“I’m going to tell you a secret about everyone else’s job: no one knows what they’re doing. Deep down everyone is just faking it until they figure it out. And you will too, because you are awesome and everyone else sucks.” – April Ludgate, Parks and Recreation
I graduated from college from the bedroom of my tiny student housing apartment in San Marcos — five months into the COVID-19 pandemic, but already having had to completely transform my way of living and thinking.
It was a less than ideal situation, but in hindsight, one of the most comforting things that I’ve been able to reconcile with about this confusing period of time was that it wasn’t just me. While I think there have been attempts to downplay what we, as a society, collectively experienced, I know I’ve seen firsthand how it shifted our priorities on ourselves and our communities. Silver linings, they say.
As the days turned into weeks turned into months turned into years, I still find myself working to practice some of the things that I took with me from this time, like mindfulness. Even as I write it I can’t help but think it sounds like a buzzword — what does “being mindful” actually mean? But it’s an important concept and something that bears repeating over and over. And, as it turns out, a lot of it is just making it up as you go.
Simply put, mindfulness is being present and aware of your own thoughts, feelings and environment, and it doesn’t mean you have to meditate or do yoga to get there. Start easy: make it a habit to slow down and truly check-in with yourself. I’ve found that being honest but gentle with myself always makes this part easier and helps center my thoughts as I become more in-tune with my feelings and surroundings. Ask yourself questions — how did that really make me feel? What was my intention? Don’t be afraid to screw up or have bad days.
Having a solid support group doesn’t hurt, either. Part of my support group is my best friend and roommate who is a social worker. He’s currently practicing his own form of mindfulness and self care: taking a gap year (or two) from his field. Long days, an intense workload and having to maintain his own mental health to be able to help people in some of the worst situations of their lives top his list of reasons for needing to take a breather.
So, who better to ask how to implement being more mindful into your life than him? His advice is to identify and adjust to what you have on your plate, communicate with your team (whether that’s friends, family or coworkers), allow yourself to take breaks, leave work at work and make sure you’re decompressing by doing things that bring you joy.
I understand that all this is easier said than done. There’s a myriad of mental, physical, social and fiscal barriers that can get in the way of this. Besides, like April said, deep down we’re all just faking it until we make it. But if you think you might have the ability to help cultivate a culture of mindfulness — one where we place an emphasis on inner peace, self love and our wellbeing — why not try and start now?
And, in the famed words of RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”
Anderson is a reporter for the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch. She can be reached at email@example.com if you have questions, comments or story ideas.