University life is often marked with stress and many tough choices that we have to make on a daily basis.
“You have less time to yourself, to think about who you are, what you want out of life, where you want to live, and what will make you happy,” says Sudhanshu Rai, an Associate Professor at the Department of Management, Society and Communication at CBS. According to the professor, who is project manager of Sky Campus at CBS, students are constantly worrying about their futures, making it impossible for them to be mindfully present.
That is why we need SKY Campus, which presents students with tools to improve their well-being.
Research-based methods to help students
The programme is based on research-backed SKY breathwork, which can help students to balance their emotions, manage stress, enhance social connection, and gain greater self-awareness. This method is about finding a way to prevent the mental health crises currently happening in many college campuses all over the world. The participants take a deep dive in an on-campus programme, learning yoga, a series of breathwork practices and meditation together, including the benefits of evidence-based SKY breathwork. They also engage in several interactive processes to build social connection and mindful leadership. Communication skills on a university campus are an important topic and are addressed in the programme through interactive experiences that explore how mental health and communication impact each other.
The International Art of Living Foundation, founded 42 years ago, has been leading the SKY Campus programme and conducting independent studies published in peer-reviewed journals for over 25 years now. This has proven that the breathing technique has benefits such as a strengthened immune system, enhanced brain and autonomic nervous system function (increased mental focus, calmness), improved sleep, relieved anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms among others.
As Bedabrata Saha, an instructor and country coordinator of the SKY Campus programme, explains, the SKY breathing technique is to help students be more present when our mind is wandering between the past and the future, being impacted by events or situations. It is supposed to ease anxiety and bring peace, which enables us to better communicate, express ourselves and think. “Every emotion has its corresponding impact on our breathing pattern, when we are angry, we breathe in a certain way, when we are sad or happy, we breathe in certain ways. Therefore, breathing in certain patterns can help to achieve emotional balance. The whole programme is about how you can bring balance to your life, manage stress, and improve your communication skills,” says Bedabrata Saha.
He mentions that before the programme, instructors evaluate which skills are most important for particular groups of students. Sometimes it is emotional intelligence, other times social interactions. At CBS, where the first SKY Campus programme took place in September 2023, stress management was the most important factor for students beginning the new semester.
“The idea was to create human beings that are going to be responsible for themselves, society and the future,” explained Sudhanshu Rai.
Long-term investment for students
CBS WIRE also talked to three students who took part in the programme. Linda Kirthova, an exchange student from Austria, explained that the CBS course called “Applied Mindfulness and Compassion,” inspired her to sign up for the SKY Campus programme. For Isabelle Rotty, a second-year student taking a BSc in Business, Language and Culture, and Zoi Kika, a first-year MSc student in Sales Management at CBS, what made them sign up for the workshop was the willingness to better understand how to deal with hard situations. The students treated it like a long-term investment in their studies, and the practices that they could use to later overcome stress and deal with difficult situations.
Sudhanshu Rai highlighted that nowadays it is hard to convince students to contribute to this sort of venture, and it is no wonder as due to their packed calendars, they often cannot squeeze in sessions lasting three hours on three consecutive days. As a result, 37 people registered for the first programme; however, all three interviewees appreciated that the workshop was for a rather small group since it felt more personal and brought together the right, like-minded students with the same intentions. As Zoi Kika pointed out, “the whole point of the programme was to learn how to prioritise yourself,” and committing a total of nine hours to the session was the first step for the participants.
CBS student Linda Kirthova explained that in the end, they had the chance to interact with everyone in the programme through various exercises, which made the experience better. Students also mentioned that it gave them a sort of understanding that they are not alone in their situation and that others have similar struggles and worries. They had the chance to discuss deep topics with people they might not have met before and they realised that everyone has improvements to make and goals to become better, as Isabelle Rotty points out.
Practice makes perfect
Since SKY Campus addresses the core demands of students in their daily lives, the techniques work best if practiced frequently. Now that the first programme is over and the students are equipped with the special, practical tools, it is all about training and mastering the abilities that the students have learned. Bedabrata Saha also mentions that there are weekly follow-up sessions for the participants that are set to build both a community and an ecosystem among the participants by creating a “SKY Campus Club.”
Recently the second edition of the SKY Campus program took place at CBS over the weekend of November 3 – 5. Further evaluation and discussion about the SKY Campus programs for the next year will be discussed with student administration. According to Bedabrata Saha, the organisers will make a summary report about the two programmes and present it to the management team to discuss more recurring programmes in the next year, organised ideally twice a semester. Moreover, a similar programme for faculty and staff is set to be conducted early next year, in order to help them balance their work and personal lives while communicating with and understanding the student community better.