Ease Your Anxiety, One Breath at a Time

Returning to campus after the holidays can inspire a range of feelings, from joy and hopeful anticipation to sadness and outright dread. Thanks to the recent Omicron upsurge, health worries, remote classes, and ongoing social isolation could make this spring’s transition back to school harder than ever. To help yourself stay calm and grounded during challenging times, start with the most simple thing in life: Your breath.

Breath is a powerful tool. It can send a message to your brain (and the rest of your body) that it’s okay to relax, that you are safe, and you can let go of the “fight or flight” urges that are causing you to experience symptoms of anxiety. There are many ways you can call on your breath to increase your sense of peace and well-being. Give these methods a try the next time you need to find your calm center.

Deep Breathing

When we’re stressed, our breathing can become shallow and “caught up” in the chest. Deep breathing is an effective way to quickly release tension and calm your nervous system.

  • Take a deep breath, letting your abdomen expand. Sense your body filling with oxygen.
  • Hold this breath for 3 – 5 seconds.
  • Release the air all at once (in a sigh, or a slow, steady stream…whatever feels good).
  • Consciously release your shoulders and jaw as the breath leaves your body.

Conscious Breathing

When are minds are cluttered with stressful thoughts, our bodies become stressed, too. By focusing on our breath, we can calm our thoughts and create relaxation in the body.

  • Close your eyes, and focus your attention on the tip of your nose.
  • Breathe in slowly, noticing the sensations of the air drawing into your nose.
  • As you breathe out, notice the air passing through your nostrils and out of your body.
  • Repeat this several times. You might also add a simple “mantra”, such as “breathing in…breathing out…breathing in…breathing out…”, or “peace…calm…peace…calm.”

Counting Breaths

If having a mental pattern to follow increases your sense of ease, try 8-4-7 to create mindful breathing.

  • Exhale through your mouth to the count of 8, making a sound (a sigh, a low whistle, etc.).
  • Inhale quietly through your nose to the count of 4.
  • Hold your breath for a count of 7.
  • Repeat this cycle 4 times, ideally at least twice a day (or as often as you feel the need to quiet your mind and body).

It’s Okay If You’re Not Okay

For many young people, the past nine months have been the most frightening, confusing, lonely, frustrating, sad, anxious and disappointing of their lives. Sure, the vaccine means there is finally an end in sight, and you can look forward with hope, but it’s hard not to think about all of the things (and maybe even people) you will never get back. For some of you, it’s still challenging to face each day, and to manage school and responsibilities as effectively as you did back in the Before Times. It can be even more difficult when the message you’re hearing from those around you is that you should be used to the situation by now, and you should just get on with life in this “new normal.” 

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When COVID Crushes Your College Dreams

No matter what your plans for fall semester of 2020 were, it’s likely that they’ve been completely upended. You might be registered classes that are completely or partially online (and maybe still paying full tuition for them). You  might be going to campus, but in a reconfigured and unpredictable environment, with single dorm rooms and socially distanced everything  (and one that might cause you anxiety). If you were planning to take a gap year, your travel plans or internships are on hold. If your family’s financial circumstances have been impacted by the virus, you might not be able to afford college at all now. 

Whatever’s happening for you, it’s not what you had expected. Just a few months ago, you thought this summer would be about spending carefree time with friends and family, getting to know your future roommates online, and shopping for your dorm. None of that is happening. If you’re experiencing disappointment, stress, anxiety and depression, you’re not alone. 

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College Planning & COVID ~ What it means for juniors

For many of us, the Coronavirus pandemic is the first time we’ve ever had to face a situation that is truly beyond our control. If you’re a junior who’s planning to apply to college in the fall, it is no doubt heightening the sense of stress and anxiety around college admissions that you were already experiencing. The timing could absolutely not be worse for you. While there is nothing beyond practical safety measures that we can do to manage the impact of COVID-19 on our lives, having information about what you can (and can’t) do to keep your college process on track might give you some peace of mind.

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