Lemony Fresh

Working hard to reduce stress

Illustration by Bob AulI'm a college student! WOOOO!!!

Check it out: on a typical party day, I'm up at 6 a.m., getting ready for school—makeup, a quick breakfast if I have the time—and then I rush to my car to sit an hour in traffic to reach my 8 a.m. class.

Woooo!

Then it's a 15-minute jog to the next one, a break for a bite, catch up on homework, a few more classes, work on a group project or two, more homework, go to my last class—three hours long!—rush across the street for forensics practice, then home for dinner, study, plan for the next day, and end up in bed around 2 a.m., though I can't be sure what time it is because I usually just kind of pass out without checking the clock.

Woooo.

Keep in mind this is a typical day. Sometimes things get crazy. Those would be the days when I intern at OC Weekly or the city of Brea. And then there's trying to make time for the family, keeping in touch with friends, spending time with my boyfriend, making time to play basketball (the only time I do see my friends), and maybe go to a party or two once in a while.

woooo.

My friends say I'm a workaholic. I say I'm a typical student (I know of a woman who goes to school full-time, has three jobs and an internship and a boyfriend. Boys.) Still, I admit that the only thing keeping me sane is basketball and my stress-management class.

People usually think it's weird that I'm taking stress management, but not the fine folks at Cal State Fullerton. They've apparently seen enough strung-out students to not only offer the class but also make it a general education requirement.

Now if the term stress management conjures images of scented candles and Kenny G. . . .

"If you don't like the class and this shit isn't for you, drop the class!If you think this is boring, look in the mirror and see who's boring! If you think you have it together, you're all wrong! No one in this world has it together; everyone's screwed-up! It's all in the matter of how you handle it."

That would be Professor Ken Ravizza, who runs the class with a mixture of the profound ("You have to understand, not agree") and practical ("Back pain is a major problem, especially among males"). He says one of the ways to calm down is to speak up. "Say what you think and need," he says. "If you can't hear a person, just yell out, 'I give a shit! Speak up!'"

On the first day, he made us do meditation. Everyone seemed to take to it well; it may have been his teaching abilities or because it was 10 in the morning. He told us to keep a journal and make collages of our "stressors," a nice term for things that really piss us off. (Note to self: cut out pictures of smokers, money, boys.)

Need time to play? Ravizza says plan, don't procrastinate, and take things five minutes at a time. Which may explain why the first day in class he assigned us the task of going home and staring at a lemon for five minutes.

I did, cross-legged on my bed. After a few minutes, I started noticing things, things that weren't the lemon: mushrooms, animal shapes, dinner rolls. I finally looked up at the clock and found I'd been looking for 10 minutes. It was strange. I was so focused on the fruit it relaxed my mind, and my worries went away.

The next day, Ravizza asked, "When was the last time you actually got to spend five minutes by yourself without distractions?"I was contemplating the answer when he added, "Now write a 1,000-word essay."

 
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