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Nonprescription anti-anxiety column

Daniel Cucher
By Daniel Cucher
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday Apr. 25, 2002

Next week, we begin finals. As everyone scrambles to prepare for exams and write term papers, I'd like to share some techniques for alleviating stress.

Relaxing while knee-deep in your work is as important as the work itself. The goal of these techniques is to remove from you the weight of your studies and to relieve the paralysis of having so much to do.

One of the best ways to get away from stressful studying is to literally get away from it for a while. Tucson has more natural beauty than you can experience in the confines of a library cubicle or your bedroom. Leave the books behind, physically and mentally, and go somewhere pretty. Sunset at Gates Pass is a popular place to get away, but you can wander off in almost any direction from the heart of Tucson and find aesthetic bliss. Spend an hour or two there and let your mind wander. Or don't think at all. Just look around. But before you go, set out your primary task, and know that when you return, you will focus on it.

If you don't have time to get away for a while, get away mentally. A year ago I was in the library, trying to study for an exam, when my mind began to wander. I looked around and saw another student sitting at a table with books spread out before him. He was sitting in the Lotus position with his eyes closed, breathing gently. He held the position for about 10 minutes and then seamlessly returned to his work.

I didn't cross my legs as he did, but I found a comfortable position in my chair and closed my eyes for five minutes or so. When I opened my eyes, I found myself clear-headed and ready to resume my studies. There is no right way to meditate. Just take a few minutes and do whatever puts your mind at ease.

One of my favorite forms of meditation is physical activity. Getting out to shoot hoops, swimming, biking, walking, running, hiking, or rolling around in dead Tucson grass for an hour stimulates your brain to pump chemicals you need to study. Every so often, take breaks between tasks and dance around your living room. It shakes up your brain and keeps stagnant chemicals from accumulating at the bottom. Not technically, of course, but that's how it feels.

Finally, I suggest that you study some (but not all) subjects with your friends. Even if you're not studying the same thing, it's good to be around people; humans are social critters. And when you take a break, you can take turns leading one another through the following visualization. Close your eyes and have someone read this to you, slowly, in a calm, soothing voice:

Take in a deep breath and hold it. Let it out. Breathe in breathe out. In out. In continue steadily and focus on your breathing.

You are a blueberry, floating in the gelatinous ether of God's Jell-O. You sway in unison with everything around you; the Jell-O continuing on for as far as your blueberry eyes can see, without end, infinite, whatever translucent color you desire.

There is a subtle, deep vibration radiating throughout the Jell-O and you feel it, not on your surface, but from deep within. You hum with each exhalation and resonate with the vibration.

From infinitely far away, you see another blueberry moving closer. The tiny blue dot grows, sliding smoothly toward you, leaving no trail. It glides beneath you, almost touching, and gravity pulls you toward each other. You feel it humming as it passes by and disappears in the distance. Breathe in deeply hold it breathe out.

Another tiny dot swims toward you. As it comes closer, you see it is another blueberry, much larger than yourself, 20 times your size. It moves closer and begins circling you. As it orbits, you begin to gradually rotate in unison. It spirals gradually toward to you, until you are almost touching, spinning around each other, making swirls in Jell-O.

The spinning slows and you feel yourself pressing against the blueberry's smooth skin. As two blobs of melted wax converge in a lava lamp, so do you with the other blueberry. It engulfs you and you engulf it. You become one liquid blueberry, floating in Jell-O, resonating with a deep hum.

You look around and see other blueberries all around you, some close, some in the distance, of all difference sizes. Colliding, spiraling around each other, floating by. Breathe in breathe out.

You are a blueberry floating in Jell-O.

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