Collapse

Grace Brang

Blurb: In my most recent yoga class, we discussed the importance of not collapsing out of poses, but rather getting out of them with the same intention we had going into them. I found this to be extremely applicable in life. We shouldn’t push ourselves to the point that we have no control over the situation and have to “collapse” out of it. But what happens when we are past the point of deliberate exit? What happens when we are in too deep?

 

College is overwhelming. There is an overwhelming amount of student groups and organizations to join, homework to complete, tuition to pay, networking opportunities to seize, social obligations to fulfill, the list goes on. Oftentimes, the stress of college students is minimized by “real adults” when they say things like, “Just enjoy these years, they’ll be the best of your life,” or “Wait until you get into the real world, you’ll wish you were back in college!” Really? You really want to give up your cushy job and beautiful home to be living with less than $10 in your bank account at any given time, accruing thousands of dollars in debt every year, and sharing a room in a creaky, old house with fifteen other people? Everyone’s college experience is markedly different, but for a lot of people college can be, above all, stressful. While I am fortunate to have had unforgettable experiences and have genuinely cherished my time in college thus far, I look around and see people who are absolutely drained, seemingly miserable, and running on empty literally all of the time. Why? While I cannot speak on others’ behalves, I know I took on too much in college because I felt the need to take advantage of absolutely every opportunity that was available to me. So I did, and I collapsed. And it seems like lots of other people are collapsing, too.

 

I have had the pleasure of meeting the most inspiring individuals in college, along with the hardest working and most dedicated. Unfortunately for some of these people who are involved with a million and one things, all of a sudden, everything comes crashing down. These inspiring, hard working, dedicated humans are then belittled and criticized for letting people down, not knowing how much they can handle, and needing to toughen up so that they can handle this supposed “real world” that college students are somehow not part of. However, the people who falter and collapse under the enormous pressure of school are not people to shake our heads at - they are most often the people who are going to contribute so much to the world, and be able to know how best to do that.

 

Since my original comparison to collapsing in life was collapsing in yoga, let me first explain how that happens. One of the objectives in yoga practices is to move, breathe, and thereby live with intention. The yoga instructor is there to suggest poses, but it is up to the yogis to decide whether or not to move into them, and the mindful entrance into poses is important. What yogis sometimes forget, though, is that it is equally as important to exit poses with the same intention they had when they entered. This is harder than it seems, because it is when the poses become difficult, intense, and uncomfortable that the yogis experience mind and body transformation. So how do you differentiate between a beneficial intensity and impending collapse? Control. When you no longer have control over your mind or body, gravity takes over and fatigued muscles allow for collapse. At that point, you are letting outside factors completely take over your body and potentially cause you serious injury.

 

This yogic concept has direct correlations to life. I believe that we should approach new opportunities with intention rather than mindlessly going through the motions of life and doing things out of pure obligation or guilt. Once we intentionally involve ourselves in activities, perhaps managing school and a job on top of it all, the transformation begins: leadership opportunities mold us, school disciplines us, work gives us valuable experience. Notice that none of these things we involve ourselves with are necessarily easy. Life can be hard and stressful while still being beneficial and rewarding, as long as we are still in control. However, once the intensity gets to be too high, this is where the problems begin.

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It’s easy to see how it happens: you supplement your work and class schedules with club after club to network, make friends, and do something you love. Suddenly the weekly meetings are taking up study time, midterms season approaches, and your life gradually morphs into one big game of “whack-a-mole,” while the mole holes increase and you are still just one person trying to tackle every single thing that keeps popping up in your life. If the chaos continues and intensifies, you collapse. You stop being active in your extracurricular activites, you give up your shifts at work, you do not attend class lectures and justify it by telling yourself you learn better by teaching yourself the material. Before you know it, you’ve removed everything from your life that you possibly can, and you are still overwhelmed.

 

It is important to recognize that collapsing does not signify defeat. You can recover from a collapse, even though you may have suffered some injuries. In some cases if the injuries were severe enough, you may write off juggling school, work, and extracurricular activities for the rest of your college career. In other cases, you are stronger after the collapse, and it changed your life for the better. Now you know how much is too much. Now you know how much of yourself you can give before you are no longer able to be yourself. Now you know at what point your involvement shifts from personal development to personal detriment.

 

But what happens if we are past the point of deliberate exit? In yoga, modify the position. For example, if you’re holding high plank for what feels like forever, come down onto your knees. How do you modify your life to the situation without collapsing out of it? If possible, try to compromise. Are your grades stressing you out? See if it’s possible to take the class pass/fail instead of on the A-F scale. Are you working too many hours? Talk with your boss about reducing your weekly hours. Are you unable to fulfill all of the obligations for your student groups and organizations? Perhaps you can attend every other meeting, or one meeting per month. Is an overly active social life the culprit? Your true friends will understand if you cannot go out every weekend (and if you’re over 21, your liver will probably thank you, too). It is possible to cut back without completing cutting out, and it’s possible to collapse and rise again.