Stress Relief and Relaxation Exercises

We know that college can be a very stressful time.  While stress may be inevitable, having ways to deal with stress productively can be essential to your well-being. On this page, you will find a variety of resources and tools for stress management.  Please visit the various articles for more information on recognizing, understanding, and managing stress, links to breathing and relaxation exercises, and additional tools, tips, and strategies for coping with stress.  If your stress levels are unmanageable or you would like additional assistance with stress management, make an appointment to meet with a counselor by calling 202.274.6000 or visiting Building 39, Suite 120 (Van Ness Campus) or Building 53, Suite 333 (801 Campus).


American Heart Association Stress Management Tools

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Managing Stress

Mind/Body Health:  Stress

Mind Tools:  Stress Management Techniques

Stress Relieving Office Yoga (8-minute youtube video)


4-Minute Upper and Lower Back Stretch at Your Desk

4-Minute Neck and Shoulders Stretch at Your Desk

Relaxation Exercises

Audio: Progressive Relaxation Exercise | Combination Relaxation Exercise

Click on the audio files above to practice these relaxation exercises. Here are a few tips to get the most out them.

Try to practice whichever exercise you prefer at least once or twice a day. Expect your ability to relax to improve as you continue practicing, and expect to practice two or three weeks before you become genuinely proficient. Once you learn how to do one of the exercises, you may no longer require the recorded instructions, and you can tailor the exercise to your own liking.

Avoid practicing within an hour before or after a meal (either hunger or feeling full may distract you). Also avoid practicing immediately after engaging in vigorous exercise.

Sit quietly and in a comfortable position, with your legs uncrossed and your arms resting at your sides. This is especially important when you are first learning the exercise.

Adopt a calm, accepting attitude towards your practice. Don’t worry about how well you’re doing or about possible interruptions. Instead, know that with repetition your ability to relax will grow.

When you are ready, close your eyes, begin listening to the recording, and follow the directions. As you complete the exercise, you can expect your mind to wander a bit—when this happens you can simply re-direct your focus back to the recording.

Once you’ve finished, stretch, look around and remain still another minute or two.

As you become skilled with either of the exercises, try applying them to specific situations that might otherwise be anxiety provoking, such as tests, oral presentations, difficult social situations, job interviews, insomnia, and so forth. If you need help learning or applying the exercises, consider meeting with a counselor.

Thanks to the Counseling Center of Hobart and William Smith Colleges for sharing these tips and relaxation exercises with us.