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Managing stress with mindfulness

Valerie Teegardin

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Valerie Teegardin

I have many regrets in life, and taking that one yoga class at a 24-Hour Fitness back in high school comes close to topping the list.

I only signed up to ward off summer boredom. At the end of that yoga class I found myself silently shaking in a vain attempt to contain my laughter, while the rest of the class silently meditated.

This was my first experience with the concept of mindfulness and I found it silly.

I’ve always been a huge worrier, fretting over what had happened and what could happen. This idea of living in the moment — focusing on your current actions, free of judgment and distractions, was intriguing to me.

But it never seemed to work for me, despite my desire to experience it and how appealing it seemed.

When I used to think of meditation I’d picture two things: either the cross-legged yogis of India or tree-huggers that eat tofu with biodegradable forks.

Back then I figured my frenzied, meat-eating self didn’t stand a chance at achieving any sort of inner peace.

I was finally able to ditch my meditation baggage after enrolling in a kinesiology class this spring. I learned that being mindful means accepting life as it is now.

I realized that I was too hung up on the past and that a constant stream of doubt and anxiety was the ugly result.

Worrying is like riding an exercise bike at the Wildcat Recreation Center; you can do it for hours against maximum resistance but in the end you’re worn out and haven’t moved an inch.

I’m learning to redirect my focus toward my current thoughts and where they stem from, instead of wasting that energy and having nothing but stress to show for it.

What I think about changes my mood and attitude. Being mindful allows me to determine whether mine are healthy thoughts.

If they aren’t positive, I simply let them pass and pay attention to what is happening at the given moment, instead of dwelling on negativity.

Because of mindfulness, I can finally come up for air after being submerged in useless anxiety for all those years. Not only do I feel healthier and happier, I also feel like I am truly living in the moment.

Whether I’m hanging with friends or studying for a quiz, being mindful means I’m not thinking about missing my workout yesterday or that bill that needs to be paid.

I am simply immersed in the moment that is right here and now.

Valerie Teegardin can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @vteegardin

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