Mindful breathing and other grounding techniques can bring calm anywhere, anytime, counselor says

Although the Counseling and Wellness Center’s aid is a phone call away for students, counselor Kate Morris said managing this semester’s unusual anxiety is possible  anywhere, anytime with increased mindfulness. Scientist, writer, and meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn said mindfulness is as simple as “paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment.”

In an email interview, Morris suggested using specific mindfulness techniques called grounding exercises, which help people turn their attention from anxious thoughts, memories, or worries toward what is happening in their bodies now.

Mindfully breathing is, of course, the most accessible grounding technique. Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth and focusing on how it feels in your body can provide a helpful reset.

Morris recommends two additional exercises:

Get floored:

Lie on the floor and focus on how it feels to let the floor to support the whole body. Do this for 30 seconds or 30 minutes ... however long it takes to shift your attention and calm your nervous system.

“I’ve had students tell me that they do this before a test as a way to calm down and get present.” Kate Morris, counselor, Counseling and Wellness Center

Sense the calm:

Try the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Name (silently, aloud or in writing) five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

“I've had students tell me that they do this before a test as a way to calm down and get present,” Morris wrote in an email, “but it can be done quickly and quietly anytime you notice your thoughts wandering or your anxiety increasing.”

Find your breath:

Here’s a bonus exercise from healthline.com. Shift your focus on your breath, as in the floor exercise, saying (or thinking) “in” and “out” with each breath. Focus on how it feels as your breath fills, then leaves, your lungs.

Beyond grounding, Morris suggested a little gentleness, for themselves and others during this stressful time.

“I think we’re going to have to have a lot of flexibility,” she wrote. “I think we’re going to have to extend more grace to one another than we may be accustomed to.”

Get help

  • Students in life-threatening situations should call 911.
  • Students in nonlife-threatening situations can call the Counseling and Wellness Center from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at (802) 485-2134. 
  • Weekdays after 4:30 p.m. and on weekends and holidays, students can call the Mental Health Crisis Line: (802) 793-3093. 
  • To contact the Rev. William Wick, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (802) 485-2128.

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