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Women Living Well - Spring 2005
Student Papers
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Balance at Bryn Mawr

Bareara Sullivan

Question #1: Balance is an important part of 'living well'. Discuss how the four speakers' topics and content related to defining and creating a balanced life.

Balance is the ephemeral feeling towards which all college students strive. At Bryn Mawr College, it seems especially difficult to achieve, and even harder to maintain. With over a hundred clubs on campus, innumerable sports and activities, community service, internships, jobs, and carrying a full course load, even finding time to think about balance in our lives seems to fall to the back burners. Time for one's self, for one's friends, and for relaxation is inevitably cut short. There are, however, several methods we can use to curb this trend towards self-neglect in the face of our overwhelming number of commitments. Using techniques of reflection, time-management, eating healthily and consciously, and working out, we can better maintain our minds and bodies in order to more effectively continue to strive for balance.

Our first speaker, Marc Schultz presented a very cerebral approach to maintaining balance. His topic was "Mindfulness, Reflecting, and Brooding: Links to Well-Being and Distress." He suggested that there is a significant difference between being mindful and reflective of a problem, and brooding on it. Brooding only leads to negative emotions and an inability to problem-solve; it causes the problem to become heavier, and the individual to see fewer ways of overcoming it. Alternately, being mindful of a problem allows for active problem-solving, but also the ability to compartmentalize. If one can separate and isolate a defined problem through being mindful, and then actively reflect on that issue, as opposed to brooding and allowing it to take control, mental balance is much easier to obtain. Marc suggested meditation as a good way to go about beginning this shift towards mindfulness. In taking a few minutes out of everyday to consciously relax and be mindful of one's mindset, it makes brooding less likely to occur.

Glenn Smith, our second speaker, tied in very well with the topics initiated by Marc. Glenn's topic was "Don't let good get the better of best: making time for what is most important." His lecture was, I think, perhaps the most useful for the typical Bryn Mawr student. He focused on time-management skills, and how to identify the ways in which we use our time, and how we can revise that thinking to better direct our most valuable resources. He suggested a couple skills that seem to be very effective. The first is developing a weekly schedule so as to better plan out one's time, leaving space for relaxation as well as academic work and activities. The second is to identify each activity within a grid of importance and pertinence. After determining if an activity is a time-filler and method of procrastination, whether it is actually important to do now, or whether you can plan ahead to accommodate the activity has become a very useful way for me to think about my time-management.

Mimi Murray, our third speaker, seamlessly shifted to focus from mental health and organization to physical health with her lecture titled, "Eat Well Bryn Mawr." She talked about the food pyramid, rejected a lot of the outdated ways of thinking about food and being hungry, discussed dieting and the healthy ways in which to maintain one's weight. Most importantly, she talked about the importance of being conscious when eating, and not just consuming for the sake of consuming without paying attention to what one's body is saying about what it needs and when it is satiated. She highlighted the fact that there is no evil food, and that, without a balanced diet (including exercise), the body feels deprived and undernourished. To demonstrate this fact, she had us partake in a straw diet, which aptly proved what happens when you deprive your body of elements that it needs, and the binge effect that follows. Her suggestions about healthy and mindful eating have been very useful to me as I make my dietary decisions each day in the dining hall.

Finally, our last speaker, Matt Brzycki, delivered a speech titled, "Get FITT Bryn Mawr." He focused on the ways in which we can maintain healthy bodies by engaging in healthy and mindful work outs. He presented the acronym FITT to remind us of the four major considerations to remember when beginning a work out routine: Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type. Therefore, when we are planning our flexibility, fitness, and aerobic routines, we can use variation and mindfulness to challenge our bodies.

The individual topics presented by the speakers tied well into the overall themes and goals of the class. Through the evolution of topics and the breadth of coverage concerning both mental and physical health, we now have an arsenal of methodology to seeking, finding, and maintaining balance within the rigorous and challenging Bryn Mawr College atmosphere.

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