San Francisco and then we have to get an Uber to the beach. The amount of stress created by planning this stress-free retreat is truly ironic.

And what about eating healthily? I thought the spinach in the dining halls was actually kale, and just when I was about to step out of my comfort zone and try it, there was a news report saying that kale was an E. Coli risk. I didn’t end up eating spinach for three weeks because I thought it was kale! I was never a true fan of salads, so I was excited to find that I love the Caesar variety, but I was soon after hurt to discover that it has no nutritional value. Apparently not all greens (I’m looking at you, lettuce) have health benefits.

Another source of stress: trying to plan trips to the gym. I have work right after lunch, but I have to go to office hours to finish this p-set due tomorrow, so when can I possibly get some crunches done?

Being peaceful is incredibly hard, and no one ever warned me. No one told me how far you’d have to bike into Palo Alto to get a juice cleanse kit. No one mentioned how hard it is to be consistently writing in a journal. Why is bullet journaling so complicated? Doodling little cactuses and making cute font titles is not as easy as 1-2-3, and it’s quite time consuming to make a faux calendar with the right color scheme.

Aside from all these little logistics and technicalities, I can admit it is quite relaxing to forget about my Greek philosophy paper or the thousands of meetings on my calendar. Sitting on my little yoga mat from Target (I totally recommend) in the middle of my room at 12:52 p.m. is grounding, despite the chaos outside. Stretching my arms towards the sky in the wee hours of the morning helps set intention for the day. Writing all the lovely happenings from the day, like getting to eat burrito bowls with my friends or biking whilst bathing in sunlight, makes me appreciate all the little things about Stanford.

The tranquil moments that result from hours of stressful planning are completely worth it. Maybe, just with some good practice and admirable time management, I can find these activities a lot less stressful and a lot more peaceful.

I’m sure that by the end of winter quarter, I’ll be on the shores of Baker Beach doing a tree pose right next to the Golden Gate Bridge with no concern about how I’ll make it back to campus.

 

Contact Rachel Ochoa at racochoa ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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