/New semester has you stressed out? Just breathe. 
Graphic by Bell Jackson

New semester has you stressed out? Just breathe. 

By Laura McCallion 

Whether you are a first-year student in your first semester or a sixth-year student in your last semester, stress management is a skill every student can acquire to navigate the new semester. Dr. Catherine Walsh, a UM art history professor, offers a solution to managing feelings of overwhelming stress through her breathwork sessions hosted in the Old Gym Dance Studio.  

On Tuesdays from 4:30-5 p.m. and Wednesdays from 12-12:30 p.m., any student is welcome to take half an hour for themselves and learn to practice healthy breathing. The content of these sessions depends on which one that students choose to attend.  

Participants for the Tuesday afternoon sessions are provided an opportunity to unwind and relax for the evening after a long day, practicing deep breathing and clearing their mind from the day’s stress. Those that attend the midday sessions on Wednesdays are given a moment to reset for afternoon classes after potentially stressful morning classes. 

In these sessions, students learn and practice correct nasal and diaphragmatic breathing, as well as good posture for healthy breathing. Walsh guides the session through various breathwork protocols, each aimed to help the students learn how to control their breathing. The students are then empowered to take these skills and apply them throughout the day. These sessions are designed with the intention to help students become calm, centered and focused. 

Walsh is a certified breathing coach and her teaching practice focuses on breathwork as a way to manage stress, mitigate anxiety and generate peace and balance.  

When asked about how she chose to follow this path, Dr. Walsh commented, “I found breathwork during an incredibly stressful time in my life during which I was experiencing debilitating panic attacks. Breathwork helped me prevent (short-term) and effectively eliminate (long-term) the panic attacks.” 

Her personal experience with breathwork led her to not only want to become a coach, but to also share her knowledge with students and colleagues on campus who she believed could benefit from breathwork in the same way that she has. 

Walsh points out in these sessions that your breathing habits not only affect your ability to manage stress, but they also affect cognition, digestion, metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Breathing also determines sleep quality and drives athletic performance. 

Having poor breathing posture and practices can lead to not only poorer stress management, but can also negatively affect each aspect of wellness listed above. However, through these sessions, Walsh aims to provide students with the tools to improve breathing habits to support well-being. 

+ posts