Feeling Stressed? Just Breathe...
Stress is the response in our body (physical, mental, emotional) to something that is an actual threat to our survival (a charging moose!); something that we might perceive as a threat (exams, taxes); or even positive situations that require change (a new job, planning a wedding, etc). The threats or situations are called stressors, and we can feel the response in our body to stressors, known as the fight or flight response and the stress response. What we experience is the release of adrenaline (and in case of a longer term stressor, cortisol) that enables our bodies to respond to the stressor with a burst of energy, and sustained energy as needed. Please read this fact sheet from Harvard, which explains a bit more in detail what is happening in the body during the stress response.
We likely experience stressors everyday, and having tools to manage our response to the stressors can be a game-changer for our wellbeing. One of the most effective, accessible and affordable tools is an exercise in breathing that you can do at any time to help calm your mind and body. The technique is called diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing, or soft belly breathing. This deep breathing technique helps turn off the stress response, and turn on the relaxation response through the vagus nerve. Please try the guided breathing exercises provided below. They approach the technique a little differently, and one might resonate with you more than the other:
The Center for Mind-Body Medicine: https://cmbm.org/self-care/soft-belly-breathing-led-james-s-gordon-md/
Breathing in this way for even a short period of time can produce relaxing effects. Practicing these breathing techniques for an extended period of time, maybe 10-20 minutes or longer, is the foundation of meditation. Breathing and meditation can help you relax at any point in your day, and are especially helpful before bed to help you unwind and settle into sleep. You can find a meditation to help with sleep on our Sleep Education & Initiatives webpage, along with some other resources and information on sleep. Stress and sleep go hand in hand. The more rested we are, the better prepared we are to manage stress. A busy and/or stressed mind is a common barrier to getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep. Using relaxation techniques like breathing, meditation, and journaling can help us fall asleep more readily. There are many apps that have guided meditations to include, Calm, Headspace, and Insight Timer.
Health Services has collected some other great online resources for stress reduction. Here is sample of resources from this page:
Greater Good Science Center, Inspiring evidence-based resources for wellbeing.
Tara Brach, Free talks and guided meditations to get you through challenging times led by a therapist and meditation teacher.
The Steve Fund, A program dedicated to the mental health and emotional well-being of students of color.
Services for stress reduction are available at UMD Health Services!
Health Services offers free, caring and confidential individual therapy, consultations and case management services using Telehealth sessions this fall. To schedule a time to meet with one of our counselors please call 218-726-7913 to get set up for a video (Zoom) or telephone session with one of the counseling staff.
Let's Talk: Drop-in consultations with a counselor.
Grief support groups: Support to students who have experienced the loss of a loved one.
R2 Resilience and Renewal: A skills groups for learning techniques for self care and stress reduction.
Please visit our counseling webpage to find more details.
For mental health emergencies, please call Birch Tree Center at 218-623-1800.
Pet Away Worry & Stress is a monthly event on campus; The focus of PAWS is to decrease stress levels in students, faculty and staff, with therapy animals. This collaborative event is sponsored by Animal Allies, KUMD, The Kathryn A. Martin Library, UMD Health Services, the Department of Psychology, the Office of Environmental Health & Safety, and Kirby Student Center.
Our Health Education staff and Counseling staff provide presentations on the science of stress and stress reduction. For more information, or to request a presentation, call our counseling department at 218-726-7913.