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An Introductory Guide for Students


Table of Contents
Introduction....3 Stress Assessments...............................................4 Deep Breathing.11 Meditation Mantras....13 Mandala Coloring 15 Journaling..16 Progressive Muscle Relaxation..19 Mental Imagery21 Thought Stopping...25 References.26

It is completely normal for college students to experience stress.

Common college stressors include increased academic pressures, roommate conflicts, homesickness, long distance relationships, and financial constraints. While not all stress is considered bad, health professionals increasingly link stress to disease and poor health. Stress is a leading risk factor for the number one cause of death, heart disease and is associated with many other health problems including mental illness, cancer, and even the common cold. More importantly, stress is directly associated with quality of life. Therefore, everyone should learn to recognize the stressors in their life and practice stress management techniques. This guide provides basic instruction for a variety of different stress management techniques. If you find one activity particularly helpful, let a counselor know and he/she will provide you with more complete instruction. Take time for yourself, read through this manual, and have an open mind! You might just discover relaxation and a healthier happier YOU!

Eckerd College Counseling Services


Weber University One of the first steps in stress management is understanding the current level of stress you are experiencing and what parts of your life are contributing to your stress. In this section you will find many different stress assessment instruments to assist you.

Deep Breathing Exercises

Perceived Stress Scale

For each question choose from the following alternatives: 0 - never 1 - almost never 2 - sometimes 3 - fairly often 4 - very often ____ 1. In the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly? _____ 2. In the last month, how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life? _____ 3. In the last month, how often have you felt nervous and stressed? _____ 4. In the last month, how often have you felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems? _____ 5. In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way? _____ 6. In the last month, how often have you found that you could not cope with all the things that you had to do? _____ 7. In the last month, how often have you been able to control irritations in your life? _____ 8. In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things? _____ 9. In the last month, how often have you been angered because of things that happened that were outside of your control? _____ 10. In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them? Figuring your PSS (perceived stress scale) score: You can determine your PSS score by following these directions: 4

First, reverse your scores for questions 4, 5, 7, & 8. On these 4 questions, change the scores like

*Excerpt from The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook

Breath Counting 1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your arms and legs uncrossed and your spine strait. 2. Breathe in deeply into your abdomen. Let yourself pause before you exhale. 3. As you exhale, count one to yourself. As you continue to inhale and exhale, count each exhalation: Two. . . Three. . . Four. 4. Continue counting your exhalations in sets of four for five to ten minutes. 5. Notice your breathing gradually slowing, your body relaxing, and your mind calming as you practice this breathing meditation.

The Relaxing Sigh During the day you probably catch yourself signing or yawning. This is generally a sign that you are not getting enough oxygen. Sighing and yawning are your bodys way of remedying the situation. A sigh is often accompanied by a sense that things are not quite as they should be, and a feeling of tension. Since a sigh actually does release a bit of this tension, you can practice sighing at will as a means of relaxing. 1. Sit or stand up strait 2. Sigh deeply, letting out a sound of deep release as the air rushes out of your lungs. 3. Dont think about inhalingjust let the air come in naturally. 4. Take eight to twelve of these relaxing sighs and let yourself experience the feeling of relaxation. Repeat whenever you feel the need for it.

Letting Go of Tension

1. Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet on the floor. 2. Breath in deeply into your abdomen and say to yourself, Breath in Relaxation. Let yourself pause before you exhale. 3. Breath out from your abdomen and say to yourself, Breath out tension. Pause before you inhale. 4. Use each inhalation as a moment to become aware of any tension in your body. 5. Use each exhalation as an opportunity to let go of tension. 6. You may find it helpful to use your imagination to picture of feel the relaxation entering and the tension leaving your body.


*Excerpt from Focalpointyoga.com

Mantra Meditation is the technique of using SOUND to open the heart and mind. This is the Meditation Technique of Devotion, a deeply spiritual and sacred practice for many meditators, but you do not need to be "a religious" person to experience the gifts Mantra Meditation has to offer. Mantras (sounds) can be whatever you choose - they do not need to be Sanskrit Mantras (Sanskrit is an Ancient Language of India, used frequently in Yoga). A Mantra is a sound repeated over and over until it integrates into your consciousness - frees the mind from its constant DOING, and elevates you to an altered state of awareness. In this state, you can connect with your soul at its most profound level, achieving a state of universal consciousness. You can use whatever sounds you like. During an inhalation you may say "I am" and during your exhalation "at peace." You may say simply "I am". Mantra is often taught using Sanskrit phrases. Commonly used Mantras in Sanskrit OM - the sound of the Universe (vibration of all living things) Sat Nam - Truth So Ham - Life/Death, light/shadow, inhalation/exhalation - the yin and yang the integration of opposites (this is a beautiful and powerful mantra, honoring both the light and the shadow) Om Namah Shivaya - the phoenix rising, creation born of change, TRANSFORMATION Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya - I surrender to/join with the divine will Aham Brahmasmi - I am the creative force Tat Tuan Asmi - I am that I am Shanti, Shanti, Shanti - Peace, peace, peace Some common Mantras in English I am I surrender to Your will (God, Goddess, Universe, What IS) Love Peace to all I am open to What IS ALL IS WELL HOW-TO

Mantras may be said silently to yourself, with your own inner voice, whispered, or out loud. [Saying Mantras out loud is akin to the technique of CHANTING.] Find the method that resonates with you. 1. If you are using a 1-syllable Mantra (such as OM), begin by concentrating on the rhythm of your breath. As you inhale, say to yourself OM. As you exhale, count. Inhale OM, Exhale 1 (one), Inhale OM, Exhale 2, and so forth until you count up to the number 10 and then start over again. Sometimes, you will go up to the number 12, or 13 or higher. If you notice this, just go back to the number one on the next exhalation. The idea is that the mind should go to the number 10 and be willing to start over again. There is no destination here - this Meditation technique is about THE PROCESS - clearing the mind of all thought but the Mantra. 2. For longer Mantras such as the Mantra So Hum use the following technique: a. Begin with deep, relaxed breathing - calming the mind and body. Begin to be absorbed with the rhythm of the breath - deeply connected to the rhythm. b. On the Inhalation, mentally repeat So c. On the Exhalation, mentally repeat HUM d. Begin to flow with the rhythm of silent sound and breath. Observe the sound integrating into your consciousness. Visualize the inhalation as life force energy moving into your body and down your spine, and the exhalation as energy flowing up the spine. e. Enjoy the practice of this mantra technique, without the need to achieve anything. Enjoy the process. In time, your breath and Mantra will become ONE. Soon, you will notice your whole being beginning to respond to the vibrations of the sound of the mantra. This is called Japa

*Taken from www.mandalaproject.org

Mandala Coloring

The word "mandala" is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean "circle, a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself--a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds. Describing both material and non-material realities, the mandala appears in all aspects of life: the celestial circles we call earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family, and community. STAGES OF MANDALA DRAWING FOR STRESS RELIEF By Brent Belchamber (www.colortherapy.com) Stage 1 Discern the Inner Dialogue Begin Mandala coloring. Notice that, while coloring, your inner dialogue may try to sneak or steal some of your attention from time-to-time. Recognize that coloring doesnt need inner dialogue and that you can color without it. Return to Mandala coloring. Your Inner dialogue may forcefully try to manipulate you into paying attention to it and you may succumb, but return to your Mandala coloring. Stage 2 Suspend the Inner Dialogue After one or several Mandala coloring sessions, you will have noticed small periods of suspended inner dialogue growing. Continue to practice stage 1 and watch your moments of suspended inner dialogue become longer and more frequent throughout your coloring sessions. Stage 3 Manage the Inner Dialogue As you color and progress through the stages of attaining longer durations of suspended inner dialogue, you will likely access feelings of greater awareness and find an attendant phenomena like synchronicity, grace, psychic and/or telepathic sensitivity in your life and on the rise. So now that you know a little more, begin to manage the inner dialogue to be better suited to your highest needs and interests! Continue to gradually suspend the inner dialogue more and more often throughout your day and night.

Elizabeth Scott, www.about.com


Sometimes the best way to relax is to get the thoughts, questions, and inner dialogue that may be causing stress onto paper. HOW TO JOURNAL 1. Set Aside Time One of the most difficult aspects of journaling is not the journaling itself, but finding time to write. Its important to block off about twenty minutes each day to write. Many people prefer to write in the morning as a way to start their day, or before bed, as a way to reflect upon and process the days events. However, if your lunch break or some other time is the only window you have, take the time whenever you can get it!

2. Begin Writing Dont think about what to say; just begin writing, and the words should come. If you really need some help getting started, here are some topics to begin the process: o Your dreams o Your possible purpose in life o Your childhood memories and surrounding feelings o Where youd like to be in two years o The best and worst days of your life o If you could have three wishes o What was important to you five years ago, and whats important to you now o What are you grateful for?

3. Write About Thoughts and Feelings As you write, dont just vent negative emotions or catalog events; write about your feelings, but also your thoughts surrounding emotional events. (Research shows much greater benefits from journaling when participants write about emotional issues from a mental and emotional framework.) Relive events emotionally, and try to construct solutions and find the lesson. Using both aspects of yourself helps you process the event and find solutions to problems.


4. Keep Your Journal Private If youre worried that someone else may read your journal, youre much more likely to self-censor, and you wont achieve the same benefits from writing. To prevent the worry and maximize journaling effectiveness, you can either get a book that locks or keep your book in a locked or very hidden place. If using a computer, you can password-protect your journal so youll feel safe when you write.

1. Try to write each day. 2. Writing for at least 20 minutes is ideal, but if you only have 5 minutes, write for 5. 3. If you skip a day or 3, just keep writing when you can. 4. Dont worry about neatness or even grammar. Just getting your thoughts and feelings on paper is more important than perfection. 5. Try not to self-censor; let go of shoulds, and just write what comes.

Journaling Exercise: Gratitude Journal


What are you thankful for? Include simple moments that you may have experienced today (hearing the laughter of children, seeing a pretty flower, tasting a delicious cookie etc.) _________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________

Did someone or something make you laugh today? _________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________

Is there someone special in your life who has made you a better person? How? _________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________

What opportunities do feel you lucky you have had? _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _____

Progressive Muscle Relaxation


George Boeree
Sit in a comfortable chair--reclining arm chairs are ideal. Bed is okay too. Get as comfortable as possible--no tight clothes, no shoes, don't cross your legs. Take a deep breath; let it out slowly. Again. What you'll be doing is alternately tensing and relaxing specific groups of muscles. After tension, a muscle will be more relaxed than prior to the tensing. Concentrate on the feel of the muscles, specifically the contrast between tension and relaxation. In time, you will recognize tension in any specific muscle and be able to reduce that tension. Don't tense muscles other than the specific group at each step. Don't hold your breath, grit your teeth, or squint! Breathe slowly and evenly and think only about the tension-relaxation contrast. Each tensing is for 10 seconds; each relaxing is for 10 or 15 seconds. Count "1,000 2,000..." until you have a feel for the time span. Note that each step is really two steps--one cycle of tension-relaxation for each set of opposing muscles. Do the entire sequence once a day if you can, until you feel you are able to control your muscle tensions. Be careful: If you have problems with pulled muscles, broken bones, or any medical contraindication for physical activities, consult your doctor first. 1. Hands. The fists are tensed; relaxed. The fingers are extended; relaxed. 2. Biceps and triceps. The biceps are tensed (make a muscle--but shake your hands to make sure not tensing them into a fist); relaxed (drop your arm to the chair--really drop them). The triceps are tensed (try to bend your arms the wrong way); relaxed (drop them). 3. Shoulders. Pull them back (careful with this one); relax them. Push the shoulders forward (hunch); relax. 4. Neck (lateral). With the shoulders straight and relaxed, the head is turned slowly to the right, as far as you can; relax. Turn to the left; relax. 5. Neck (forward). Dig your chin into your chest; relax. (bringing the head back is not recommended--you could break your neck). 6. Mouth. The mouth is opened as far as possible; relaxed. The lips are brought together or pursed as tightly as possible; relaxed. 7. Tongue (extended and retracted). With mouth open, extend the tongue as far as possible; relax (let it sit in the bottom of your mouth). Bring it back in your throat as far as possible; relax.


8. Tongue (roof and floor). Dig your tongue into the roof of your mouth; relax. Dig it into the bottom of your mouth; relax. 9. Eyes. Open them as wide as possible (furrow your brow); relax. Close your eyes tightly (squint); relax. Make sure you completely relax the eyes, forehead, and nose after each of the tensing--this is actually tough. 10. Breathing. Take as deep a breath as possible--and then take a little more; let it out and breathe normally for 15 seconds. Let all the breath in your lungs out--and then a little more; inhale and breathe normally for 15 seconds. 11. Back. With shoulders resting on the back of the chair, push your body forward so that your back is arched; relax. Be very careful with this one, or don't do it at all. 12. Butt. Tense the butt tightly and raise pelvis slightly off chair; relax. Dig buttocks into chair; relax. 13. Thighs. Extend legs and raise them about 6" off the floor or the foot rest-but don't tense the stomach' relax. Dig your feet (heels) into the floor or foot rest; relax. 14. Stomach. Pull in the stomach as far as possible; relax completely. Push out the stomach or tense it as if you were preparing for a punch in the gut; relax. 15. Calves and feet. Point the toes (without raising the legs); relax. Point the feet up as far as possible (beware of cramps-if you get them or feel them coming on, shake them loose); relax. 16. Toes. With legs relaxed, dig your toes into the floor; relax. Bend the toes up as far as possible; relax. Now just relax for a while. As your days of practice progress, you may wish to skip the steps that do not appear to be a problem for you. After you've become an expert on your tension areas (after a few weeks), you can concern yourself only with those. These exercises will not eliminate tension, but when it arises, you will know it immediately, and you will be able to "tense-relax" it away or even simply wish it away.

American Institute of Preventive Medicine www.wellnesscheckpoint.com

Mental Imagery


Experience not only the sights, but the sounds, the smells, the tastes and the touches.

The Sea

By developing soothing pictures in the mind, the body can experience physical relaxation. Relaxation is more complete when all five senses are involved in picturing the scene. To practice this exercise, allow for 10 minutes of uninterrupted time in a quiet place. Begin by becoming very familiar with this script until mental pictures are formed.


Sit back into the chair, making yourself as comfortable as possible. Close your eyes and become very much aware of how your body presently feels, noting which parts of your body are feeling tense and those that are more relaxed. Now take a few deep breaths, taking the air in through your nose, holding it momentarily, and then slowly letting the air out your mouth. With each exhale finding yourself relaxing more and more deeply, more and more completely. Taking the air in and letting the air out. Allowing yourself to relaxrelaxrelax.

You are experiencing not only the sights, but the sounds, the smells, the tastes, and the touches. Begin

You are walking along the ocean beach it is midJulyit is very, very warm outsideits late in the day.

The sun has not yet begun to set, but it is getting low on the horizon. The sun is a golden blazing yellow. The sky a brilliant blue.

The sand a dazzling, glistening white in the sunlight. Feel the cool, wet, firm, hard-packed sand beneath your feet. Smell the salt in the air. You can taste the salt as you lick your lips. Hear the beating of the waves.the rhythmic lapping to and fro., back and forth of the water against the shore. Far off in the distance, you can hear the cries of sea gulls. Watching as they glide through the sky.swooping down into the sea and then flying off once again.

As you walk further along the shore, you suddenly come to a sand dune a mound of pure white sand. Sitting down, you gaze out at the sea, staring very intently at the rhythmic, methodical motion of the waves as they roll into shore breaking against the coast rising slowly upward along the beach leaving an aura of white foam and then slowly retreating back out to the sea. Only to be replaced by another wave that crashes against the shore works its way up the beachand slowly retreats back out to the sea. With each motion of the wave as it glides in and as it glides out, finding yourself feeling more and more relaxed, more and more calmmore and more serene And the waves are gliding inthe waves are gliding outThe waves are gliding inand the waves are gliding outThe waves are gliding inand the saves are gliding out feeling more and more relaxedmore and more calmwith each rhythmic, methodical motion of the waves. Feeling very soothed by their rhythmic lapping to and fro. The waves are gliding inthe waves are gliding out Now staring off into the distance, the sun is beginning to make its way down into the horizon. The sun is starting to sink into the sea and you feel more and more relaxed as you see its movement going down downdownThe sky is turning brilliant colors of red orangeyellowgreenblueand purpleas the sun sets, sinking downdowndowninto the sea. Feeling very relaxed and soothed. Watching the sun as it sinks


downdowndowndowndown...The beating of the waves, the smell and taste of the sea, the salt, the cries of distant gulls, the warmth against your body, all leaves you feeling very soothed, very calm, very serene. RelaxRelaxRelax. At conclusion Slowly open your eyes and ease back into your activities.

If the beach scene does not seem relaxing, choose another scene like a forest or a peaceful sunrise. A Personal Mental Imagery can even be a place of fantasy. Then take an imaginary visit there and relax in the process. Imagine this peaceful situation using the following 9 steps:
9 Steps

1. Find yourself a comfortable sitting or reclining position. 2. Gently close your eyes. 3. Notice nothing but your own gentle breathing pattern. 4. Begin to think about your favorite relaxation. Picture where you are and what you do when your mind and body are so very, very relaxed. Pause to create and capture the image of your quiet place. 5. Pretend that you are really there in your special relaxing environment. Picture all the colors Hear the soundsSmell the aromasTaste Touch your surroundings as if you are really thereEnjoyRelax 6. Feel the calm and peaceAllow yourself to feel goodLet your whole body relax and enjoy the moment.


7. Pause for 5 to 10 minutes and become filled with relaxation. 8. Allow the relaxation to re-energize your body and mind. 9. As you feel comfortable, slowly open your eyes, feeling totally refreshed. Escape to your special place anytime you wish to relax, if even for a moment.

WebMD www.webmd.com

Thought-stopping to relieve stress


Thought-stopping is a process of concentrating on an unwanted thought and then suddenly stopping and clearing your mind. When you practice this process repeatedly on an unwanted thought, over time the unwanted thought occurs less often. Eventually the thought may not occur at all or will be easy to dismiss immediately. 1. Identify your most stressful thoughts, those that interfere with other activities. You wish you could stop having these thoughts, but they keep occurring. 2. Imagine the thought. Close your eyes. Imagine a situation in which you might have this stressful thought. Then allow yourself to think and even concentrate on the thought. 3. Interrupt the thought. Startling yourself is a good way to interrupt the thought. Try one of these two techniques. o Set a timer or alarm clock for 3 minutes. Then start thinking as explained in step 2. When the timer or alarm goes off, shout "Stop!" You may accompany the shout with an action, such as raising your hand or standing up. This is your cue to stop thinking about anything, empty your mind, and try to keep it empty for about 30 seconds. If the upsetting thought comes back during that time, shout "Stop!" again. o Instead of using a timer, you may tape-record yourself loudly shouting "Stop!" at intervals of 3 minutes, 2 minutes, and 1 minute. Proceed in the same way as with the timer. Hearing your own voice commanding you to stop helps strengthen your commitment to getting rid of the unwanted thought. 4.After practicing steps 1 through 3 on a thought until the thought goes away on command, try the process again. This time interrupt the thought with the word "Stop!" in a normal voice. 5.Finally, after your normal voice interrupts the thought effectively, try whispering the word "Stop." Eventually you can just imagine hearing "Stop" inside your mind. At this point, you can interrupt the thought whenever and wherever it occurs. Whenever the unwanted thought occurs, interrupt it as soon as you recognize it. References Stress Assessment Olpin, Michael. (2006). Stress assessment. Retrieved September 20, 2006, from Weber University: Health 1110 Stress Management http://faculty.weber.edu/molpin/healthclasses/1110/1110syllabus.html


Deep Breathing Exercise Davis, Martha et al. The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publication, Inc., 2000. Meditation Mantras Anonymous. (2006). Mantra meditation. Retrieved September 20, 2006, from Focal Point Yoga http://www.focalpointyoga.com/mantra_meditation.htm Mandala Coloring The Mandala Project, Author First Name. (2006). The mandala project . Retrieved Septmeber 20, 2006, from The Mandala Project http://www.mandalaproject.org/ Belchamber, Brent. (2006). Why coloring and what's the therapy?. Retrieved September 20, 2006, from Coloring Therapy http://www.coloringtherapy.com/t_on_coloring_therapy.htm Progressive Muscle Relaxation Boree, George. (2006). Progressive muscle relaxation. Retrieved September 20, 2006, from Progressive Muscle Relaxation http://www.ship.edu/ %7Ecgboeree/musclerelaxation.html Mental Imagery Anonymous. (2006). Mental imagery. Retrieved September 26, 2006, from Systematic Stress Management http://aipm.wellnesscheckpoint.com/library/banner_main.asp?P=14885AASMAD Journaling Scott, Elizabeth. (2006). How to: the benefits of journaling, how to get started. Retrieved September 20, 2006, from About.com http://stress.about.com/od/generaltechniques/ht/howtojournal.htm Thought Stopping Anonymous. (2005). Thought stopping to relive stress. Retrieved September 20, 2006, from WebMD http://www.webmd.com/hw/health_guide_atoz/ta4818.asp