Just Breathe

Brieanna Smith, Fall 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

Last summer, in celebration of finishing finals, my cousins and I decided to go to a concert at Lakewood Amphitheater. I was so excited to see one of my favorite artists, and spend time with my family. As the night went on, I started to get really hot. At first it was tolerable, until I started to get dizzy. I decided to go and get some water from a concession stand. As soon as I bought the water, everything went dark. A kind stranger next to me grabbed my arm just in time before I hit the ground too hard.

I panicked because I had never felt this way before. My heart was racing, and my breathing was out of control. One of my cousins helped me sit down in the grass and grabbed my hand and told me to just breathe. I did not know at the time, but I was experiencing a panic attack. The stress of three weeks of finals had taken a toll on me. My body was trying to get my attention. I had formed extremely bad habits of not eating enough or drinking enough water on top of minimal sleep. My body was exhausted, but my mind had not been listening. My cousin was eventually able to calm me down by telling me to just take deep breaths. “Just breathe,” she told me.

At some point in our lives, we all experience some form of stress. Whether it is right before a job interview, dealing with family issues, illness, a major loss, or simply trying to balance all that life throws at you. As I have been learning to deal with the stress in my life, there are some interesting things that I learned about stress and how to manage it.

First, not all stress is necessarily bad. It can motivate us to perform well or save us in a moment of danger. So, feeling the adrenaline rush right before a test or before making a presentation is not necessarily a bad thing.

Second, large amounts of stress over long periods of time can be harmful to our bodies. I learned this first hand from my own experiences. Although law school is stressful, I had also had too many things on my plate that I was trying to balance. Sometimes just taking a moment to prioritize and plan ahead can reduce the amount of stress related to trying to juggle all one’s responsibilities.

Third, a good way to manage stress is identifying those bad habits or relationships that may be causing unnecessary stress, and eliminate them altogether. This is easier said than done and may not happen overnight, but that is okay.

Finally, just breathe! Sometimes just taking moments out of the day for yourself to meditate, exercise, or engage in another relaxing activity or hobby can really help relieve stress. I enjoy walking outside and taking pictures, journaling, and meditating. Sometimes doing small things that make you happy can help create a healthy balance in your life.

So regardless of if it’s our families, jobs, schools, or other factors that may become stressful, just remember to stay positive, try to take time for yourself, and just breathe!