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Relaxation Tips

  1. Psych yourself up--be confident!


  2. In the morning:
    • Set an alarm with enough time to get to the exam without worrying, then set it 1/2 to 3/4 hour earlier.
    • Glance over your notes.
    • Relax on campus immediately before the test, perhaps with the newspaper and a cup of coffee.
    • Avoid conversations about the subject matter -- it can throw you off balance.
    • Don't study the last hour before the test.
    • Eat something light to give you energy and to keep your stomach from annoying you as well as others.


  3. Get to the exam room early enough to:
    • Get a good seat.
      1. Blackboard is in view.
      2. Clock is in view.
      3. Light is okay.
      4. Distracting friends are not near you.
    • Glance over your notes one last time (optional).
    • Relax for a second before starting. Practice slow, deep breathing.


  4. How to handle test anxiety.
    • It's natural--accept it.
    • Some anxiety is good for motivation.
    • If you have too much anxiety. Take your mind off of self-defeating thoughts. For example:

      Before the test begins:
      • Picture your summary notes and rehearse key concepts and terms in your mind's eye.
      • Think briefly about the relaxed aftermath.
      • Take several slow deep breaths and concentrate on relaxing your whole body.

Relaxation Exercises

GENERAL DIRECTIONS:

For all of these exercises, it is best to be seated, eyes closed, feet flat on the floor or crossed at the ankles, and hands resting comfortably in the lap. Begin each exercise with a deep breath that you let out gently. As you let it out, feel yourself beginning to relax already. Gentle Arousal: After the exercise, slowly and gently activate by breathing a little more deeply, wiggling your fingers and toes, and opening your eyes at your own rate.

EXERCISE I: Tense-Relax (General directions first) Clench your fists. While keeping them clenched, pull your forearms tightly up against your upper arms. While keeping those muscles tense, tense all the muscles in you legs. While keeping all those tense, clench your jaws and shut your eyes fairly tight...not too tightly. Now while holding all those tense, take a deep breath and hold it for 5 seconds...Then, let everything go all at once. Feel yourself letting go of all your tensions. Just enjoy that feeling for a minute as your muscles let go more and more. Actually, if we had a finely-tuned electromyograph hooked up to you measuring the level of tension in your muscles, it would show that you relax more and more and more for up to 20 minutes. Just enjoy focusing, gently, on letting go (Arouse gently).

EXERCISE II: Heaviness and Warmth (General directions first) Just imagine that your feet and legs are getting heavier and heavier and warmer and warmer. It�s almost as if you are wearing some lead boots. Feet and legs heavy and warm, heavy and warm. Now, imagine your stomach and the whole central portion of your body getting warm...warm and relaxed. My forehead is cool...cool...relaxed and cool. And my breathing is regular...easy and regular. Just feel the warm and heaviness spread all over the body. (Arouse gently).

EXERCISE III: A Favorite Scene, Place or Person (General directions first) As you�re sitting quietly, recall, in your mind, the most relaxing thought you can. Perhaps it�s a favorite place, a vacation spot or favorite retreat of some sort; or it might be a person with whom you feel at peace, or some scene-a meadow, or whatever works for you. Take a few seconds to get that in mind...Now, see or imagine that in your mind. Be sure to feel those good feelings you have when you are in that place. Just let them take over your whole awareness...If your thoughts wander, just take them gently back to that peaceful, relaxing place. (Arouse gently)

EXERCISE IV: Cool Air In, Warm Air Out (General directions first) With your eyes closed, and while relaxing quietly, gently focus on the end of your nose. As you breathe in, feel the air coming in the tip of your nose. As you breathe out, feel the air coming out the tip of your nose...Notice that the air coming in is cooler than the air going out...Gently focus on the cool air coming in, and the warm air going out. As your attention wanders, just gently bring it back to the tip of your nose...(Gentle arousal)

Mini-Relaxation Exercises

Mini Version 1
As you inhale, count very slowly up to four; as you exhale, count slowly back down to one. Thus, as you inhale, you say to yourself "one, two, three, four," as you exhale, you say to yourself "four, three, two, one." Do this several times.

Mini Version 2
After each inhalation, pause for a few seconds, after your exhale, pause again for a few seconds. Do this for several breaths.

Tense-Relax for Deep Muscle Relaxation Exercise

This technique is based on a system called "Progressive Relaxation" which was developed by a physician, Edmund Jacobson.

To begin, assume a sitting position. It is easier to learn how to use your relaxation skills throughout the day if you practice while seated, rather than lying down. Sit with your back fairly straight, in a chair that is comfortable for you. Place your feet flat on the floor to help support you as you become more relaxed. Let your hands rest comfortably in your lap. Close your eyes so you can more easily focus on your internal sensations. Let yourself relax as deeply as you can right now.

First, I'll ask you to tense some specific muscles while letting your other muscles remain relaxed. Focus your attention on the feelings of tension that come from those tensed muscles. Then, I'll ask you to release the tensed muscles all at once and notice how those muscles feel as you allow them to relax more and more. Note the sensations that come from those muscles as they relax progressively deeper and deeper. You will learn to be more aware of the difference between tension and relaxation and to let yourself relax more deeply anytime you choose.

To begin, gently shift your attention to your hands, lying in your lap. Let them remain there. And, now, clench your fists. Let all your other muscles remain relaxed. Focus just on the feelings of tension in your forearms and hands. Notice the location of the muscles that are tensed. And, now, relax all at once. Don't ease off, just let go. Study the sensations in your hands and forearms as the muscles relax further and further.

Next, pull your forearms up against your upper arms as far as you can. Let your hands and wrists hang limp. Pull your forearms up tight now and feel the large muscles in your upper arm, the biceps, tighten. Describe to yourself mentally the tension in your biceps and be aware of the location of these muscles. Hold it. Relax, let your arms just flop down into your lap.

During each of these exercises notice the contrast between how the muscles feel when they're tensed and when they are relaxed.

Now, straighten your arms out in front of you at shoulder height with your thumbs touching each other. Let your wrists hang limp. Now, turn your hands away from each other so that your palms are facing out and you can feel the muscles tense up the back of your upper arms. Hold it and study the tension along the back of your upper arm. Relax now and just let your arms drop down. As you perform each of these exercises, check to be sure that you are letting the rest of your muscles remain relaxed.

Now, raise your arms straight out to the side until they are level with your shoulders; let your wrists hang limp. You're not tensing against anything, so it will take a little more time before the muscles feel tense. The muscles which are tensed are across the tops of your upper arms and extend up into the back of your neck. Relax now. File away in your memory what you did in order to let these muscles relax so that during the day you can recreate the same feelings of relaxation on your own.

Gently shift your attention to your head and raise your eyebrows. At the same time, imagine pulling your scalp down to meet your eyebrows. Don't worry if you can't feel your scalp; many people can't. Feel the tension in your forehead and up across the top of your skull. Release the tension all at once, now. Just allow your forehead to smooth out. Forehead muscles are surprisingly important. Being able to relax these muscles can help muscles in the whole upper part of the body relax.

Once again, raise your eyebrows and feel the muscles that are tense. Now try to let go approximately half of the tension from your forehead, while keeping the remaining tension at a constant, steady level. Now, let half of that tension go and hold the remaining tension steady; and release half of that tension.Try to maintain just a tiny level of tension. This is an excellent exercise to help you become aware of when you just beginning to tense your forehead even a little bit. And relax now. Let all the tension go and just enjoy the good feeling as your forehead relaxes and smoothes out gradually, lets go and relaxes deeper and deeper. Remember what your forehead feels like now when it is relaxed so you can be aware of even the smallest amount of tension during the day. This can be a key to relaxing the rest of your body.

Close your eyes tightly, now. You can feel the muscles tense that circle your eyes. Relax . . . Let all the tensions leave. Allow your eyelids to rest gently while your eyes remain closed.

While your eyes remain closed, slowly roll your eyes to the right in a large circle. It's easy to strain these muscles, so roll your eyes wide enough to feel the muscles but don't strain. Feel the tension in those muscles that move your eyes to the right. and as the tension passes to those muscles that move your eyes downward; to the left; and up and around. Now, go back around to your left.

Just think of looking at nothing and be aware of the sensations as you let the tensions leave these muscles.

Now, pucker your lips. Feel the circular muscles around your mouth work. Relax.

Clench your teeth. Let your lips remain relaxed while clenching your teeth. Feel the muscles tighten in the corners of your jaw and on up into your temples. If you can't feel the tension in your temples, just reach your fingers up and touch your temples to feel that tension. Relax now. Just let your jaw hang slack, and let all the tension go Out of it.

Just imagine yourself humming a very low restful note that vibrates throughout your whole body.

Now tense the muscles in your neck that move your head back. While keeping those muscles tight, try to move your head forward so that you're tensing one set of muscles against another. In addition, try to move your head to the right and to the left. Hold it. Now, let the muscles in your neck relax all at once. Let your neck relax so deeply that if a breeze came along it would be able to blow your head from side to side.

Move the points of your shoulders forward and together as if you were trying to touch your shoulders together in front of you. Now relax and pull your shoulders back as if you were trying to touch the points of your shoulder blades together behind you. And relax, now. Just feel the relaxation spread down your shoulders and upper back.

Tighten the muscles that move your knees together. At the same time, tighten the muscles that move your knees apart. At the same time, tense the muscles that push down and the ones that raise your thighs. And, finally, think of crossing your right leg over your left and your left leg over your right. Study all the feelings of tension. Relax, now just let those muscles lengthen and smooth out. Feel the muscles gradually lengthen as they relax more and more. Now, point your toes downward so that they are in direct line with your legs. Feel the muscles that are tensed in your calves. And relax, now. Pull your toes up as if to touch your shins. Feel the muscles work up your shins. Relax now, just let go.

In this next exercise, be careful not to tense too hard because you can cramp these muscles. Make a fist with your toes by curling your toes under. Feel the muscles tighten up under your arch. And relax now.

In order to enhance your relaxation and help you become more deeply relaxed, you can practice this breathing exercise. Breathe in slowly and evenly until your lungs are three�quarters full. Then exhale by letting just the weight of your chest expell the air. Breathe in slowly and effortlessly to 3/4 full; and let the weight of your chest expell the air from your lungs. As you exhale, just let everything go and allow the weight of your chest to expell the air from your lungs. This is a good breathing exercise you can use to start your relaxation during the day.

Learn to use your exhalation as a signal for every other muscles in your body to relax a little more.

Continue this form of breathing, just being aware of the air coming in and out of your lungs. If any muscle has some remaining tension that sticks out above the others, find the switch to that tensed muscle and turn it off. Don't try to relax by moving, because moving you will re�tense muscles and it takes those muscles longer to relax. Also, remember that the more often you allow yourself to relax the sooner you will be able to learn to relax even these chronically tense areas.

While continuing your breathing, as I count backwards from 10 to 1, allow yourself to become more relaxed with each count. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. Just allow all your muscles from head to toe to smooth out as you drift down into deeper and deeper relaxation.

Learning a skill takes practice, be that skill playing tennis, dancing, or writing. Learning to relax when we choose to at any time also is a skill, so we need to practice it.

Choose a time each day (when your stomach is empty) when you will practice this relaxation technique. Don't worry about doing it precisely as it has been presented. Doing it is more important. So practice what parts you felt helped you the most. Then, occasionally, listen to the tape to refresh your memory. And enjoy learning to relax!

When your body gets deeply relaxed, it is important to become active again, slowly. Become aware of your feet against the floor; your body against the chair. Take 5 deep breaths and feel yourself becoming more and more alert with each breath, more rested and refreshed.

Wiggle your fingers and your toes. And, at your own rate, whenever you are ready, go ahead and open your eyes.

Text of the Guided Imagery Exercise

To begin, sit in a comfortable chair with your back rather straight. Place your feet flat on the floor. Let your hands rest comfortable in your lap. Slowly take a deep breath and, as you slowly let it out, let your eyes close and your body relax as deeply as possible right now.

In this exercise, I will describe a pleasant scene, and allow you time to experience that scene just as if you were there, while remaining as relaxed as possible. Just let your imagination play freely, much as you did when you were a child. You may experience the scene in a variety of ways by seeing it, perhaps hearing it, or smelling some part of it, or feeling more peaceful. If you have difficulty imagining, just follow your own method of relaxation, or recall a pleasant experience from your own memory.

Let your eyes remain relaxed as you think of nothing. You are standing on a road on a bright sunny day. Its a warm day. Feel the warmth of the sun, the warm, warm sun on your face and hands. If you feel too warm, there will be a breeze to keep you comfortable. As you stand there,just enjoy the warmth of the sun.

Slowly, now, walk to the edge of the road. You�re walking down the side of the road and across a small ditch or ravine. Off in the distance is a small gurgling stream. You�re walking over to the stream. Stop and look around at the trees on either side of the stream. If you are really relaxed now you just might even be able to hear the wind as it blows gently through the trees. The leaves are rustling and, as the breeze comes toward you, it brings with it the smells of the trees and woods. It�s a very cool, clean, damp smell.

It feels good as you fill your lungs with the cool air. Walk along the stream through the trees, and notice the different varieties of trees and the different intricacies of the bark. Look up through the intertwined limbs at the deep blue sky.

Now, the gurgling sounds of the stream draw your attention. And, as you look in the stream, leaves float past you, spinning and twirling. You have come to a large tree that overshadows a small waterfall. Sit down on a large, smooth rock that is next to the tree and stream.

As you sit on the rock, lean over the stream and look into a calm pool of water. Dip your hands into the cool water and bring the refreshing water to your face.

Now, sit back against the tree and let the sounds of the water and the breeze dancing through the grass and the trees fill your ears. Just enjoy the peacefulness and allow yourself to relax even more deeply.

Now, as you gaze on a hillside in the distance, notice a small building standing there. As you look at the small building you can see smoke rising up out of the chimney. The smoke is lazily drifting up, into the sky. For a moment, allow yourself to feel what it�s like to be smoke. The smoke drifts upwards. Feel the wind carry you upwards, going up higher and higher, rising up, and, as you do, feeling light and free.

You�re high above the trees now, floating effortlessly.

Several birds are circling above and come gliding gracefully through the smoke. For a moment, allow yourself to become one of the birds. You�re a bird, now. You�re still a bird as you fly back towards the smoke that is rising out of that small building in the woods. Return to your feelings of being smoke. Allow yourself to become one of the particles of burnt ash in the smoke. You begin to drift slowly and gently back to earth, drifting back and forth, back and forth,just as you�ve seen leaves fall through the air, descending slowly. Now you�ve landed. You are right next to your body. Now, feel yourself sitting there very relaxed on the rock, with the tree behind you: very, very warm and comfortable. Just enjoy sitting there next to the stream.

Now it is time to return to the road. So, get up slowly, and begin to walk back down along the stream again, walking down past the leaves as they rush past you in the stream. Climb the side of the ditch beside the road. You are standing on the road, again, feeling the sun.

Let the image fade away for now. Begin to feel your body sitting here in a chair. Become aware of your body�s surroundings. Pause a moment to feel the restful relaxation sensations within your body. If you are aware of a specific area of tension, allow it to relax. Let yourself settle down and become even more deeply relaxed. If you can't let all the tension go, don�t worry. Just let go as much as you can this time.

File in your memory how you feel now when you are allowing yourself to deeply relax. Later,during the day, even while being active, as you feel the need or desire to, you can recreate to some degree the same feelings of deep, refreshing, relaxed awareness in mind and body.

Take a long, slow, deep breath. Feel new oxygen entering your lungs. Feel your breath cleansing and, as you breathe out, releasing the tensions and stresses from your body.

Continue breathing in a little more deeply, feeling our lungs fillingvery gently with the new oxygen and energy. See the oxygen as clean energy coming into your body each time you breathe in. See your exhalation as ridding yourself of the wastes from your body. It�s almost as if you�re cleansing your body by filling it with renewed life and energy. Feel yourself rising up out of the relaxation even more with each breath. You are very gently rising up from the depths of a pool of relaxation.

Continue to breathe in slowly and deeply. Begin to wiggle your fingers and move your toes and feet. Continue breathing deeply while moving your legs and the upper part of your body. Whenever you are ready, go ahead and open your eyes.

Relaxation and Perspective Questions:

  1. What am I happy about in my life right now?
    • What about that makes me happy?
    • How does that make me feel?


  2. What am I excited about in my life right now?
    • What about that makes me excited?
    • How does that make me feel?


  3. What am I proud of in my life right now?
    • What about that makes me proud?
    • How does that make me feel?


  4. What am I grateful for in my life right now?
    • What about that makes me grateful?
    • How does that make me feel?


  5. What am I enjoying most in my life right now?
    • What about that do I enjoy?
    • How does that make me feel?


  6. What am I committed to in my life right now?
    • What about that makes me committed?
    • How does that make me feel?


  7. Who do I love? Who loves me?
    • What about that makes me loving?
    • How does that make me feel?

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