Learning to relax will help you reduce tension, nervousness and anxiety. It is simply not possible to be very anxious, tense or nervous when your body is completely relaxed.
Try to get as relaxed as possible in a short time. As you practice relaxing, you will find that you will become better and better at it and will be able to develop a relaxed state very quickly. This exercise is meant to give you practice until you can relax quickly and easily without any instructions.
Read through the following relaxation exercise, or better yet, have someone else read it to you while you do the drill. Then you can do the same for a classmate. Still another possibility is to tape record the exercise, making it a more permanent record:
Sit back in a chair and get as comfortable as possible. Before you begin to relax, notice all the little pressures and tensions in your body. Check your feet and legs. Do they feel completely loose and relaxed? Now your head. Are there strains in your neck muscles or jaws?
Close your eyes and try to relax all the tension you found. Breathe normally and concentrate on feeling heavy all over. You should feel more calm and relaxed than you did a few minutes ago.
Now work up to a deeper level or relaxation. You will have to locate the tensions and systematically remove them. First, try to tense every muscle in your body, from your head to your toes, jaws tight, neck tight and still, forehead wrinkled and tense, arms and hands tense, fists clenched, stomach and chest muscles tight, legs and feet tensed. You should be tense all over. Hold that tension for another moment and then let go all over. Breathe normally and feel the wave or relaxation spread through your body. You may feel a kind of warm glow or slightly tingling sensation as the relaxations flows in. Relax as completely as possible. Concentrate on feeling heavy in your chair. Notice the lack of tension everywhere in your body.
Now find all the remaining tensions in your body and remove them. Keep the rest of your body as relaxed as before, but tighten up your toes and your foot muscles. Notice the tension in your toes, the tops of your feet, and the sides of your ankles. Now relax your feet completely. Notice the contrast. Now tense the same muscles again, hold it now, relax. Feel the relaxation. Note the heaviness of your feet. Now keep all the rest of your body relaxed while you tense your leg and thigh muscles. Feel your legs rise a little as your thigh muscles tighten. The backs of your legs should be hard and tight. Hold that tension for a moment and then relax. Notice the heaviness in your legs and thighs. Your whole body should be limp and at rest in the chair.
Tighten your stomach muscles. Notice that you feel like you do when you are anxious or angry or in a tense or dangerous situation. Hold the tension for a moment and then relax. Repeat that again. Tense the muscles, hold it, and then relax.
Do the same with your chest muscles. Notice that when you tense your chest muscles, the tension goes up into your shoulders and upper arms. Hold it for a minute and then relax. Again, tense and relax. Again tense. Again relax. You should now be relaxed all over. Check to be sure that the rest of your body is relaxed and loose.
Clench your right fist and tense your arm muscles-forearms and biceps. Hold the tension in the right hand and arm and tense the left fist and arm. Tighten both more. Study the tension. Locate it in each arm. Hold it. Now relax. Straighten out your fingers and let the comfortable, loose, restful feeling flow into your arms, hands and the rest of your body. One more time. Tense both hands and arms and hold it. Now let go and relax.
Tighten your face and neck muscles. Close your eyes, wrinkle your forehead, and tighten your jaws with your teeth together. Hold it for a moment and then relax. Try it again with all the same muscles, tight jaws, tight neck muscles, tense all the way down into the back. Relax. Notice all the changes as you relax. Your forehead and scalp smooth, your lips and jaws relax, your mouth is open a little, your shoulders are loose and free to move.
Relax your chest, shoulders arms and hands. Relax all the neck muscles, jaws and face, and the scalp muscles. Keep relaxing your whole body. It feels loose, heavy, calm quiet and at rest.
Increase the relaxation by taking a really deep breath and exhaling slowly. Close your eyes and notice how you become less aware of anything but your own hushed, mellow, comfort. You feel like soft velvet-tranquil, peaceful and serene. You blend into the chair. You feel placid and gentle, unwilling to move a muscle. Just raising your arm would be an effort. Even thinking about it is an effort. Drop back into the comfort, relax the slight tensions in your arms.
Now you are all quiet and relaxed. You can observe the lack of tension all through your body. Now try to become more relaxed. Try to become more relaxed each time you breathe out. Notice the deeper and deeper relaxation as you become calm and serene.
You can continue relaxing this way for as long as you wish. When you are ready to get up, simply count backwards (5-4-3-2-1), open your eyes and notice that you are refreshed, calm and wide awake. You feel fine.
Suggestions for Use of Relaxation Techniques
Once you have learned the relaxation routine, you can use it before a study session. Before beginning to study for a test, sit in a comfortable chair and go through the relaxation drill. Once you are feeling comfortable, proceed to your desk. During the study session, stop if you feel tension or anxiety creeping into your body. Turn away from the books and relax. Work on the areas of tension until your body feels calm again.
You can, of course, also do the relaxation drill before an exam or during it. When you sit down to take an exam, quickly relax your body. If during the exam you are side-tracked by tension, take a few seconds and use relaxation as a first-aid measure. In this situation, you can only relax those areas in which you are tense, such as your neck, shoulders or back. Take a deep breath, hold it for ten or fifteen seconds and slowly let it out. It is both a mind-clearer and a body relaxer.
Here is something else to practice. When you are relaxing in a chair before studying, try to form a mental picture of yourself sitting in a chair in a classroom taking a test. Take a mental and physical measurement of your body?s tension when you see this scene. Relax those areas which feel tense when you see and think about yourself in the test situation. See yourself again in the classroom. Take a new measurement and do some more relaxation. Continue to alternate these two items, relaxation and visualization of yourself in the test situation, until the measurement of yourself in the testing scene registers “comfortable.”