By Emma Kopelowicz
I have been so stressed lately to the point where crying in public places has become the new normal. Between school, extracurriculars and the crippling weight of young adulthood, I feel like the pressure is always on. I imagine myself as one of those hamsters in a pet store running on a wheel as I rush between classes and meetings. My brain is in constant overdrive, and nothing seems to be slowing down.
I was never this stressed in high school, so my suspicion is that all this recent tension is motivated by the “college scaries” of being on my own and making decisions for myself. I’m the one creating my own schedule and getting myself from place to place. The moment I get one thing checked off my endless to-do list, I start to think about the future tasks I’m going to have to get done. I know this is definitely not the healthiest mindset, but I’m working on it, I promise.
This semester, my anxiety levels had reached an all time high, and for a long time, I didn’t know what to do about it. To be quite frank, I still don’t. But I have found little ways to calm myself down. Most recently I tried out a de-stressing strategy that my mom suggested over a long, tearful phone call (on my end, that is) on the COM lawn. As mentioned previously, crying in public places isn’t really an issue for me anymore.
She told me to take a walk. That’s right, just one foot in front of the other. It’s an activity I typically associate with the geriatric crowd, and those who are paid to give other people’s dogs some exercise.
I rolled my eyes at the idea, which fortunately my mom couldn’t see. I brushed this suggestion off just like all of the other times people gave me recommendations about how to “stop stressing.”
And then like a typical teenager, I begrudgingly took her advice without telling her about it. The next afternoon, I decided to take the scenic route home. It was just me, my playlist and the open sidewalk.
The brownstone-lined streets of Brookline were bursting with the rich hues of the fall leaves. I hadn’t been able to admire the city’s foliage before then, even though I promised myself I would. I could feel the crunch of every fallen leaf below my boots as the cool breeze blew gently around me. The quiet beauty of these back streets felt so refreshing. I was only a block off from the hustle and bustle of Commonwealth Avenue, and yet I felt worlds away.
For the first time in weeks I left my bubble of stress to immerse myself in the local wonders of Boston’s charming neighborhoods. I let myself be completely absorbed by the details of this small journey. I took in every pumpkin-adorned doorstep, every colored leaf blowing through the air and every cute old lady walking her dog.
This observational exercise kept my mind occupied and made me realize how lucky I am to live in such a lovely city. At one point, I found myself in a sweet park tucked away on a hidden street, and I spent some time exploring its small pond and lush pathways. For a moment, I was so deeply mesmerized by the rustling trees and bushes filled with chirping robins and scurrying squirrels that I almost forgot I was even in Boston.
All of my worries and anxieties were put pause when I entered this serene space. It was an unfamiliar feeling, but I was not about to question it. I let the rush of the breeze wash over me, carrying my stresses with it, if only for a moment.
I eventually found myself back at old Babcock Street, but instead of the flood of stress I expected to come rushing back into my body, I instead felt a warm glow of calm settle inside of me. The restorative walk I had just taken somehow managed to hit a reset button in my mind that made all of the craziness of life suddenly seem less scary. My head felt clear for the first time in weeks, and it was all because of a simple walk around the city.
At first I scoffed at the idea of going on a walk to de-stress, because I figured that was an unproductive and useless tactic that would ultimately stress me out more. I told my mom in a high point of distress, “Yeah, right! Like that’s going to fix all of my problems,” but she countered my sarcastic comment with a simple, yet resonant point: “Stress is a part of life, and the goal is learning how to manage it.” She was right, as most mothers are, and I knew it too.
There is no cure for stress. You don’t need me to tell you that. Honestly, stress in small doses is actually a good thing. Otherwise we’d all be lazy and motivationless slugs. While I have the tendency to stress myself out to a breaking point, I have found that even the smallest moments of chill can do wonders for my mental health.
Sometimes something as simple as an easygoing lap around the block will do the trick. There’s no harm in trying, so throw on a cozy sweater, leave your backpack behind and go for a stroll.