“Breathing is the most important thing you can do for your mind and body,” says the introductory video to Counseling and Psychological Services’ aptly-named program, Breathe.
Last spring, CAPS introduced Breathe, an online program for students to cope with stress. Breathe was created specifically for Northwestern students, with practices based on scientific research for users to access whenever they need time to calm down the mind or body.
Through four overarching themes with video and audio content, Breathe offers a quick, easy way for students to escape stress, anxiety and overwhelming thoughts. The first, “Introduction to Breathe and Stress Response,” helps users build foundational practices to tackle stress. There’s no better time than now, well into the stressful weeks of midterm season, to take a quick scroll through Breathe: There’s bound to be something for everyone.
Personally, in times of extreme stress, I simply need something to get my mind off excessive, anxious thoughts. The “Name 5 Things” audio encourages me to simply pause and engage my senses, from a greater awareness about my breathing to the subtle sounds around me. If you find yourself in a bad mood, “Loving kindness” focuses on increasing positive emotions like joy and gratitude, while reducing patterns of self-criticism. And, for more physically active options, CAPS also offers a longer guided walking meditation that serves as a great break during hours-long study sessions.
But sometimes, you don’t even know what you need, other than a break from stress. When you’re simply walking from class to class or have a spare five minutes, take a second to listen to generic, relaxing music or practice paced breathing. Even a few moments a day can drastically shift your mood and attitude — not to mention that as you build the habit, it gets easier each time.
Breathe exercises are as accessible as it gets for busy Northwestern students on the go. They’re available to play in the background on your phone or computer and do not require any external apps. Like CAPS says, “stress is something you will feel on and off throughout your life. But it doesn’t have to haunt you.
It can’t hurt to try, so, take a few seconds to just breathe. It may help.