When I arrived at college two years ago anticipating the people I would meet, the skills I would grow, and the faith I would build, I never imagined these formative years of my life would coincide with a pandemic. COVID-19 has affected whom I interact with on a daily basis, tested my faith, and challenged my flexibility when it comes to new ways of learning (I’m looking at you, Zoom). It has shifted nearly every aspect of my student life and resulted in a school year that is far from anything I ever imagined. So what’s a student to do?
Find what fills you. Taking intentional time away from studies is always healthy, but it’s especially needed now. It’s easy to fall into the mindset of feeling the need to work or study all the time when my day isn’t filled with the same in-person activities, clubs, or social events as last year. But when we tune out the daily stresses, even for a brief moment, we’re better able to tune into interior needs. The most effective approach for me has been taking daily walks on campus — because if there’s one thing the pandemic hasn’t changed, it’s the beauty that the natural world has to offer.
Walking brings peace by grounding us in the present.
John Muir said, “In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks,” and I can attest to the truth in this. I leave for a walk seeking release — from schoolwork, social anxieties, general stress — but I return from my walk having been filled with beauty. I seek release, but instead I am filled with the beautiful particulars of the world around me, which grounds me through the rest of my day or the evening hours I spend studying.
Sometimes I stop for a minute or two on my walks to sit and admire the beauty around me. Perhaps you enjoy sitting beneath the trees, watching the light seep through the veiny leaves, or simply checking on a blooming flower or growing vine on the sidewalk near your home. We often think of beauty as computer desktop background sunsets, snowy mountains, and perfectly blooming flowers, but beauty is everywhere if you take the time to look for it. It’s easy to overlook the beauty present in our daily lives. My regular walks have helped me rediscover and appreciate the here-and-now, and Muir was right — what I receive always ends up far more beautiful than what I was seeking.
Walking is a reliable habit during times of change.
When my campus shut down a few weeks ago due to an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases, these daily walks helped me stay positive. They became a habit — a staple in my day as a college student. Except when it’s pouring down rain, you can pretty much go for a walk at any time, anywhere. You don’t have to be dressed for your workout or even in your sneakers to go for a walk. You truly can walk as you are. This accessibility of taking a daily walk sets it up as an easy habit to adopt, and you can always start with small increments of time.
Walking is an activity that we can carry with us for the rest of our lives.
At the start of the semester, I had a professor who encouraged us all to use this challenging time to develop skills that would carry us through future trying times. Rather than focusing on what we’re missing out on, this mentality forced us to think about what we can gain by living through an unprecedented time. For me, taking walks as a form of stress relief and as a means of soul-growth is a skill I plan to carry in my life toolbox long past these college years. In my post-collegiate life, I might enjoy taking short walks during my lunch break, or after a long day cooped up in an office.
Intentionally fill your cup.
Developing a seemingly small habit, like a short, 15-minute walk every day was not an area of growth I had anticipated when I stepped foot on campus. But learning during this pandemic has forced me to realize that growth doesn’t just happen in the classroom. And while classes and schoolwork may still fill my time, I need more to fill my cup. If anything, I can appreciate that this time has taught me to fill myself with the natural goodness around me so that I can pour out goodness into my relationships and communities.
In a time when our lives are seemingly attached to our phones and computers, find time to fill your soul with the beauty around you. Your mind, your body, and your soul will thank you — I promise.