by Andrew Craig
“I’m done. I don’t want to deal with this anymore. I want to just walk away from this work, stress, person, class, situation…” It goes on and on. There seem to be so many things that everyone I know, including myself, want to walk away from. There are countless stresses and anxieties that, after years of being in school, we do not want to put up with any more. It seems to be a cyclical rut that, when we realize all of the stressors, we become even more stressed and feel paralyzed. “What should I do about this paper, exam, friend, etc? What can I do? Why is this all so terrible?” These are just a few of the questions that run through our minds. When I saw a poster for a lecture on “Resiliency and Relaxation: Managing Stress as Students,” I pounced at the opportunity to discuss such issues.
The speaker, Rana Chudnofsky, currently works at Massachusetts General Hospital and uses various practices with her clients for overcoming life transitions, anxieties, and stresses. As I sat listening to her discuss the importance of self-care, a number of topics arose: sleep, a healthy diet, exercise, and prayer or meditation. The last topics were of most interest to me, and I was reminded of a number of my Lynch School classes that focused on the idea of resiliency. Resiliency is a person’s ability to overcome significant struggles and obstacles in life, such as anxiety, depression, or a loss in the family. After four years of studying education, resiliency has always interested me most of all. And as Rana Chudnofsky discussed, a central component of being resilient is perspective. A person’s perspective has the power to change one’s outlook on one’s life.
How do perspective and prayer help a person? As Chudnofsky mentioned, when you enter into a meditative or prayerful state, your heart rate slows, which allows your body and your mind to relax. This allows clearer thoughts and release of tension. This mindful state combined with the ability of prayer to reorient one’s perspective can have powerful effects. As Catholic News Agency reported, Pope Francis once spoke to the Spanish football club, Villarreal CF, and discussed the importance of gratitude. Prayer offers us this perspective of gratitude, to be thankful for one’s life, one’s family, friends, food, shelter, gifts, and talents.
With this, I start to think, “Yes, I am busy, and yes, many of these parts of my life are stressful, but how blessed am I to have the family, friends, and mentors I do, as well as the food, shelter, and education I do?” And these stresses help me to appreciate relaxing moments all the more. In addition, as Pope Francis mentions, when we enter into a state of gratitude, we remind ourselves that we are part of something greater than ourselves. Our lives are intertwined with the people and communities that have allowed us to be the people we are today. We are not in this life alone. We are part of something much greater, and that is all of God’s Creation on this Earth. Pope Francis ended by stating how he loves the goalkeeper in football, because he must react to and catch the ball from anywhere it comes, “And life is like that,” he said.
Graduation nears for the senior class, and as I sit and prepare for my last finals of undergrad, Rana Chudnofsky and Pope Francis’ words calm me. They give a reminder of not only the importance of perspective, but also specifically the perspective of gratitude. In a constantly changing world, gratitude returns us to a state of community and peace, reminding me that we are here because of the gifts of others and God. No matter what we face, we face it with the life, blessings, and communities that God has given us, each and every day.