Counseling Clinic associate director: Ways to stay grounded

Adriana Hernandez-Santana, Feature Junior Editor

Editor’s Note: The job title for Jessica Milburn was corrected within the story and headline to be her correct title.

Eastern’s Counseling Clinic Associate Director Jessica Milburn understands that transitioning from high school to college can be a big change in someone’s life. 

Milburn offers different mental health tips and tricks that could be useful in a high stress situation. 

Some of the different techniques include things such as square breathing, grounding, challenging your thoughts and the S.T.O.P. technique.

For square breathing, the idea is to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth while counting your breath. 

The individual is meant to breathe in for four counts and then out for four counts. 

This process gets repeated to where the pattern is almost like a square. 

The next technique Milburn advises is grounding. This is where the individual takes a step back and instead tunes into their senses.

“Use your five senses to bring yourself back into the present moment,” Milburn said. “For example, what can you see, and describe it as detailed as you can in your head. Repeat with each sense (smell, touch, hearing, and taste if possible). Or find five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.”

Another useful technique is to challenge the negative thoughts that are holding you back. 

Asking questions like “what makes me think this way,” “is there any evidence to support this” and “what would a friend say,” are just a few of the questions you can ask yourself to break the negative train of thoughts. 

A technique that many people use as well is the S.T.O.P technique. The acronyms are as follows. 

“Stop, think, observe while using your five senses, and then proceed with caution.” Milburn said. 

Milburn also advises some other tips as well. 

It can be something as simple as writing down something positive that happens each day, journaling your feelings, taking breaks whenever it feels needed, and practicing meditation. 

Having a good balance between our physical health and mental health is something to take into consideration too. 

Milburn explains how one works hand in hand with the other. 

“Exercise changes chemical levels in your brain, such as stress hormones, endorphins and serotonin, which help improve your mood as well,” Milburn said. “It can be seen as a healthy coping skill and stress relief, while providing possible opportunities to socialize and meet people as well. Additionally, eating healthy helps with our mental health.” 

Taking care of yourself is hard. 

Milburn realizes this, but also wants to do her best to ensure she’s ready for her clients. 

To ensure she’s rested and ready to help she has some self-care routines of her own. 

“I try to stick to a routine,” Milburn said. “So, on those busy days, I make sure I am always taking my lunch break and breaks during the day, eating, and getting a full night’s sleep no matter how much work I still have to do. I also practice mindfulness, go for walks, ride my bike, play video games and spend time with friends and family.”

Overall, Milburn does her best to ensure that students feel safe and comfortable here at Eastern. 

She does offer one final piece of advice for anyone out there who is struggling a bit more than they had hoped.

“Create a space that is just for you with items that bring you comfort,” Milburn said. “Create a support system for yourself at EIU, get involved and attend the events that campus has to offer.”


Adriana Hernandez-Santana can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].