Sydney Scott is a second year undergraduate at Southeastern Louisiana University. She shares practical advice, inspiration, and tips for high school and college students using her unique brand of candor and humor.
Uh oh. The September Scaries have arrived. Unless you have a September birthday, you’re probably ready to skip over this month and get on to October. Ever heard of the Sunday Scaries? Even if you haven't heard of the concept, chances are you’ve felt it. “Sunday Scaries” is the feeling of panic that sets in on a Sunday afternoon/evening when you’re coming to realize Oh no, I have to go back to doing boring stuff tomorrow! Maybe for you, the Sunday Scaries set in when you realize that you’re behind on an assignment that’s due the following week… Nonetheless, it’s a feeling that most of us feel over and over again each week when we find that the weekend has come and gone, and we are faced once again with our weekday tasks.
I like to call September the “Sunday of Summer.” It’s still hot in the South, we’re still sweating, and it still feels like July… but summer is over. In September, we are forced to part with all those things we love about summer break (like sleeping in, or zero group projects!), and come to terms with the back-to-school season. Enter the September Scaries: we’re mourning the loss of summer break, and adjusting back to being in school.
While transitioning into my new schedule, I often find myself looking forward, eager to skip September. I’m ready to move into the cooler months, when summer will be long-forgotten and my routine is all settled. I know I’m not alone! As someone who looks to the future all the time (you guys should see my Google Calendar), it’s a challenge to remain mindful. Instead of spending this September waiting for October, I am challenging myself (and you!) to be present in the “now.”
Here’s why it matters:
“Why do we need to be present?” “...and what’s the matter with looking forward to the future?” are questions I find myself returning to over and over again when thinking about mindfulness. There’s really nothing intrinsically wrong with looking to the future. In fact, I think it’s a great mechanism for getting motivated to achieve some goals. It’s important to understand, though, that getting *too* ahead of ourselves can hinder the current things we have going on in our lives. When we lose mindfulness, we lose a lot of concentration and understanding of “the process,” which prevents us from enjoying the present. Have you ever looked forward all November and December to the holiday break, just for December 25th or January 1 to show up and turn out to be, well...not the exact magic you thought it’d be? That’s because the fun of the holiday season is in the build-up: buying presents for friends, going to parties, spending time with family, decorating… it’s all part of a process. When we forgo mindfulness, we’re forgetting that it’s important to find enjoyment in the present moment.
Let’s get real. Okay, you say, but there’s no enjoyment in my Accounting 201 class. Ditto. Mindfulness may not mean glitter and sparkles all the time, but it can help you in school, work, and your life outside of school.
Let’s take a look:
Being present in your classes now will help you later on. Information Systems 210 is basically statistics, and guess what: I can’t stand statistics! I could skim by my Information Systems class with little studying and pass… but what happens when I get to Information Systems 230? Or 430? The further I progress in college, the more my classes will continue to build from each other, so lacking presence (both physically and mentally) in the lower-level classes is just setting myself up for a struggle later on.
Being present in your grades NOW will save you down the road. I learned this one the hard way. I spent my Spring 2019 semester so concerned with the classes I planned to enroll in over the summer, that I ended up hurting my spring GPA and almost lost a scholarship. Admittedly, I had a class (hello, Statistics 240!) that caused the greatest impact on my GPA. However, there were a couple of classes that, had I focused on them more, would have ended up rescuing my GPA. Like I said, I tend to get caught up in the future, and can forget something as simple as studying for a 10-point quiz. Having mindfulness habits concerning grades can help us obtain those few extra points we may end up needing in the end. Plus, being mindful can help you perform better on tests, which is a win-win in my book. Point being: yes, your grades matter as a whole, but it’s necessary to remember that each single semester counts, too.
Being mindful at your job means more fulfillment in your work. My freshman year, one of my professors tried to highlight the importance of goal setting to a lecture hall of tired and bored teenagers. She asked, “Are you working at the same job you want to work at ten years from now?” Obviously, everyone shook their head, I assume mostly in horror of the thought of continuing to make minimum wage for the next 10 years at jobs that aren’t thrilling. That professor’s response to everyone’s vehement disdain for the idea of being stuck at their current job was this: “Well, if you ever want to get a better job, you better start learning from the one you have now!” Fireworks didn’t go off in my brain at the time, but they are now, looking back on it.
If you’re a student, chances are, you aren’t working at what you’d call a dream job. You’ve probably had at least one job that has made you wish time would move a little faster so that you can get on with your career already. I totally get that. Again, I’m the “big picture” person right here who gets easily caught up thinking about my future.
I’ll save you a lot of time and tell you what I’ve discovered: having a vision is great, but it means nothing if we don’t possess mindfulness. Having a job that we don’t absolutely love (or if you’re in the service/food industry, having a job that makes you question your faith in humanity) can become more palatable when we remind ourselves that what we are currently doing is teaching us skills for the future. Yes, even jobs like dishwashing or waiting tables can teach us something. These seemingly menial tasks are teaching us to pay attention to detail and building people-skills, while showing us the reality that not everything we do at our jobs will always be fun. Even artists have to sit down and file their taxes at some point. I guarantee you that being mindful and accepting that the job you have now as an important step in your career journey will make you like what you do more, no matter what your job is.
Possessing mindfulness in your self-esteem will contribute to future growth. We all love a good makeover. Remember that show “What Not to Wear?” The hosts would take someone who dressed just downright awful and transform their wardrobe and hair, and seemingly that person’s outlook on life, too. While it’s a great show to watch if you’re bored at 2 AM and can’t fall asleep, your life is not like that show. You cannot go through a simple one-off “makeover” and come out a changed person. We may hope to look, dress, or feel different in the future, but at the end of the day, if we cannot be present in accepting ourselves now, we have no chance at accepting a future version of ourselves! Being mindful about the way we think in regards to ourselves makes us happier and contributes to future growth!
Got it. So how do I go about being mindful? Good question! The most efficient mechanisms for staying mindful and grounded may vary from person to person. Here are some things I have found that help me (and those close to me) accept and affirm the present:
Meditation has been my biggest help in remaining mindful. I try to meditate at least 10 minutes a day, and it really helps keep me present. Don’t know where to start? Try here.
Think you don’t have time for meditation or mindfulness exercises? Here’s something small that always helps me in moments where I could use some mindfulness: square breathing. Huh? It’s just a way of deep-breathing that takes just a few seconds but can really help you in the day-to-day. Read more about it here.
Let it out! Got something on your mind that’s preventing mindfulness? Let it out by way of journaling, venting to a friend, exercising, or seeking a professional. Verbalizing our feelings always helps. Hint: if you’re a university student, you have access to free therapy via your university’s health center.
To sum up: Practicing mindfulness as a student has so much to offer both our current and future selves. Being present in the moment helps us be the best version of ourselves that we can be, which in turn serves us in the long run. As students, it can be hard to not focus or worry too much about the future. We must continue to remind ourselves that we are exactly where we are supposed to be, and that the person we are right now is exactly who we need to be in this moment. The September Scaries aren’t so bad when we enjoy the little moments in our days. Be present, but most importantly, be you!