Relaxation techniques (presence of mind)

Posted on 3:08 AM by ebizin

Relaxation for Stress

Student life can be very stressful and pressured. Whatever your personal circumstances, along with the excitement and opportunities offered by student life you also face many demanding and challenging situations, new responsibilities and a great deal of change.

You will probably be trying to balance your time between studies and social activities and maybe the demands of child care and family life too. There may be difficulties with accommodation, with the practicalities of looking after yourself and, almost certainly, there are going to be financial worries, work deadlines and exams to cope with as well. It is not surprising therefore that so many people end up feeling tired, anxious and stressed.

Whilst a certain amount of stress and tension is a useful motivator in the short term, chronic stress can creep up almost unnoticed as we become more and more accustomed to being tired all the time, irritable and less able to cope with the everyday demands of a busy life.

Is this you?

* persistent tiredness; exhaustion

* deliberate avoidance of things that need doing

* bodily tension, leading to headaches, migraines, upset stomach

* sleep problems; either can’t sleep or sleeping too much

* loss of appetite or increased eating of ‘comfort foods’

* too much to do; no motivation to get started

* mind in a whirl; can’t think straight, concentrate or work effectively

* feeling under pressure; no time; often in a panic

Sometimes these symptoms can indicate a medical problem, and it is worth checking this out with your GP, but if you are looking for ways to manage your stress levels it is worth considering some of the things you can do.

It is unfortunately true that when we are at our most stressed it is also difficult to imagine finding the time and energy to do something about it. However it really is worth the relatively small amount of effort it takes to learn some relaxation techniques. Relaxation is a ‘transferable skill’ which will not only serve you well in exams, presentations or interviews but also at the dentist or in any other stressful setting, or as a way of helping you to get to sleep.

The exercises themselves are deceptively simple but they do work. As you begin to achieve a relaxed physical and mental state, your heart rate will slow and the amount of adrenalin released into the bloodstream will decrease.

There are many approaches to stress reduction through relaxation and no one method is right for everyone or in every setting. You may prefer to relax in a hot bath or to meditate, do yoga, tai chi or to swim. Here we are suggesting some physical relaxation techniques, some of which you can do in a public place without anyone guessing!

Quick, on-the-spot relaxation:

1. Sit up and back in your chair so that you feel firmly rooted, legs slightly apart, feet flat on the floor.

2. Drop your shoulders while you take a deep breath, letting it out slowly. Close your eyes if it helps. Keep focused on your breathing and breathe in slowly to the count of four - hold to the count of four - breathe out to the count of four - pause to the count of four. Repeat in an even, comfortable rhythm. It can help to imagine yourself relaxing more each time you breathe in and the tensions flowing away with every out breath.

3. Now slowly tense, hold and release the main muscle groups, working up through your body. Start with toes and feet; tense as much as possible, hold and release. Move on to calf muscles, thighs, bottom, stomach and upper body in the same way, paying particular attention to the upper back and shoulders, where we hold a lot of tension. Then work on your arms and hands. Finally, if you can (some places are just too public), screw up the muscles of your face and neck and release.

4. After this, gently massage your neck and upper spine, then return to focusing on slow breathing and check back through your body for any remaining tension.

5. Finally, check your seating position, drop your shoulders again and place your hands comfortably on your upper legs and concentrate on the sensation of warmth as it flows out through your hands.

Learning to relax in this way can be invaluable if you get anxious in public places and need to sit somewhere to compose yourself - or for exam panic when it is well worth the 5 minutes to put your pen down and completely clear the scrambled thoughts from your brain!

Deep relaxation, lying down:

This is a slower version of the previous relaxation technique to practice at home at the end of the day. You might like to play some relaxing music to help clear your mind.

Lie somewhere comfortable with a small pillow under your head and another under your knees. Focus on your breathing as before and slowly and deliberately repeat the sequence of tensing, holding and relaxing the muscle groups starting with the feet and working up through the body. You can now concentrate more fully on the tension in your neck and head. Lift your head up a little and stretch the neck muscles, holding them in tension before letting your head slowly back onto the pillow. Massage your face gently with fingertips, smoothing out the tension from the small muscles around the eyes and forehead.

When you have completed this routine your whole body should feel heavy and relaxed. You may feel drowsy, allow yourself to rest quietly for a while.

Relaxing the Mind:

Are you still disturbed by worries and intrusive thoughts? If so you may like to find a way to also relax your mind. There are several techniques for clearing the mind and, again, no one method will suit all people.

Some people benefit from developing an image of a familiar place which is associated with safety or tranquillity which they can call to mind when unwanted thoughts intrude.

Another technique known to be useful is to allow any troublesome thoughts to be present in your mind without fighting them. Be aware of their presence, then deliberately switch your attention back to awareness of your relaxed physical state; check for any tension which has re-occured. Now return to thinking about the things that are worrying you and visualise them as a picture on a page, then gradually fade or reduce that image in your mind to a small dot. You may need to repeat the process several times; you are aiming to learn to remain relaxed even though there are also stressful factors in your life. Doing relaxation exercises once won’t make you ‘fit’: learning to relax takes time and practice!