Stress Reduction, Relaxation and Controlling Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are normal, common reactions when trying to balance the many tasks and demands of college, work, and home. Learning how to relax can be an important way to keep stress in check and reduce your anxiety. It can be an important skill that you can use to manage your own stress levels and maintain a sense of well-being.

The following relaxation exercises are adapted from Full Catastrophe Living (1990) by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD.

Exercise 1

  • Assume a comfortable posture lying on your back or sitting. If you are sitting, keep the spine straight and let your shoulders drop.
  • Close your eyes if it feels comfortable.
  • Bring your attention to your belly, feeling it rise or expand gently on the in-breath and fall or recede on the out-breath.
  • Keep the focus on your breathing, "being with" each in-breath for its full duration and with each out-breath for its full duration, as if you were riding the waves of your own breathing.
  • Every time you notice that your mind has wandered off the breath, notice what it was that took you away and then gently bring your attention back to your belly and the feeling of the breath coming in and out.
  • If your mind wanders away from the breath a thousand times, then your "job" is simply to bring it back to the breath every time, no matter what it becomes preoccupied with.
  • Practice this exercise for 15 minutes at a convenient time every day, whether you feel like it or not, for one week and see how it feels to incorporate a disciplined meditation practice into your life. Be aware of how it feels to spend some time each day just being with your breath without having to do anything.

Exercise 2

  • Tune in to your breathing at different times during the day, feeling the belly go through one or two risings and fallings.
  • Become aware of your thoughts and feelings at these moments, just observing them without judging them or yourself.
  • At the same time be aware of any changes in the way you are seeing things and feeling about yourself.

Other Resources

The following are some links for information that can help you deal with feelings of anxiety, depression, suicide, and other emotional health issues:

  • ULifeLine - An online resource center for college student mental health and emotional well being
  • College Suicide Prevention Resource Center -A collection of specific info for college students regarding recognizing warning signs, finding resources, and utilizing mental health services.
  • Dr Bob's Virtual Pamphlet Collection - Dr. Robert Hsiung, at the University of Chicago has compiled a great list of online resources from universities across the country.
  • Go Ask Alice! - A question-and-answer service by Columbia University's Health Education Program. Go Ask Alice! answers questions about making better decisions regarding health, well-being, relationships, sexuality, depression, suicide, alcohol and drugs, and other topics.
Mental Health Information

The Internet is a great source of information on mental health issues, but it also has a lot of speculation, rumor, and misinformation, so surf carefully.