Relaxing does not mean turning your brain off

Photo by Casey Gomez

Any one of my friends could tell you that I am not considered one of the most easy-going people around; I love plans. I want to know where we are going, at what time and who is going to be there. I do not forget to turn things in, I do not miss meals, and I am never late. My Google Calendar is a work of art.

However, this somewhat anxious and uptight version of myself melts away whenever I join my fellow members of Tech’s climbing club for a practice or a day trip on the weekend. I am an unrecognizable, go-with-the-flow version of myself. I have been climbing for almost nine years, and to this day nothing brings me out of my own head and relaxes me like climbing does.

There is something about the feeling of being 50 feet in the air, which would certainly bring a great amount of stress to others, that melts mine away. When fresh air hits your lungs and light hits your skin, everything is put into perspective. This is even more true when you have a view that will literally take your breath away.

In fact, the very act of climbing forces me to release the tension in my body. I cannot force myself to continue to move up the wall if all my muscles are contracted — I have to relax. With the release of tension in my muscles, I can feel the worry leave my body.

The biology of relaxing is interesting; study after study shows that giving our brains a break is beneficial for productivity, creativity and attention. Not only does mental downtime produce positive effects, it is absolutely vital for performing at our best.

In fact, some of your brain’s best work happens when take a mental break. Have you ever had a breakthrough or an amazing idea while simply taking a long shower or lounging in the grass, looking at the clouds? Your brain does not stop or slow down when it is not actively engaged in calculus or chemistry. Relaxation is the perfect opportunity for self-reflection, creativity and epiphanies.

Downtime truly comes in different forms for everyone, and luckily Tech provides a plethora of opportunities for it. Between meditation club and GIT classes, dance groups and time in Paper and Clay, students and administration do a good job of providing opportunities to clear your mind. And I think that it is safe to say that none of us would be able to make it through the Tech experience without finding something that allows us to relax and let go, even for a little while.

However, it is up to you. There is no one here to remind you to slow down and take a break. Every student at Tech has to be their own caretaker, which can definitely be a difficult skill to master.

So even if rock climbing might not be the right thing, find something that is. It is up to you to do as well as possible, even if that means occasionally lying in the grass and doing absolutely nothing.