by USjournal Student Writer: Rebecca Darrup, Cross-Country Cowgirl
What a crazy end to the semester!
At any level, the few weeks before a break are always a little (or a lot) chaotic, and for a wide variety of reasons. We all know that finals week is a beast of its own; maybe there's packing to go home or on vacation, plans to make to see friends between semesters, changing work schedules, upcoming holiday plans, ongoing sports practices, and so much more. Even knowing there's a 'rest' period just around the bend on this road we call life, stress and anxiety can mound up so quickly. Sometimes it almost seems like the break can cause more apprehension than it's worth leading up to it!
Then, once you've finally made it to your "off time," maybe it's just me, but I spend half my break wondering what I forgot to do last semester, and half my break trying to figure out how to get ahead for the next semester... Did I actually ever take the time to relax??
Breaks are created for a reason. Especially as college students, it's so easy to find yourself getting up in the morning, scrambling through your day of classes, work, practice, homework, finding food, chilling with friends, and getting to bed sometime before the sun comes up the next day. Even on the weekends, sometimes you find yourself doing laundry, dishes, and homework, catching up where you got behind during the week. Adding a sport to the mix makes things so much more hectic! For those of you who are looking into colleges, I don't say all of that to add to the nerves you might already be feeling. Learn from someone who is still figuring it out:
Schedule in a break every now and again, in addition to the ones the school schedules.
Make a day to go see a movie, sleep in and go to bed early, take a bath instead of a five-minute shower, read a book, do some cooking or baking, or go explore your town! Force yourself to set down your assignments, mentally put aside a bad practice, game, or competition, let go of upcoming events and the pressure of high expectations, whether they are your own, someone else's, real, imagined, or somewhere in between. When you take a day to not think about the 'real', tough, 'adult-y' tasks you have to do, they are often much more manageable when you go back to them. Now, I'm not suggesting you procrastinate on said tasks because we all know how much worse that inevitably makes them, but allow a reasonable amount of time, whether it's a few hours, a day, or a full weekend, to enjoy life and not be so serious. It'll help you to stay dedicated, and keep your goals and your game plan fresh in your mind.
As an athlete, the mental aspect of your game is the most important, regardless of what sport you play. The lady who taught me what I know about barrel racing is someone who I've spent plenty of hours in the pickup truck with, hauling to rodeos together. For a rodeo athlete, your traveling partners can make or break you. This particular cowgirl knows the importance of having your mind in a good place, and this is something that she's been teaching me. Almost three years ago, we traveled to some professional rodeos together over the summer, and she had an audio book called Mind Gym, by Gary Mack, that we frequently listened to. One chapter of this book was entitled "Be Here, Now". This chapter explained the technicality of focusing on the moment you are in and some tips to accomplish that task, and it's a chapter that I often listen to on repeat. The point is to have your mind completely fixated on what you're doing, what you're about to do, what's going on around you, and the people surrounding you – totally living in the moment as it happens, and shutting out the negative thoughts, or the quiet voice of distraction. If you get the chance, I highly recommend taking some time to tear apart that book, as well as The Champion's Mind by Jim Afremow, PhD. Both books are phenomenal for decreasing stress and increasing performance by controlling your mind. While they are geared towards athletes, the tips, tricks, and techniques apply to all areas of life.
The catch is, the power of positive thinking doesn't only apply to athletics. I got home a week ago for Christmas break – the temperature is in the single digits as I'm writing this afternoon, and if I'm honest, I'm having a little trouble 'being here, now' because I'd like to be in the practice pen, roping where it's warm – but at any rate, I've had quite a bit on my mind lately. My mom knows that 'be here, now' is something I try to focus on, and so she will walk past me, or squeeze my hand, or shoot me that 'mom look', and tell me, "Hey, Rebecca, be here now!" She's right. There's no sense in worrying about someone else's side of a friendship, next semester's classes, the spring college rodeo schedule, how many professional rodeos I'll be able to make it to, or what I'm doing for the next 10 years. Particularly as a college kid, there are so many unknown answers about the future, and it can be hard to get home and get asked a million times per get-together, "So what happens next?" or "What's your plan?" Nearly all the time, the question is asked with a well-meaning heart, but sometimes it's hard to answer with a smile and no flip-flopping of the stomach.
I was on the road quite a bit this fall, traveling to rodeos or going with friends to help them drive, but on my first weekend back in town, I made sure I got to church that Sunday. Our pastor's message that week was titled "God's Answer for Anxiety", and let me tell you what, I was so thankful I hadn't gone on the road! He talked quite a bit, but the main point of his message was this: When fear or anxiety gets a grip on your heart and mind, feel it, but use it. It's our own choice whether we will stay stuck in our worry, or find the good (even if it's a pretty sunset at the end of a tough day), and smile anyways. Science has proven that the more you smile, the better you'll feel, even when your situation isn't what you'd want it to be.
Through your break this season and throughout life, allow (or make) yourself take the time to just be still; refreshing your mind and resting your body for its future challenges. That time will enable you to go back to doing what you love with so much more passion!
Here are Rebecca's other posts, in case you missed them:
Best of luck in all your endeavors,
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