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STRESS LESS program teaches everyday mindfulness

February 21, 2020

As midterm season approaches, Bowdoin can move at a frighteningly quick pace, and stress can weigh heavy on many students. A new program, STRESS LESS, hopes to combat this issue.

Associate Director of Clinical and Emergency Services Shelley Roseboro and Assistant Director of Student Wellness Programs Kate Nicholson implemented the month-long mindfulness and stress reduction program earlier this month.

The program is rooted in Koru, a mindfulness-based practice designed by two Duke University psychologists who wanted to create a stress-reduction program specifically focused on student life and needs. Although Roseboro is trained in Koru, the two leaders decided against branding their program as such in order to give the class the flexibility they felt it may need.

“We called it STRESS LESS so we weren’t feeling confined to [Koru’s] very specific protocol,” Nicholson said. “We [wanted to] have enough room and freedom to let it evolve into what it seemed like the campus community or students want or need it to be going forward.”

At the beginning of each session, participants sit for a few minutes while chimes or a gong is played while focusing on breathing, posture and developing other tools for staying present. Nicholson added that the program, like any class at Bowdoin, comes with some homework.

“We asked students to bring some awareness to a simple activity that you do every day, whether that’s brushing your teeth, or walking from class to class … [or] paying attention to the temperature or to who [you] pass and where [your] gaze is,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson emphasized that arriving on time is part of taking the program seriously.

“There’s an integrity to showing up [on time], like, ‘This matters. This isn’t just another thing I’m kind of interested in … my well-being matters, and so does the time and presence of all the other people in the group. They matter too. So I’m going to show up to them,’” Nicholson said.

Gretchen Klens ’23, a participant in STRESS LESS, uses mindfulness in her everyday life.

“For me, it was just walking outside. Anytime I step outside, I take a deep breath and [try to] be mindful of the situation I’m in [and] how I’m feeling,” Klens said. “Remind yourself that emotions are good. Accepting the way you feel is a good first step to being more mindful.”

Though the program is a month long and group-based, Nicholson believes some stress relief and skills are better than none, and, above all, she hopes that students leave STRESS LESS feeling taken care of.

“I crave that students feel held a little bit,” Nicholson said. “You’re on your own, and you’re doing so much, and you’re working so hard to do everything that you do really well, and that’s just a lot of work. It’s a lot of work all the time. And so I wish for our students … to just feel held.”

The sessions will be held for the next three Fridays in the Peter Buck Center for Health and Wellness, Room 301, and are open to any students wishing to attend.

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