Putting Stress in Perspective

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It is easy to say that your life is “hell” and forget the billions of people on Earth who would kill to be in your position as a student at an American university. The quest to find fulfillment and relief from the pressures of class, activities, career fairs and the seemingly infinite to-do list associated with college is not easy. So how do we combat these pressures with a fulfilling escape?

My answer comes in the serenity of the two lakes on Notre Dame’s campus.

My discovery of them came from my habit of running multiple times a week.  After a while, my daily runs had begun to feel like more of a routine than an enjoyable activity. Sometimes the stress of not running as well as I did in high school cross country races began to bother me. Until, of course, I found the lakes.

When I started running around the lakes my freshman year, the entire complexion of my runs changed. The trails around St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s Lakes are shaded with a beautiful natural landscape of trees. The boats on the lake and joggers on the path create an instant immersion in a living natural scene. Now I wasn’t going on runs to simply stay in shape or out of obligation—I went to escape to the calming natural atmosphere.

I start off at St. Mary’s Lake, with the golden dome shining upon the scenery of trees, water and ducks abound no matter the weather conditions. It’s not as removed from campus as St. Joseph’s, and is a good place to start my journey as I begin to immerse myself in an environment that feels far from the stress of the rest of the day.  I like to think of St. Mary’s lake as the bridge to the complete natural immersion St. Joseph’s Lake offers. I use it to reflect on my day and think about how I can better myself. After a full loop around the lake, I make my way towards St. Joseph’s.

About halfway around St. Joseph’s lake, there comes a moment when I withdraw to the most majestic scenery of all. This scene puts the grandeur of Our Lady’s University in perspective.

It is so easy to forget where I am and how hard I’ve worked to be at Notre Dame.  This view serves as a reminder of how lucky I am to be a Notre Dame student with all of the amazing opportunities provided to me. After my reflection on St. Mary’s Lake, the scenery of St. Joseph’s Lake allows me to distance myself from my day and look at my beautiful campus with full appreciation.

The dénouement of the journey around the lakes is a return to a shaded path. I savor the final half-mile around St. Joseph’s Lake as a way to think about the majestic scene I just experienced. I end my run re-energized and ready to tackle the sources of my daily stress at college. College life is full of stress, but taking time to appreciate the simple things around you can lead to a much-needed escape.

Junior at the University of Notre Dame majoring in American Studies and English. Enjoys college sports and books. 2006 Time Person of the Year.

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