Relaxation exercises are easy to learn and implement and can be remarkably effective in addressing stress, test anxiety, all kinds of phobias and other similar concerns.
The Progressive Relaxation Exercise (recorded by Steve Sprinkle, former director of the Counseling Center) is loosely based on a technique described in Chapter 4 of the 5tth edition of The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook, a best-selling self-help book.
This exercise will direct you to systematically relax your major muscle groups by briefly flexing your muscles and then slowly releasing the tension. It begins by having you flex your facial muscles and continues with your neck and shoulders, down to your arms, abdomen and legs. The exercise ends by directing you to breathe deeply and slowly as you review parts of your body. The recording is about nine minutes long.
The Combination Relaxation Exercise (recorded by Bonnie Lambourn, one of the psychologists at the Counseling Center) blends several relaxation techniques, which used together can have a synergistic effect in creating a deep relaxation experience. It is loosely based on Chapter 11 of the 5th edition of The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook.
In this exercise, you will progressively release tension from your major muscle groups and then will be guided in using deep breathing, affirming statements and the visualization of a "safe place" to achieve a relaxed state. The recording is about 15 minutes long. You can listen to either exercise directly from this Web site, or you can download the exercises onto your computer. The recordings of these exercises are not copyrighted-they can be used or copied or recorded to a CD freely.
Here are some tips for using these or any relaxation exercises:
- Try to practice whichever exercise you prefer at least once or twice a day. Expect your ability to relax to improve as you continue practicing and expect to practice two or three weeks before you become genuinely proficient. Once you learn how to do one of the exercises, you may no longer require the recorded instructions and you can tailor the exercise to your own liking.
- Avoid practicing within an hour before or after a meal (either hunger or feeling full may distract you). Also avoid practicing immediately after engaging in vigorous exercise.
- Sit quietly and in a comfortable position, with your legs uncrossed and your arms resting at your sides. This is especially important when you are first learning the exercise.
- Adopt a calm and accepting attitude towards your practice. Don't worry about how well you're doing or about possible interruptions. Instead, know that with repetition your ability to relax will grow.
- When you are ready, close your eyes, begin listening to the recording and follow the directions. As you complete the exercise, you can expect your mind to wander a bit-when this happens you can simply re-direct your focus back to the recording.
- Once you've finished, stretch, look around and remain still another minute or two.
- As you become more skilled, try applying the exercises to specific situations that might otherwise be anxiety provoking, such as tests, oral presentations, difficult social situations, job interviews, insomnia and so forth. If you need help learning or applying the exercises, consider meeting with a counselor.