Whether your stress feels overwhelming or you are already managing it, you can benefit from learning relaxation techniques.
Learning basic relaxation is easy. Relaxation techniques are often free or very inexpensive, pose little risk, and can be done nearly anywhere at virtually any time.
Structured Deep Breathing
"4 by 4" Method
- Sit straight up in your chair in a good posture position.
- Breath in for 4 seconds/ hold for 4 seconds/ breath out 4 seconds.
- Push belly out on the inhalation, allow it to recede on the exhalation.
Focused Deep Breathes
- Inhale through the nose until the lungs cannot retain any more air.
- Quickly, with the mouth open, breathe in an extra breath.
- Slowly exhale through the mouth.
- Repeat three times.
Physical Techniques- Muscle Tension Relaxation
- Put your feet flat on the floor.
- With your hands, grab underneath the chair.
- Push down with your feet and pull up on your chair at the same time for about five seconds.
- Relax for five to ten seconds.
- Repeat the procedure two or three times.
- Relax all your muscles except the ones that are actually used to take the test.
- Flex and relax muscles (5 seconds each) starting with the head and working down sequentially to the feet.
- Think of some real or imaginary relaxing scene that represents total serenity and well-being. Try to visualize this scene in vivid detail as if you were actually there, looking through your own eyes.
- Hold this relaxing scene in your imagination for several minutes.
Some students have difficulty stopping their negative self-talk. These students cannot just tell themselves to eliminate those thoughts. These students need to use a thought-stopping technique to overcome their worry and become relaxed.
Examples of negative self-talk:
- "No matter what I do, I will not pass the course."
- "I am no good at math, so why should I try?"
- "I cannot remember the answers or I have forgotten how to do the problems. I am going to fail this test."
- "I failed this course last semester, and I am going to flunk out again this semester."
To stop your thoughts in the classroom or during a test, silently shout to yourself "Stop" or "Stop thinking about that." After your silent shout, either relax yourself or repeat one of your positive self-talk statements. You may have to shout to yourself several times during a test or while doing homework to control negative self-talk. After every shout, use a different relaxation technique/scene or positive self-talk statement.
Examples of positive self-talk:
- "I failed the course last semester, but I can now use my study/ math skills to pass this course."
- "I went blank on the last test, but I now know how to reduce test anxiety."
- "I know that with hard work, I will pass math."
- "I prepared for this test and will do the best I can."
- "I feel good about my self and my abilities. I am not going to worry about that difficult problem. I'm going to use all my test time and check for careless errors. Even if I don't get the grade I want on this test, it is not the end of the world.
Thought stopping works because it interrupts the worry response before it can cause high anxiety or negative emotions.
During the interruption, you can replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk statements or relaxation. Students with high worry anxiety should practice this technique three days to one week before taking a test. Contact the campus counselor if you have additional questions about how to reduce test anxiety/negative self-talk statements.
Guided Relaxation Audio
Relaxation Music and Sounds
Try one of these suggested videos:
- Soothing Relaxation- For sleep, relaxation, meditation
approx. 3 hours. Also includes beautiful nature images.
- Morning Relaxing Music- Positive feelings and energy
approx. 3 hours. Also includes birdsong and still, nature images.
- Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health has a series of instructional videos for breathing exercises.