I went to last week’s Tea with the Dean with the knowledge that by the end of it, I would feel completely calm. I hadn’t expected that I’d be getting more than just a reduction in my stress, and so, I was pleasantly surprised and grateful when I got more than I asked for.
Last week’s Tea with the Dean was called Cultivating Calm with Green Tea, with Nicky Isaacson, who works with Rutgers CAPS. (I really love green tea and to be honest, I think the inclusion of it really sealed the deal of attending for me.) CAPS stands for Counseling, Alcohol & other Drug Assistance Program, and Psychiatry Services. One of the first things I learned was that in recent years, anxiety among students has increased a good deal. Although this is something I assumed, having spoken to my parents numerous times and getting the response of, “It wasn’t like this in the 90s,” I was glad to know that there’s an actual source supporting what I thought was conjecture. Although it’s important to find out why there’s increased stress, it’s also important that we learn how to handle stress in the meantime. So one of the things we can do is gain back some control over ourselves so we can handle it better. And that’s basically what I learned that day.
We started by practicing mindfulness. Greater Good at Berkeley defines it as, “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.” We’re supposed to be active in the present and avoid judging things as good or bad. We practiced this with a piece of chocolate. We focused only on opening the chocolate wrapper, hearing the crinkling of the wrapper and feeling the smoothness of the chocolate in our hands, feeling the weight of it resting on our tongue, and feeling the flavor gently flow and increase in richness on our tongues. (This makes me want to eat chocolate right now; if I could, I’d be reaching for my chocolate candy stash.)
It was a very satisfying experience in that everything was heightened. Even the smell was heightened for me! It’s a small but important lesson to learn, to slow down and actually immerse yourself in your surroundings. That minute could ground you, center you, and prepare you for whatever’s coming next.
We also meditated, in that we lay on the ground and, with the help and guidance of Ms. Isaacson, released all the tension in our limbs. I had no idea how much tension I was holding in my shoulders, to be completely honest, but I found out when I released it all. We progressed from the top of our body to the bottom, giving each main body part its own time. The exercise took 15 to 20 minutes, but it felt much longer. One of the participants also fell asleep, and our speaker joked and said that that’s when she knows the meditation she’s leading works.
She sent us off with some tips for better sleeping and managing stress (and cool pictures to color to keep the five-year-old within us happy.) She also mentioned a free Mindfulness Meditation group that meets weekly! Take a look at the pictures/flyers below and see if anything interests you!