‘Empty’ Time

My Dad is currently in India on a work trip. When he calls me to check-in, he often asks “What are you doing? What are you up to?”

My go-to reply, with actually anyone who asks a similar question, is “Nothing.”

However, I’m never actually doing ‘nothing’ because doing ‘nothing’ starkly goes against the American Dream: the idea that one must keep hustling in order to achieve their goals and dreams. Doing ‘nothing’ is also terrifying because then that means all the thoughts that I’ve locked away can come back – with full force. Thinking about those thoughts is emotionally draining, so the best solution would be to just go-go-go.

Once you’ve been go-go-go-ing for quite some time, you start to notice how depleted and overloaded you feel. Many define this as ‘burnout.’ A lot of people (and information on the Internet) claim that the cure to burnout is to do things that bring joy. The thing is, though, many people actively schedule those joyful things into their day-to-day lives. The act of scheduling joy may be helpful for some, but I found that it was actually more detrimental for me.

“According to the Western perspective, filling every moment with “value added” activities is a sign of virtue and significance….The archetype of the virtuously over-busy person is so ingrained in our societal mind-set that it takes strong language to knock it loose.” – Martha Beck

When I schedule joy, I start to look at joy as a task that I need to check off. For example, let’s say I schedule “write a blog post at 2:00pm.” Writing and posting on this site is one of my creative passions that brings me lots of joy. However, it only brings me joy when it’s not a structured part of my life. Therefore, when I try to structure this passion of mine into my day-to-day To-Do list, I found that I actually begin to not like writing as much as I used to.

The key to prevent such backward healing is to schedule ’empty time.’

“Empty time is a powerful medicine that can make us more joyful and resilient, but it’s strangely hard to swallow.” – Martha Beck

Schedule ’empty time’ into your calendars. Do not title that block of time with anything – just write ’empty time.’ When you reach that period of time, then decide what you want to do. Do you want to just sit on your ass and stare at the walls? Do you want to journal all your crippling thoughts? Do you want to go out for lunch with your best friend? Do you want to go downstairs and chat with your family? Decide what to do in that moment. Lean in to the things that feel like home. For someone who likes to be in control and plans everything well in advance, this idea of being spontaneous during her ’empty time’ is an uncomfortable, but refreshing feeling.

Martha Beck does an incredible job of conveying the importance of having empty time here.

A New Anxious Discovery

Every time I sit down to begin a project, MCAT practice, or even to write an exam, I begin excessively yawning. In the moment, I used to wonder why I was suddenly overcome with fatigue when I’m actually shitting myself and extremely nervous to complete whatever task I’m about to begin. Yesterday, I was fine all morning and then the excessive yawning began again when I tried to an MCAT practice passage. Curious to see if yawning was somehow related to anxiety, I swiftly googled it. To my surprise, yawning can be a result of nervousness, stress, and anxiety (Wired).

This behavior of excessive yawning is common to almost all of us living beings (i.e. reptiles, animals, humans, fish). According to the article Big Question: Why Do I Yawn When I’m Nervous or Stressed?, researchers found many studies that link yawning to stress. They believe that our hypothalamus, a part of the brain that maintain’s our body’s homeostasis, triggers the behavior of yawning during such stressful situations.

“In one study, male Siamese fighting fish were observed yawning multiple times during different aggressive encounters with one another. Similarly, numerous studies have shown that macaques will yawn in response to various male threats, bouts of sexual jealousy, and anxiety. In a recent study published in Neuroscience Letters, Japanese researchers used classic fear conditioning to successfully induce yawning in rats.” – Wired

One specific reason for this behavior that I found particularly interesting is that yawning can act as a mechanism to maintain our body’s temperature. Under stressful or anxiety provoking situations, we tend to sweat more because of our rising body temperature. Therefore, yawning helps to combat this temperature increase by keeping “the brain at its optimal 98.6 degree temperature.”

“In a 2010 study on the impact of yawning on brain temperature, Gallup implanted probes in the brains of rats and found that even a rise in temperature of 0.18 degrees Fahrenheit triggered yawning. He also found that the skull temperature fell immediately after the rats finished their yawns—sometimes by as much as 0.7 degrees.” – Wired

The next time you catch yourself excessively yawning, instead of reaching for another cup of coffee (like I naively used to do), just check in with your body and note any signs of stress, anxiety, or nervousness.

Dear Diary

It’s currently 9:06am. I just finished a sweaty workout and am sitting on my Yoga mat with my gross hair in a bun, listening to Too Young to Burn and simply just vibing.

It’s been a hell of a couple weeks ya’ll. I feel like I’ve been getting whipped by a belt for the past month with the amount of stuff that I had to do academically, socially, even emotionally.

Today was different though.

My alarm went off at 6:00am. I physically just was not in a position to wake up, so my alarm went off again at 6:15am. Could not get up again. Alarm went off at 6:30am. I was awake. At least I thought I was. But then I check my phone again and it’s 7:11am.

I had a moment of panic, but then I smiled. I smiled at the fact that I gave myself enough grace to just sleep. I haven’t done that in a while. It felt good to just give myself unconditional love and permission to rest. I gradually got up at 7:30am, did my morning routine, got my cup of coffee, and submitted an assignment.

And then I finally got a workout in. I forced myself to stop working and just sweat it out. I am immensely grateful that I listened to myself because I just feel so freaking rejuvenated right now. It may also have to do with the fact that I was listening to Dr. Santos’s podcast while working out. The episode on Guilt made me feel incredibly validated. Listening to something that brought joy to my soul while simultaneously sweating my ass off with Kayla Itsines’s workout ultimately made my morning so freaking amazing.

I’m happy. I’m glad I got some endorphins out. I’m elated that I was kind to myself this morning. Just a reminder for all of you to also do the same. It’s a nice feeling 🙂

Dear Diary….

You are okay. You are overwhelmed, but you are okay.

Your monotonous routine was suddenly bombarded by other factors and that has been the biggest source of anxiety for you. You have been unable to wake up at the dusk of dawn like you usually do. Your ability to work for hours on end has significantly decreased. You’re reverting back to the mindset of thinking that you are “falling behind.” It’s all of this and more that is scaring the living daylights out of you. You are okay.

Let me be your guiding light 💡

Rigid routines are just as anxiety provoking as not having a routine at all. Striking that balance is essential. You don’t regret any of your decisions when you prioritized your health and happiness. And if you do, you shouldn’t. Health and happiness should be strived for. They should never be second priority. It’s uncomfortable for you because you’re not used to it. But here you are, letting yourself try new things and feeling new feelings in 2022. Though you are now silently cursing yourself out for allowing so much work to pile up, remind yourself that this – “this” meaning the present moment – is a tiny tiny tiny drop in the vast ocean that is your life. Everything is so temporary. You are okay.

Let me also remind you that there is no such thing as “falling behind.” There are no ‘start’ and ‘finish’ lines in life. It’s just a wiggly and curvy path that only comes to an end when our biological selves decide to shut down. Up until that point, your only job is to navigate through that path at your own time and pace – free of comparison and full of an extreme amount of self-compassion.

Rooting for you always.

Dear Diary…

Yesterday I woke up at 6:30am to finish my winter course work. I wanted to get a head start on the day, so that I could start next week’s work too because I knew I’d be busy with extracurriculars in the days to come.

I finished the day’s work by 10:00am, worked out, ate lunch, and then dropped my brother off at his Robotics class. While waiting in Starbucks to pick him up, I opened my laptop again hoping to start next week’s work. Sadly, my professor had locked that work until the next week :/

I spent the next two hours racking my brain, trying to figure out what other work I had to finish before picking up my brother. I felt my anxiety skyrocket because I had planned to get ahead, “be productive,” and not “waste” the two hours I had.

I went home thinking that I’d work on other things because it’s not okay for me to not be working right? Bullshit. I realized it was moments like these that I wanted to fix in 2022. I wanted to learn how to allow myself to be free and learn to not let work and productivity overtake me.

It’s okay to relax. Breaks are not meant only for the times when we work our butts off. Breaks are also meant for the days we do absolutely nothing. Relaxing, breathing, and living in the moment can happen at any time, and we should make space in our lives to have those moments, guilt-free.

In the episode linked above, Glennon, Abby, and Amanda talk about how having an insanely rigid routine can oftentimes create more harm than good. “Self-love” does not mean we HAVE to always meditate every single day, do yoga every single day, or finish an X amount of work every single day. Sometimes the best thing we can do on our “self-love” journey is to give ourselves the freedom to listen to what we truly need on that given day.

Falling Off Track in College

Back home I was super disciplined and lowkey had my life figured out. My mornings were something that I took immense pleasure in because they were structured and gave me clarity. I enjoyed waking up to the loud chirping of the birds and the beam of sunlight on my forehead that escaped between the curtains. I adored the moments leading up to drinking my morning cup of coffee as I got ready to journal, meditate, and workout.

Now, as a full-time college student, my mornings have been anything but structured. I really did try to maintain them the first week of college: I woke up at 5:00am every day, got a meditation and a workout in, didn’t skip breakfast – I was doing great at being an adult. However, starting from the second week of college, I just completely lost my structured morning routines – no longer sleeping enough, working out, eating. This has to do with the fact that I am now staying up WAY later than I’m used to because college is not just about academics. It’s also about our social lives and unfortunately for me, social interactions tend to be a lot more fun only post 10:00pm 😉.

I now wake up feeling burnt tf out – not just because I sleep later, but because college is so much work ya’ll. We have to study hard, make our own food, be social creatures, attend club meetings, keep up with extracurriculars, talk to our families, take care of ourselves physically AND mentally. It’s exhausting.

I catch myself feeling so freaking guilty and anxious when I have to skip meditating or working out because time does not allow for it or because my body is just so tired. I started hating on myself for failing to take care of myself. Meditation and exercise were my sources of therapy every day. It was during these allotted periods of time that I could let go of the world and just tap into myself. Therefore, no longer having those moments to myself is anxiety-provoking.

To cope with these newfound emotions due to the sudden change of routine and lifestyle I had to constantly remind myself of the following:

  1. Not everything can be planned for. Life is unpredictable and I cannot control every single situation.
  2. Sleep is just as important as meditation/exercise, so it’s okay if I skip a day or two if that means I get some extra hours of sleep in.
  3. I do not work out to look a certain way. I work out because of the way it makes me feel – internally. Don’t get caught up in this superficial BS that most college students are hung up on.
  4. The days I stayed up late to go party or meet up with people are filled with good memories! So don’t feel guilty for wanting to make the most of college and create amazing memories.

For any of you folks who may also be feeling something similar, just know that we’ll get through it. We’ll reflect back on our undergrad years and think “Damn, we squeezed the living life out of every opportunity that came our way and we worked our butts off, and we also had an immense amount of fun while doing so.”

Reflecting on My First Week of College

It has been nearly a week since college started, which means it has been a week since I left home and moved into my own apartment (I share it with 3 other girls, so it’s not like I’m entirely alone). I wanted to take the time to be vulnerable and share some of the ups and downs that I’ve had this week as a result of this change. 

First off, my college is only 20 minutes away from my home (thank God!), so it’s easy for me to go back home regularly and meet my family (homesickness is real ya’ll!). However, it’s the whole idea of transitioning into adulthood and learning to live on my own that has been scary. 

My high school calculus teacher actually sent me this article a couple days ago and I think it perfectly encapsulates everything that I’ve been feeling recently. 

College is drastically different from high school. There isn’t a set schedule everyday. You don’t meet the same people everyday. And if you live on your own, you have to make sure you feed yourself because your parents are no longer hounding you to take care of yourself. 

I’ve always been independent, but at the same time, I’m a HUGE homebody. Therefore, this week has been extremely stressful, anxiety-provoking, and very lonely. However, there were also moments of joy, laughter, and fulfillment. 

It’s hard being an adolescent. It’s hard trying to flutter through our daily lives and constantly wonder what is going to happen next. Will we be loved by our friends? Will we do well academically? Are we being validated? It’s hard, but that’s the point. There’s beauty in trying to find our way through both the internal and external struggles. Some days were so freaking hard when I was alone and didn’t have my brother nagging me to watch Netflix or my Mom yelling at me for something or my family eagerly waiting for me to play Catan with them. But it’s important to remember that we are social creatures and we need nurturing relationships with people (aside from our family). These relationships will be found in college. We just have to be patient and be willing to accept the change. 

I’m going to end this post by repeating what Lisa Sugarman said: 

“So, I’ll say the exact same thing to you that I said to my own daughters when they went off to school. Give it some time, be patient, and remember that putting yourself out there and taking risks can be the one thing that changes everything.”

Update on Catapult #4

I made the decision to catapult into the world of meditation on July 5th, 2021.

Here’s what I wrote on that day:

“So, I am going to TRY to do the Isha Kriya meditation at least once every day and we’ll see if I am able to keep this up for 3 months. 

My goal in catapulting myself into the world of meditation is to learn to think and feel broader than the boundaries set by my mind and body. I don’t think meditation will “cure” my anxious thoughts, but I do think it will help me become more aware and better at coping with them.”


Oh boy, I most definitely did not meditate once every day. Some days I straight up just forgot. Other days I got incredibly anxious that I’d have to sit down for 15 minutes and possibly fall off schedule, so I prioritized work over meditation (which is so terribly wrong because mental health comes before anything else!). There was also a week in July where I went to Florida for vacation and so, I did not make the time to meditate even though I had more than enough time to do so!

However, I have been a lot more regular with my meditation since the last couple of weeks (though I still have missed a few days).

Here are some of the things that I’ve discovered during the course of my super early meditative practice:

  1. My most effective meditations have been during the mornings. One day last week, I meditated at 5:30am and it was so freaking beautiful. Nature was in the phase of transforming to the daylight, but it was still trying to hide away from the light for as long as possible. And I just felt all of that energy as I sat down to meditate. Most days, I’ve been meditating at anywhere between 6:00-8:00am. I found that when I try to meditate at night, it is still a nice feeling, but I zone out a lot more easily compared to when I do it in the morning.
  2. The meditation that I practice is Sadhguru’s Isha Kriya (linked below). This is broken up into 3 stages: breath work, sound, and music. During the breath work stage, you have to inhale when Sadhguru repeats “I am not the body” and exhale when he says “I am not even the mind.” This keeps tripping me up because at times I catch myself thinking “If I’m neither the body or mind, then what the hell am I?” I’d appreciate any answers for this question!!
  3. I do think that I notice my anxious periods a lot more quickly after having done this meditation for a couple weeks now. However, I don’t know how to detach or stop myself from continuing to have those anxiety symptoms once I notice them. So, I guess I’m still working on that.

All in all, I am so far away from even tapping into a glimpse of what regular practice of meditation offers. However, the fact that I’m able to wake my ass up and take 15 minutes to sit in stillness in this fast-paced world already feels like a huge accomplished feat, so I’m going to cherish that.

I will continue to catapult into meditation and hopefully, one day will reach that point of ultimate enlightenment (will obviously keep ya’ll updated) 🙂

Chewing Gum and Anxiety

I hear my heartbeat in my ears and feel as though I’m not getting enough air to breathe in and out. My chest tightens and my throat closes. Sweat develops in my armpits, forming embarrassing sweat stains on my tshirts. Repeating: You’re okay. Just breathe. does nothing to alleviate my symptoms. 

This is when I remember to open up my backpack and grab a piece of EXTRA peppermint gum. I start chewing, and almost immediately my chest and throat open up. I no longer feel like I’m fighting to simply breathe. My heart is still rapidly beating, but it’s no longer pulsing in my ears and preventing me from focusing on the task at hand. 

Chewing gum is my go-to method for ensuring my anxiety does not spiral out of control. When I began to notice how my habit of chewing gum and anxiety were linked together, I did some quick research and found that there’s actually science that backs up this idea:

  • “A study out of Swinburne University found that people who chew gum while multitasking under stress had lower cortisol levels, reduced levels of stress and anxiety, and increased levels of alertness and performance. Another found that chewing gum can improve a negative mood, and increase levels of peace and calm.” – Inc.com
  • “The ancient Greeks and Mayans chewed on tree resin, while the first “chewing gum” was made in the 1800s from a type of rubber known as chicle (yup, the same stuff Chiclets were named after!). While today’s gum tastes a lot better, the ancient Greeks and Mayans may have been on to something— studies suggest the ancient chewers may have felt less stress than their non-gum-chewing counterparts” – Greatist

Keeping this evidence and my own personal experience in mind, it’s crucial to understand that gum does NOT cure anxiety – it only provides temporary relief. Additionally, just because this works for me and for some others, does NOT mean that it will have the same effects on you. 

Identifying a mechanism to help yourself bounce out of the anxious period – whether that be chewing gum, cold showers, running, etc. – can greatly improve your work ethic, mood, and enable you to attempt to remain in the present moment. 

Other mechanisms that help my anxiety (but are not as immediately accessible as chewing gum):

  • Walks in nature
  • Long showers
  • Driving with music or a podcast
  • Working out and sweating A LOT
  • Watching a movie with my family 
  • Writing/Blogging