Take a Deep Breath

keweenaw waterway with Portage Lift Bridge in the background
keweenaw waterway with Portage Lift Bridge in the background
Take a deep breath and take the long view.
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The pandemic. Midterms and finals. November 3. Travel (or not). Times are stressful, which means the science of self-care is all the more important.

Hey, we know things are hard right now. And there is some science behind pandemic burnout, but it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, show up, slow down, let go or simply be here. Even if you don’t contract COVID-19, the pandemic has likely changed your brain already.

Take a deep breath.

Hard times are nothing new, even if there is a novel virus going around. Research into coping with difficulty has deep roots and we can learn from our own Michigan Technological University scholarship. Here is a list of strategies to help you cope this semester.

1. Meditate

You’ve probably seen it everywhere. From business media to meditation apps, from our own Husky Well-being workshops to in-house research on meditation and heart health.

Yes, it helps. No, it’s not easy to just sit there and breathe. Yes, you have time for it. You’re breathing anyway, right? So, use the power of your own nervous system and lungs to help convince your brain and body to calm down.

Don’t make meditation harder than it has to be. The flavors of meditation styles beat Baskin Robbins hands down. Try a few free apps, join a workshop or class, or get a meditation buddy to join a meditation challenge.

2. Walk in the Woods

We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Let the Keweenaw and Lake Superior ease some tension. Being in nature reduces stress and so does being around beauty outdoors or through art.

And together they're a magical combination.

two people facing away looking at cloth banner in tree
The installation, a series of panels (the largest roughly 10 feet long and 73 inches wide) was made by public artist and visual arts professor Anne Beffel.

3. Sleep, Stand and Exercise

No surprise, the activity you engage in the most influences your state of mind and the health of your body, including boosting your immune system. Also, if you were wondering, pandemic dreams really are a thing.

The stillness of sleep is interlinked with the movement of our waking hours. How we sit or stand at our desk could affect our heart health. How we modify exercise for injuries, strength training and athletic prowess could teach us how to exercise smarter from home. Specifically, a team from the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology offers tips on ergonomics at home.

Pro tip: Change positions every 20-30 minutes while working or studying.

4. Practice Gratitude

Some days it feels hard to feel thankful for anything. Those are the days we need gratitude the most. The science of gratitude suggests a thankful mindset is a learned skill. Thank-you letters, gratitude countdowns, journaling and, yes, more meditation are a few gratitude resources.

True gratitude isn’t about seeing phantom silver linings or ignoring reality, tough emotions or someone else’s pain. Gratitude accepts negativity bias — the tendency of brains and groups of people to latch onto negative emotions — which even affects the news cycle. Gratitude leans into saying “yes and…” to see both challenges and boons with more clarity.

winter drone shot above trees
Self-care is not all chocolate and bubble baths. Well-being offers the chance to create calm space and look at the inner landscape from a different view. 

Counting your blessings, meditating, walking and getting enough sleep may not make you feel all warm and fuzzy. Sometimes they might, but that’s not the point. With so much change and uncertainty swirling around, these practices remind us that we live in a body, that we live a life. A mind is a powerful thing. While you’re applying it to coursework and the quantum mechanics of getting groceries these days, make sure you take a different perspective and give your brain a break, too.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.

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