Psychology and Silver Strand Beach

By: Danielle Garcia

On Sunday November 24, my dad and I went to Silver Strand State Beach right next to the Channel Islands Harbor. For my third and final beach visit, I had only one goal in mind: relax.

View from the walk toward Silver Strand Beach

As I’m sure is true for most CI students around this time, school has been crazy for the last few weeks. Classes have been piling on papers, tests, and projects almost nonstop, to the point where I could barely finish turning in one assignment before I had to dive headfirst into the next one. That weekend in particular, I had spent all day Saturday putting work into a project due on Wednesday for my Multivariate Analysis class, and had started research for a paper due that Friday for my History and Systems of Psych class. I was feeling overworked and tired, and wanted nothing more than a few moments of peace. Thankfully, that’s exactly what I found on the beach.

The coast along Silver Strand Beach
Wading in the waves along the beach

That Sunday it was about mid 70s, but the ocean breeze kept the air cool and crisp. Though not too gusty on shore, there were strong waves breaking out on the coast, and dozens of surfers had gathered a few hundred feet out. On the beach itself, there were surprisingly few big families, mostly just people like my dad and I who had come to relax and watch the waves. After walking along the tide line for a while, we found a nice natural sand shelf overlooking the beach and set up. 

The shelf where my dad and I sat to watch the waves. More stable than it looks.

At first, just sitting there watching the waves and doing nothing felt weird. I kept trying to take pictures or videos to occupy myself, as doing absolutely nothing just seemed…wrong. But, although the beach is certainly a place with tons of things to do, sometimes its best use is simply a place to do nothing. Many people, myself included, are always on the go, always trying to do more things faster with whatever fleeting time it feels like we have. But one of the most important lessons to take from psychology that many of us seem to ignore is the importance of taking breaks. If you work someone’s mind nonstop, no matter who they are or what they’re doing, it’s going to have a profound effect on their physical and mental health. While the solution to having too much work to do or needing to study more seems like its just about throwing your nose to the grind, too much pushing can lead to burnout, and subsequently depression, forgetfulness, and even illness.

When you’re wearing sunglasses, nothing ever seems quite as stressful.

I didn’t realize it at first, but sitting there on that beach watching the waves made me realize just how close to burnout I was. I had been working nonstop for my classes in a mad rush to get everything done, and I could feel my work quality and mental health slipping a little as I went. But I cared so much about getting it done that everything else felt like it didn’t matter. Any alternatives, especially taking a break, felt pointless. But as I watched the waves roll in, I started to consider that maybe I should have taken a break. If I had, the hours I spent editing my literature review might have felt a little less tedious, and the countless papers I combed for information may have felt less boring. Though the solution to having hard problems in our society always seems to be “work harder,” I think we all seriously undervalue the importance of taking a break once in a while. Not only is doing so psychologically fulfilling, but in the long run it really does help improve the quality of your work. Though there are many places to do so, if I had to choose, I can think of no better way to rest than listening to the steady beat of waves at the beach.

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