Ways We Can Cope with Stress | Relaxation Training | Vulnerability to Stress Quiz
Performing relaxation exercises counteracts the stress response and brings our body back to a calm and regulated level of arousal. Relaxation training helps us increase our mood, concentration, memory and our energy level. Experts suggest that we should perform relaxation exercises for at least 10 minutes a day. The everyday practice provides a more cumulative effect rather than just a temporary state of relaxation. Relaxation training can be done wherever and whenever it is convenient: in bed before sleep, in the parking lot before practicum, in an empty class before school, etc.
Most exercises listed below will provide the most benefit when you can give yourself 10 minutes of undisturbed, quiet, relaxation. When you can’t take time away and still need to relax for a minute, try the more portable exercises below. These are quick and provide immediate relaxation.
Not only will you be more comfortable with each exercise the more you practice, but your body will learn how to react more and more quickly. Depending on how much time you can allow yourself, choose the appropriate exercise and RELAX!
During your busy day try these portable techniques:
- Put your hands over your belly button and image there is a pouch in your stomach lying beneath your belly button.
- Inhale for 2-3 seconds and imagine the pouch slowly filling up with air.
- After inhaling, hold your breath and say to yourself “My body is calm.”
- Slowly exhale and repeat the phrase “My body is quiet.” Imagine the pouch slowly emptying during the 2-3 exhale.
- Do 4-5 inhales/exhales at one sitting but remember to go at a slow and comfortable pace.
This exercise can be done when waiting in line, moments before a big presentation, while stuck in traffic, before walking into work, etc.
Walking Mediation – Involves concentrating on a certain sensation of the walking movement to slow down our minds and allow ourselves to live in the present.
- Pick a particular part of the walk such as the sensation of the feet hitting the ground, the feeling of our arms swinging, or the feeling of our breath entering and leaving the body.
- Keep your gaze directed out in front of you and refrain from looking around at your surroundings. This helps us maintain our concentration.
- When the mind wanders away from the walking sensations, acknowledge the thought and gently bring your concentration back to the feeling of the walk.
When you can allow yourself 10 minutes of peace:
Passive Muscle Relaxation
- Find a comfortable position either sitting or lying down and close your eyes.
- Take a few deep breaths and tune into your body to find any areas that are painful or tense. Take an extra minute or two on these areas when doing the exercise.
- Imagine a wave of relaxation descending from your head, slowly down to your neck, and eventually down to your feet. Focus all your attention on the muscle groups and imagine them becoming warm and then totally relaxed. Once the muscle group feels relaxed, image the relaxation slowly move down your body and onto the next muscle group.
- Once you have worked your way slowly down to your feet and your whole body is completely relaxed, simply sit quietly for a minute. Acknowledge the great feeling and repeat to yourself “I am relaxed, I am relaxed.”
- Think of a place that brings you complete comfort and happiness. This could be a beach, a mountain, or your favorite place to read; anywhere specific to you that you would love to be.
- Close your eyes and imagine yourself driving, flying, or walking to your destination.
- When you finally get there, simply be present with your surroundings. Fill every detail of the situation with your mind, including the smells, sounds, sights, tastes and how great it feels to be there.
- After a few minutes or when you are ready to return, count from 1 to 10 and slowly reintegrate yourself to the world around you. Take a minute once you have brought yourself back before standing up and resuming your activities.
- Find a quiet location where you can sit undisturbed.
- Choose a word, phrase, or prayer that has personal meaning to you. If you are having trouble finding a phrase, Om or the English translation One are popular and are recommended. Each time you exhale, repeat this phrase to yourself as a way to minimize distracting thoughts.
- Get comfortable and close your eyes.
- When distracting thoughts do come into your conscious, say to yourself “Oh, well,” and bring your attention back to the repetition of your phrase.
This page is intended to provide graduate students with some helpful tips for reducing moderate discomfort that comes with our daily lives. It is not intended to replace any sort of psychological treatment. Depression, anxiety, and other emotional concerns are very common in higher education settings. If you have been experiencing intense or upsetting emotions recently we encourage you to talk to someone close to you. Advisors, professors, as well as fellow classmates, will help you locate a professional who can help you feel better.