Whatever you’re doing, pause. Give me a long deep breath in; hold it; and now out. That likely isn’t what you expected after seeing “In-N-Out,” but just stopping, even for a single breath, is sometimes all that’s necessary to refocus.

The world we live in today is chock-full of stressors, whether it be the sound of an alarm in the morning, losing money, being late to work, [feel free to insert anything that freaked you out for a second at some point today here,] and so on. Living in this kind of an environment is a recipe for constant worry and the degradation of your body. It’s simply unhealthy— but what can you, and I, do about it?

One of the first things to consider is the physical repercussions that stress has on the body— biologically, increased cortisol levels have been shown to temporarily heighten awareness and actually be beneficial. However, too much of anything may ultimately hurt instead of help, as with cortisol, and leaves a negative impact on the body. Think of it this way: when you’re stressed, every cell in your body knows it. Your DNA changes, down-regulating and up-regulating what molecules to produce. The dynamism of your body is incredible, and because of that it lies susceptible to the repercussions of every one of your thoughts and actions.

So, you tell me: slowly breaking yourself down…is it worth it?

I’ve learned that it isn’t. There is a way to handle life’s curveballs, that nasty exam coming up next week, or a personal crisis— who knows, maybe it’s 11:54 PM and CommonApp is freezing and ohmygodHarvardhasbeenmydreamsinceIwasborn, and you have never freaked out more in your life. But no magic formula for releasing stress exists; each individual must recognize what is the most viable option for him or her. It’s a journey that you take on your own. However, I can tell you what realizations I’ve come to, in the hope that someone, somewhere, can relate.

Everything is temporary. Life is no more that a collection of moments, and, in that, is fluid. In recognizing that this moment will end—that the next one will come—is immensely helpful. In a moment where disaster seems imminent, remember that this stress doesn’t last forever. It will work out the way it was meant to, and there is probably something you can do to alleviate the situation. Calming down enough to recognize what’s going on for what it is, not just drowning in a sea of fear and anxiety, helps. Adding objectivity to any problem can often reveal solutions that perhaps at first you didn’t see.

In saying that, once the moment has passed, learn from it. Look back, and try not to add any mental modifications; that is, emotions, opinions, thoughts. By acknowledging the event for what it was, and no more, you can accept it and move on. At this point, you now know what went wrong, and it’s as simple as not repeating the same mistake. Letting go of the stress once it’s over and done lifts a huge weight off of your chest; why keep holding on to it?

Another important realization that I’ve had: the past and future don’t exist. The only thing you truly have is exactly right NOW. The chair underneath you, whatever clothes are on your body, the faint glare of whatever screen you’re reading this on— surprise! You aren’t at your fifth birthday party, and it’s not the first day of your retirement (if it is, happy birthday and congratulations!). You are here. That’s it. So driving yourself crazy about something days, weeks, months, YEARS down the road is the key to NOT living your life. The present moment, the only thing you’ve really got right at this second in the timeline of your life, is wasted. Living in the pain of the past? You’re missing out on your own life. You only get one. Don’t let it become a dream instead.

For dealing with the stress in the moment, if you have a minute to just time-out, TAKE IT. Doodle, play with your pet, drink some water, have a snack, do what you like to do. I might hit my mat to go through a couple of sun salutations, go for a run, or journal. But often the simplest thing you can do is ground yourself; this moment is what you truly have, right? Are you hot, cold, how does the fabric of your clothes feel on your skin, what about the keyboard beneath your fingertips or the pen pressing into your hand? After your break, look at your problem with a calmer mind— it may provide the clarity that you needed.

And that’s what I’ve got. You might’ve read this and gotten something from my point of view, in which case, that makes me a very happy camper. Conversely, you might’ve read this and thought I’m full of it, weird, literally just have no clue what I’m talking about, or that there are a million holes in what I’ve said. And that is perfectly fine! I’m not here to tell anyone how to live their lives, just share my experience. I acknowledge that I’m flawed (in so many ways I’d really just rather not have someone tell me), but that makes me human, right? Chances are my opinions will change or I’ll look at this later and cringe. But to me, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t say what’s on my mind in this moment…this is my “now.“

There you have it, folks, until next time!

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