Are You Processing Your Life?

When you’re in college, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind that is classes, social activities, extracurriculars, and homework. How are you supposed to practice self-awareness if you’re busy running from one scheduled activity to the next, with hardly a chance to chow down on some dinner?

Tara Mohr says this on her blog: “It’s interesting: ‘to process something’ literally means to change it from one state to another; think processing plant. Processing our lives is about changing toxic residue from our life experiences into something we can work with, something that’s not harmful to harbor within. It’s about turning resentment into peace, disappointment into understanding, wounds into healing, and confusion into clarity.”

It’s certainly a challenge, but if you don’t take time to slow down and process, your effectiveness, wellbeing, creativity, and emotional health with all be affected. Without processing, how are you supposed to heal from disappointments? How will you recover from stressors or take in triumphs? When do you take the time to mine your heart and soul in order to sort the treasures from the trash?

All of the above involve intentionality. So what are some ways you can take steps to be intentional and process the complications in life?

1. Get in the habit

Setting a daily routine for when you process will help you make sure it actually happens each day. Take fifteen minutes with your coffee when you wake up to process through the day and what lies before you. Think through the events of yesterday and what they meant to you. If you’re not a morning person, try doing it before bed, or during a certain activity—like while you’re in the shower.

2. Go for a walk

There’s nothing like walking that will help you sort through the challenges and successes of the day. Solvitur ambulando. It’s a Latin phrase that literally means, “It is solved by walking.” Or, a little more loosely, “It is solved by walking around.” Whether your stressed, depressed, anxious, or ready to have a complete meltdown, walking generally makes it better because it gives you space to think through life, and moving helps your brain work better. It’s the cheapest form of exercise that also has a way of clearing your head.

3. Exercise

Speaking of—exercise is a great time to process life. By now, everyone knows the importance of regular exercise in one’s life. Not only does it affect you physically, but regular exercise has a positive affect on your thoughts and emotions. So hit the gym or hit the pavement with your running shoes, and start thinking through this thing that is your life.

4. Keep a journal

Writing can be extremely therapeutic, and occasionally, you might not even realize you’re feeling some emotion until you see it come out on paper. Often, journal entries seem to “write themselves,” so your responsibility is really just showing up with pen and paper in hand. If you’re not a handwritten kind of gal, keep a journal on your laptop. You’ll never run out of writing space if you use that format—that’s for sure!

5. Share with a supportive listener

Many individuals are verbal processors and need to talk through the balconies and basements of life in order to sort out what they mean. Whether it’s a close friend, a counselor, a trusted professor, or your mom, take some time to call someone up on the phone or meet for coffee to sort through your life. Make sure whoever you’re sharing with will respond with wisdom and compassion—it’s not really helpful to process your life with someone if they’re going to give you bad advice or shame you for your choices and thoughts.

6. Make some art

Making art can be healing and restorative when it comes to processing life. Try drawing, painting, sculpture, listening to or creating music, or even dancing. You don’t have to be a professional, and no one has to lay eyes on what you create if you don’t want them to—it’s simply a method of turning your thoughts into something tangible. Putting your thoughts into visual form can help you better understand your life experiences and what they mean to you.