Counseling Department

Counseling Services Division

Stress Reduction Techniques

by Tom Ventimiglia


If you practice any one of the several techniques below every day for 10 to 20 minutes, several benefits occur that include:  decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, generalized anxiety, insomnia and fatigue, increase in alpha wave activity in the brain, increase in energy, concentration, memory, increase in self-esteem and self-confidence, greater excretion of bodily toxins, and a greater connection between the mind and body (Bourne, 2000 “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook).  It will also prevent panic attacks.

  1. Pranayama Breathing: 4 -7 -8 (time:  2 to 4 minutes)
  • Rest your hand on your stomach and breathe in through your nose.  Practice breathing in and allow your hand to raise up.
  • Breathe out through your mouth and allow your hand to fall back down.  Breathe in for 4 counts.
  • Hold it for 7 counts.
  • Slowly let the breath out for 8 counts.
  • Take 2 regular breaths and repeat 5 to 10 times.
  1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (time:  10 to 20 minutes)

        The idea is to tense each muscle group hard (but not so hard that you strain) for about 10 seconds.  Then let go for about 20 seconds before going to the next muscle group.  Be in a relaxed position and close your eyes and allow focus only to be on the particular muscle group.  When you release, feel the warmth of blood flood the muscles and go completely limp.

  1. Take a couple of deep breaths and tense the muscles in your forehead by raising your eyebrows and hold…….and then release and relax.
  2. Tense the muscles around your eyes by clenching them shut.Hold and release.
  3. Tighten your jaw by opening your mouth so widely that you stretch the muscles around the hinges of your jaw.Hold and release and let your jaw hang loose.
  4. Tighten the muscles in the back of your neck by pulling your head way back but be gentle and hold……and release.Do this one twice since we hold excess tension here.
  5. Tighten your shoulders by raising them up and hold……..and release.
  6. Clench your fists and hold…….and release.
  7. Tighten your biceps by drawing your forearms up toward your shoulders and lock and hold…and release. Tighten triceps by extending arms out straight, hold and let go.
  8. Tighten the muscles of your chest by taking in a deep breath, hold and release.
  9. Tighten your lower back by arching it up.Hold and release unless you have pain.

Tighten your stomach muscles by sucking your stomach in…..hold and release.

  1. Tighten your buttocks by pulling them together……hold and release.
  2. Squeeze the muscles in your thighs all the way down to your knees…hold/release.
  3. Tighten your calf muscles by pulling your toes toward you…hold and release.
  4. Tighten your feet by curling your toes downward.Hold and release
  5. Mentally scan your body for any excess tension and repeat a group if necessary.

3.  Tom’s Meditation Exercise                       (time:  2 to 15 minutes)

Sit in a quiet spot, close your eyes, and hold your hands 18 inches apart with your elbows pointing down. I like to light a candle in front of me because it throws more light on the eyes in a darker room making it a more sacred environment.  Don’t think of anything except that space between your hands.  Mentally judge the distance as you visualize your hands and the space between them.  When a thought does arrive, notice it, don’t give it any power, and return to visualizing the space between your hands.  Do this for 15 minutes if you can. During the 15 minutes slowly move your hands closer together without forcing them.  You will find that, as they move closer, your hands will experience a magnetic energy.  Just play with the energy and let it remind you of the present moment.  If you want to boost the experience, put earplugs in your ears and listen to yourself breathe as you meditate.

4.  Beach Scene Visualization                              (time:  5 to 15 minutes)

You can have a friend read this visualization to you or you can speak it into a tape recorder. If these two options are not possible, merely remember the main images in the following paragraph.  Find a comfortable chair or couch to sit on. Close your eyes and take 10 slow breaths.   Let your mind float away on a voyage and take in the following scene.

You are walking on a sandy beach.  It’s mid August and it’s very hot outside at five o’clock in the afternoon.  The sun is getting low on the horizon but it is blazing yellow. The sky is a brilliant blue.  Feel the heat from the sun against your face; feel the warmth of its rays against your skin.  You are barefoot.  Feel the hot, dry sand beneath your feet. You start to walk closer to the water as you feel the sand become cooler between your toes.  You can hear the beating of the waves against the sand.  Hear the loud, high cries of the seagulls circling overhead.  You continue walking. Smell the salty, moist air as it blows upon your face.  You can feel the cold water come up to your shins as it rushes past you.  It feels invigorating as you completely take in this scene.  You then start to walk down the beach.  As you look up toward the sand, you see a mound of white sand covered with pink rose petals and bright yellow buttercups. You then start to jog toward the flowers.  Once you are upon the flowers, they engulf your whole body and as you jump onto flowers.  You feel completely relaxed and blissful.  The sea is like a mirror of silver, reflecting the sun’s rays, a mass of pure, whitelight.  The sun is beginning to set.  The sky is turning violet, red, gold, scarlet, and amber.  You feel delighted that you can return to this place anytime you like as you soak it all in.  Gently, you feel yourself carried upward and outward into space, feeling at one with the universe.

You then bring yourself out of the imagery state by telling yourself that when you count to 5, you will open your eyes, completely relaxed, alert and totally refreshed. You can best memorize this scene, by recalling how the five senses (see, hear, smell, taste, and feel) perceive it.

5.  The Neuro-linguistic Peace of Mind Exercise   (time: 2 to 10 minutes)

To experience peace of mind, sit in a comfortable chair and close your eyes.  Now, sit the way you would sit if you felt total peace of mind.  Wait one minute and experience the sensation.  Then, breathe the way you would breathe if you felt total peace of mind.  Wait one minute and experience the sensation.  Then feel the way you would feel if you felt total peace of mind.  Wait one minute and experience the sensation.  Then look the way you would look (the expression on your face) if you felt total peace of mind.  Wait another minute and experience the sensation.  Now, slowly open your eyes and feel total peace of mind.

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Last modified on January 25, 2016

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