Relaxation and Stress Management

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders affect 18% of adults in the United States. Job Corps students are particularly susceptible to anxiety as they are undergoing a transition in their lives and acclimating to a new living arrangement and social circle, and pressures from Job training and academics. Stress management and relaxation techniques can help students handle stress. This webpage provides exercises to help Job Corps students and staff relax.

 

 


 

Online Exercises

A woman meditating 

Feeling overwhelmed or stressed? You are not alone! Whether you have one minute or half an hour, you can find ways to relax every day. On this page, you will find several ways to enhance your relaxation skills and fight the negative consequences of stress. In each section, there is a brief description of the relaxation technique and a link to learn the relaxation method.

Getting the Most Out of the Online Relaxation Exercises
 

When you are ready to practice the relaxation technique, find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for the duration of the exercise. Then, find a comfortable chair that will allow you to sit up straight using good posture. How you sit in your chair is important. Push the small of your back to the rear of the chair and sit upright. This will allow you to take long smooth breaths, and your lungs to fully expand with oxygen. Do not cross your arms or legs, but sit with your legs at a ninety degree angle. Rest your arms comfortably in your lap without using armrests. If you use armrests, this might lead to muscle tension in your shoulders, neck and back. Many people prefer to close their eyes during these relaxation exercises. If you do not wish to close your eyes, you might find a fixed point in the room and let your gaze fall upon it.

You might try each of the relaxation exercises offered on this page. Many people find that they prefer one or two more than the others. It is suggested that you start with Diaphragmatic Breathing as this is an important introduction to the other exercises.

Deep Breathing from the Diaphragm
 

One of the first steps in learning to breathe well is to learn diaphragmatic deep breathing. Learning to breathe deeply from the diaphragm is an important key to managing stress. Most people are not aware of the way they breathe and rarely inhale and exhale completely. First, you must become aware of how you breathe and consciously learn deep breathing. With practice, this natural stress reliever becomes an automatic response to stressful situations.

  • Consciously relax the muscles of your diaphragm.
  • Inhale as deeply as possible through your nose. Feel your lungs filling from the bottom upward. Allow your chest and shoulders to move upward as your lungs fill completely. As you inhale, mentally count to six or seven slowly as you take in the air.
  • Hold the breath to the mental count of two.
  • Exhale slowly, letting yourself feel the stress and tension leaving your body. Mentally count to eight or ten making sure to completely release all of the air from your lungs.
  • Repeat these steps for approximately five minutes.

The following links demonstrate this technique:

  • Diaphragmatic Breathing (MP3)
    Length: 9 minutes, 13 seconds.  In this introduction, you'll learn how to make relaxation exercises work effectively for you. Skills for proper breathing techniques are presented by Dr. Allan Vives.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
 

Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that involves tensing specific muscle groups and then relaxing them to create awareness of tension and relaxation. It is termed progressive because it proceeds through all major muscle groups, relaxing them one at a time, and eventually leads to total muscle relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation is a great way to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. There are many benefits to learning this stress reduction technique including:

  • A reduction in the physical effects that stress has on your body
  • A chance for your mind to relax
  • An overall sense of emotional well being

The following links demonstrate this technique:

Visual Imagery
 

Visual imagery is a flow of thoughts you can see, hear, feel, smell, or taste. An effective technique used for relaxation and stress reduction, visual imagery uses the "mind's eye" to control stressful feelings and situations. When stress builds, you close your eyes and go to a peaceful place using your mind. Visualize your favorite beautiful relaxing place. It could be somewhere you have visited, a picture of a place you saw in a movie or magazine, or just the perfect place for you to get away. Perhaps it is a tranquil ocean beach, a grassy meadow with patches of beautiful wildflowers, or a snowy mountain peak. For example, if you visualize a meadow, imagine you are walking barefoot in the grass. Feel the grass under your feet and the heat of the sun on your skin. Smell the fragrance of the flowers. Hear the melodic songs of the meadow birds. When you are ready to return from your mini mind vacation, you will feel relaxed and be stress free.

The following links demonstrate this technique:

Mindfulness Meditation
 

When you think of meditation, do you picture yourself in a yoga lotus position repeating a mantra? For many people that is a perfect meditation style. However, many others find it is not. Have you decided to give up on the thought of meditation because you think it is not for you? Often, people do not realize there are many other types of mediation that are effective stress relievers. Using mindfulness meditation as a stress management tool offers excellent results. Mindfulness meditation is unique in that it is not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are, instead it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is.

The following steps are a simple mindfulness meditation technique.

  • Sit or lay in a comfortable relaxed position.
  • Focus on your breathing. It should be natural but deep enough to fill your lungs with oxygen.
  • Empty your mind of your problems and everyday concerns. Simply try your best to focus on the present. As you meditate, your anxious mind and tense body begin to relax.
  • Concentrate completely on one thing. It could be an image, a sound, or a word. It could even be a feeling or a concept. Focus all your attention and concentration on the one thing you have chosen. Stay focused on the present moment until the feelings of stress have disappeared.

The following links demonstrate this technique:

Conclusion
 

Although each of these stress reduction techniques works very well alone, they are very effective when used in combination with one another. For example, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation are a good combination. Once you learn these methods of managing stress, you will find the best and most effective method and combination of methods for you. When you find which one or ones you like, it is recommended that you practice them every day so you can build the skill and make the exercise more effective for you.

References
 

American Psychological Association (APA): Stress
http://www.apa.org/topics/stress/index.aspx

Basic Strategies in Stress Management
http://stress.lovetoknow.com/Five_Secrets_to_Managing_Stress

Georgia Southern University Counseling Department: Relaxation and Stress Management
http://studentsupport.georgiasouthern.edu/counseling/resources/self-help/relaxation-and-stress-management/

Note: All MP3 audio files and PDFs are provided with permission from Georgia Southern University Counseling Department. 


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Forms & Documents

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Web Resources

 

 Web Resources

 
  
  
DescriptionFilter
  
http://www.apa.org/topics/stress/index.aspx
Provides information about Stress in America, What You Can Do, and related APA publications.
  
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bellybio-interactive-breathing/id353763955?mt=8
Wonderful biofeedback device that monitors your breathing and plays sounds reminiscent of ocean waves when you relax. Great for anxiety and stress. iPhone only.
  
http://studentsupport.georgiasouthern.edu/counseling/resources/self-help/relaxation-and-stress-management/
Provides information on how to handle stress, books and internet resources, and online relaxation resources.
  
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/relax-sleep-well-by-glenn/id412690467?mt=8
Twenty-minute guided meditation with music to help you fall asleep. Relaxing and gentle. For iPhone and Android.
  
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/relax-andrew-johnson-lite/id307750844?mt=8
Great guided meditation session for relaxation, helpful with anxiety and stress as well as a sleep aid. Available in Android and iPhone versions.
  
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/take-break!-guided-meditations/id453857236?mt=8
From the excellent developers of relaxation apps at Meditation Oasis comes this free app to quickly recharge. Listen to a seven-minute Work Break or 13-minute Stress Relief recording with or without music or nature sounds. iPhone or Android.

 

 

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