Healthy Back-to-School Tips
Cultivate a mindful, meditation, or yoga practice
In addition to taking "The Mindful Semester," students can become Mindful Ambassadors, join Meditation Cats, take a yoga class at Campus Rec, or join Langbert’s free "Meditation Mondays" on campus.
Take a mindful walk on campus
Notice your surroundings. Drop from the thinking mind into noticing the trees, the flowers and the sensation of your body moving along the sidewalk.
Try deep diaphragmatic breathing. Let the exhale be longer than the inhale, which will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, or rest and digest response.
Drink plenty of water, especially when you are new to the area. When we are tired, it can be a sign of dehydration.
University of Arizona students can learn mindful approaches to studying, communication and movement as tools to manage stress and cultivate self-awareness through a new online course starting this fall.
SBS 301: The Mindful Semester, which is open to students regardless of major, includes three five-week modules that are worth one credit hour each. Students can take any or all of the modules: Foundations of Mindfulness, Mindfulness-based Study Tools and Mindfulness-based Movement.
Students will explore the research behind the benefits of mindfulness and learn various tools to cultivate the practice of mindfulness. Each module is designed to be interactive and includes readings, short videos, podcasts and audio tools. Students will participate in an online discussion about the week's material and practice.
The course is taught by Leslie Langbert, executive director of the Center for Compassion Studies in the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. A licensed clinical social worker, Langbert offers cognitively based compassion training and also teaches a course, Self-care in the Helping Professions, for care, health and society majors.
In the online course, Langbert will introduce students to a variety of practices, including meditation, deep breathing, conscious dance, mindful walking and yoga nidra, a deep, guided relaxation practice she says can help rejuvenate sleep-deprived students.
"There are many doors to developing a mindfulness practice," Langbert said. "We are talking about being aware and observing the moment-to-moment unfolding of our experience without judging ourselves or the experience as good or bad, right or wrong. We’re strengthening our ability to hold awareness on the 'now' rather than the past or future."
In the Mindfulness-based Study Tools module, students will work to develop mindful reading, writing and listening habits.
"Sometimes when we are trying to learn something that is challenging for us, we can be self-critical and shut the book," Langbert said. "But, with a mindful focus, we can calm the nervous system before we get started and slow down as we read."
Many students in Langbert’s Self-Care in the Helping Professions course vouch for the effectiveness of mindful practices.
"Meditation helped me a lot in my studying," one student wrote in the course evaluation. "I was able to be more open-minded in learning all the information. I didn’t get anxious when I studied. I remained calm when I didn’t understand something."
Langbert, who shares wellness and mindfulness practices during the academic year with faculty and staff through various campus programs, stressed that the skills learned in the class can be developed and used by students for the rest of their lives, benefiting their health, careers and relationships.
"The UA strategic plan prioritizes supporting student success," said Amy Kimme Hea, associate dean of academic affairs and student success in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. "We hope that The Mindful Semester will provide students with tools to cope with stress, to study more effectively, and to cultivate self-care."