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New Mexico State University
New Mexico State University

Relaxation Self-Help

Relax

Ready to Relax?

Below are some basic self-care and breathing techniques you can try to start relaxing and managing your stress. Additional web resources are listed at the bottom of the page.

Suggestions for Managing Stress

PHYSICAL SELF-CARE

    • Eat regularly and healthy
    • Exercise
    • Get regular medical care for prevention and get medical care when needed
    • Take time off when sick
    • Get enough sleep
    • Dance, swim, walk, run, play sports, sing, or do some other physical activity that is fun
    • Take vacations, mini-vacations, or “staycations”
    • Take time for yourself (away from phones and social media)

PSYCHOLOGICAL SELF-CARE

    • Make time for self-reflection
    • Try psychotherapy or counseling
    • Write in a journal
    • Read books unrelated to school or work
    • Decrease sources of stress in your life
    • Say no to extra responsibilities
    • Engage your intelligence in new areas/activities
    • Notice your inner experience – listen to your thoughts, judgments, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings

EMOTIONAL SELF-CARE

    • Spend time with others whose company you enjoy
    • Find things that make you laugh
    • Give yourself affirmations
    • Stay in contact with important people in your life
    • Identify comforting activities, objects, people, relationships, places and seek them out
    • Express your outrage in social action, letters, donations, marches, protests
    • Allow yourself to cry

SPIRITUAL SELF-CARE

    • Spend time with nature
    • Find a spiritual connection or community
    • Be open to inspiration
    • Sing
    • Cherish your optimism and hope
    • Meditate
    • Try at times not to be in charge or the expert
    • Have experiences of awe
    • Be aware of nonmaterial aspects of your life
    • Be open to knowing
    • Read inspirational literature
    • Contribute to causes in which you believe
    • Pray

PROFESSIONAL SELF-CARE

    • Take a break during the workday/school day (e.g., lunch)
    • Take time to chat with fellow students
    • Make quiet time to complete tasks
    • Identify projects or tasks that are exciting and rewarding
    • Have a peer support group
    • Balance your workload so no one day or part of a day is “too much”
    • Arrange your work space so it is comfortable and comforting
    • Set limits with friends and co-workers

BALANCE

    • Strive for balance within your work-life and workday
    • Strive for balance among work, family, relationships, play and rest

Abdominal Breathing

Abdominal breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing or the three-part breath. It is an excellent tool to stimulate the relaxation response that results in less tension and an overall sense of well being. It’s a wonderful tool to use while you’re driving, in class before giving a presentation, or before going to bed.

  1. Sit or lie down
  2. Place one hand on your abdomen/bell
  3. Let your belly be relaxed
  4. Inhale for 3 seconds, feeling your hand rise. Breathe first into the belly, then the ribs, and finally the chest
  5. Exhale for 3-6 seconds, feeling first your chest, then ribs, and finally the belly fall
  6. Allow the breath to come in and out of the body watching the belly as it rises and falls
  7. After 5 minutes of controlled breathing, let go of any control of the breath, breathing naturally

Heart Centered Breathing

  1. Heart Focus: You can start with any part of your body. Focus your attention on your left big toe and wiggle it. Do this with other parts of your body. Now, gently focus on the area in the center of your chest, the area of your heart.
  2. Heart Breathing: As you are focusing on the area of your heart, pretend that you are breathing through your heart. Pretend that your breath is flowing in and out through that area. Breathe slowly and gently- in through your heart to a count of 4-5 and slowly and easily out through your heart to a count of 4-5. Do this until your breathing feels smooth and balanced, not forced.
  3. Heart Feeling: Continue to breathe through the area of your heart and find a positive feeling, like appreciation, care or compassion. This could be an appreciation or care you have toward a special person, pet, or place you enjoy. Once you’ve found a positive feeling or attitude, you can sustain it by continuing your heart focus, heart breathing, and heart feeling.

Additional Web Resources

Healthy Lifestyle – “Reset your stress thermostat” with exercises in guided imagery, meditation, deep breathing, and writing (site maintained by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Healthy Lifestyle Program).

Mindfulness – Learn more about the meaning of mindfulness.

Mindfulness Exercises – Try out different mindfulness techniques.

Relaxation Exercises – Download audio files of relaxation exercises that you can play on your computer (site maintained by Georgia Southern University).

Sleep – Learn how to solve sleep problems with these relaxation exercises (site maintained by the University of Maryland Medical Center Sleep Disorders Center).