In 5th grade I picked up the viola for the very first time. It was during my mandated music class, where I was forced out of my comfortable shell and into the world of sound and music, that I found a voice I never knew I had.
Sometimes you are gifted with opportunities in your life that will lead to you infinite personal growth. Learning the viola certainly did that for me. After the original music class ended I was given the chance to join a modern Irish rock band. There I found that I could be both theatrical and lively as a performer, not just the crispy persona I took on during my more classical rehearsals. This realization helped my day to day personality form as well. I became less rigid and grew as an extrovert.
I participated in musical ensembles all the way through grade school and high school, letting those groups lend a hand in my maturation; what a wonderful time it was. In college I knew I needed to continue, and so I signed up for the almighty college orchestra.
Then, last semester I found myself swamped in all things related to stress in college: a nasty roommate situation, a falling out with a very close friend, tricky classes and an overwhelming extra-curricular schedule. I felt rather trapped, completely unable to wriggle free of my commitments and stressors, and wasn't sure where to turn to next.
Over winter break I decided that the era of music was, perhaps, coming to a close. I had found my voice, but now I needed to rebalance myself. Music had become one of the extra-curricular activities weighing me down. For the first time since the 5th grade I chose not to participate in a musical ensemble. I made this change, and a handful of others, in an effort to refocus this spring semester on me.
And, let me tell you, it's working.
My first goal for this new semester was to be more physically aware; I was gifted a Fitbit, the first step of many for this objective, and immediately began to challenge my new fitness goals. Over the break I pushed myself to be at the gym at least four days a week. For this semester my goal is three days. Additionally, I've added on a regiment of weekly yoga practices in the hopes that, perhaps, a different kind of movement will help keep my physical body in balance.
I have been more conscious of my sleeping patterns. I try to fall asleep and wake up around the same time everyday, and I shoot for at least seven solid hours of slumber per night.
I've been looking at food from a whole new angle. Calorie counting is truly not a healthy obsession, and I wanted to stay away from that mode of thought. Instead, I monitor myself, always keeping in mind that I should choose foods my body needs more so than what I want. So far that has meant a whole lot of spinach and banana smoothies, but I'm not complaining.
I've been using stress-relief lotion a lot more. I've found a new love for listening to music I've never heard before. I've started writing again.
My changes haven't been purely about physical goals. I've been setting aside time daily for which I use to spend time with those around me. I wanted deeper relationships this semester, and by allowing myself the time to grow close with others I've been able to engage more fully with my best friends, my classmates and my roommates.
I've been allowing myself more time to enjoy. I have time to cheer for my favorite hockey team (yay, Las Vegas Golden Knights!) and am able to get my homework done early enough that Netflix doesn't feel like a sin anymore.
By focusing my mindset on what I need, instead of what I think I should be doing, I've been able to find a lot more peace within my day to day activities. I've been working harder in school, I've been more social and I've definitely been less stressed.
I wanted to write this article for a number of reasons. Making these kinds of changes has been really tricky, for sure. However, if I had a roadmap to doing it, and a role model to follow beforehand, this journey would have been much easier. To any struggling human, be it a college student or not: you can affect change in so many ways. Seek what you might need and follow it. The answer will be waiting for you.