Intern Diaries: List Your Way to Peace

September 18, 2012 |  by  |  Blog  |  Share
With beginning of the school year comes the beginning of the struggle for my attention. Gone are the lazy days of summer in which my mind could float along, carefree and light, able to retain even the smallest bit of information with ease. Now, with homework, jobs, volunteering, events, grades, the upcoming election, you name it, it seems that I need to be able to split my mind into 100 different pieces to be able to accommodate all the incoming information, pressures, and emotions. Due to this chaotic frenzy currently occupying my brain, I find I often become overwhelmed with stress or panic and forget to think about one of the most important things in my life. Me.

When I have 150 pages of reading to do, a quiz to study for, several group commitments, and the impending deadline of a paper looming in my mind, I often become a person I don’t like. With copious amounts of stress and extreme concentration blocking my mind, I become quite cranky, sulky, and prone to mean outbursts. This reaction, of course, is perfectly natural and has probably been felt by everyone. However, in an attempt to combat this reaction to stress and remain the person I want to be, I have started writing three new lists.

The idea for the first list actually came from an Intern Diaries posting Denise made a couple weeks ago. In her article, Denise wrote about the benefits of “to-do lists”, with which I am in complete agreement. My list, however, has to do with personal qualities. On this list, which I have tacked up on my wardrobe in plain sight, I have written down all the personal qualities that I always hope to embody, such as compassion, loyalty, honesty, ingenuity, class, etc. Next to each quality, I write real-life applications and examples, either my own or others. This way, when I reach a point of stress so complete even cute, baby animals start to avoid me in fear, I have my personal qualities list ready. No fighting to remember who I want to be, simply taking a moment, a deep breath, and reading the list in an attempt to calm down and regain myself.

If the first list is useful for moments of anger, panic, or stress, this next list is for inspiration. After a while, the impact of constant stress begins to take a toll, not only on your body but on your inner self. You can only write so many essays about Homer and debug so many programs before you begin to question whether it’s all worth it. At times like these, when I’m ready to shove my desk and books straight out the window, I have created The Grand Wishlist: Editions 1, 2, and 3. The Grand Wishlist is a three part list in which I write down the things I would do if I had no time or personal limitations. This isn’t a to-do list in which I write down the mundane, necessary tasks of the day as a reminder to myself. Rather, I write down the things and activities I am truly passionate about, interested in, or want to accomplish.

Edition One deals with the next month. This subsection of the list includes activities I could theoretically do in the next month, such as audition for the Indian dance group on campus, go to the art museum every Saturday, or find an international penpal. Edition Two deals with the next year. The items on this list tend to be more complex, such as successfully founding my own group on campus, get an awesome internship for next summer, or research and make a decision about study abroad. Edition Three is the life edition. In other words, this list contains all things I would like to do in my life, such as learn how to play the piano, become a morning person, become a yoga master, and visits the Philippines. All three editions are also tacked up on my wardrobe and I add new items whenever I think of them. Thus, when needed, I can look at this list and remember that life isn’t all about the tedium of homework and exams; if I truly set my mind to it, there are a lot of amazing things I can and want to accomplish.

The last list isn’t really an organic list, but an app. About a month ago I discovered Gratitude Diary, which is a simple, streamlined little app in which you write down everything that you are grateful for. I absolutely love this app because  is it helpful not only in the short term, but in the long run as well. I have made it part of my daily routine to write down entries in my Gratitude Diary every morning and evening. I only write a few words for each entry so the gratitude remains simple and uncomplicated. If I’m grumpy in the morning or exhausted after a long day, this app helps me center myself and remember all the things I love about my life. In addition, because this app stores every single entry you make, no deleting, you can go back through your list of entries and be reminded of everything for which you’ve been grateful. Because I almost always have my phone with me, if I need to take a moment and look at my Gratitude Diary, it is extremely convenient.

And thus, it is these three new lists that have helped me block out some of the stress and pressures and find a relative peace. I hope, as time goes on, the lists will continue to be effective. I’ll probably do some serious revision, scrap lists entirely, or create new ones, but, for now, I’ve found listing to be incredibly helpful. So, in your next bit of spare time, try making a list. It can be similar to mine or completely different, whatever you need the most. You have nothing to lose, so get listing!

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