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'Focus on your breath': 4 easy steps to ease back-to-school stress

The stress of navigating the back to school process in the middle of a pandemic can take a toll.

DALLAS — Knowing how to manage stress and anxiety can be the difference between feeling calm and feeling overwhelmed, especially as school gets underway.

Kasey Yanna is a former high school college advisor. She founded College & Career + Happiness Coaching. 

Yanna shared four steps students can follow to manage stress.

1. Bring yourself to the present moment

Focus on a few of your senses, such as what you hear or smell. This is also known as mindfulness and is a proven stress reliever linked to several mental and physical health benefits.

2. Name your emotions. 

If you’re feeling down or anxious about how the new school year is starting out, take a moment to actually sit with your feelings and understand what’s causing them.

Are you feeling sad because you miss seeing your friends? When you actually take the time to acknowledge what you’re feeling and figure out the cause for that feeling, you’re in a better place to come up with a productive response like scheduling a virtual game night with your friends or starting a group chat where you all talk about the movies you’re watching.

3. Focus on your breath. 

Box breathing is a technique you can use to reduce stress immediately. Sit up straight, with your feet on the ground and your hands in your lap, take a deep breath while counting to four in your head, then hold your breath for a count of 4 and slowly release your breath for a count of four.

When all of the air has escaped your lungs, count to 4 before breathing in again. When you focus on the sensation of the air entering and exiting your lungs, a sense of calm comes over your mind and body.

4. Write down what you’re grateful for every day.

Keeping a gratitude journal is linked to increased happiness levels because we’re wired to focus on negative things in our lives.

When you force yourself to write down what you’re grateful for each day, you rewire your brain to notice the good things in life more frequently so you have a more positive outlook on life and are better equipped to manage the stressful parts.

The stressful parts don’t go away, bad things still happen, but how you react and how quickly you move on from those negative moments improves.