Anxiety and stress are close cousins and you may hear people use the terms interchangeably when they are actually two different experiences. Stress is typically our body & mind’s response to a challenging situation (or situations, as is the case for many college students) and it isn’t always a negative thing. Just the right amount of stress can motivate us as we near a deadline. Anxiety, by contrast, can be difficult to explain to others or to identify a particular source for the anxiety. It is often accompanied by a constant feeling of worry or dread and can be debilitating.
Is your anxiety related to tests and performance in academic settings? Read about overcoming test anxiety (created by Counseling and Psychological Services at Brown University).
- Grounding – Sit comfortably and upright on a chair or sofa with you feet firmly on the floor. Gently press your feet into the floor noticing your legs tighten a little and then relax. Let your shoulders relax. Pay attention to how the ground and chair are supporting you.
- Centering – Ground as described above. Very gently rock your hips until you feel your weight is even settled. Imagine there is a string attached from your tail bone through the top of your head and let your body relax and rise up along that string (don’t “sit up” as if at attention). Let your shoulders drop and breathe naturally.
- Breathing – Imagine you have a straw in your mouth and make a small opening to breathe through. Breathe slowly through your mouth and imagine the air is being drawn down to your belly button. Slowly breathe out. Repeat at least 6 times. As this becomes easier, pay attention only to your breathing.
- Planning – Write down what actions you can take to address the problem. Identify which are feasible and when you can do them. Decide when you will do these. Often just having a plan helps lowers distress.
- Distracting – Make a list of 3-10 things you can do to take your mind off what is upsetting you. Do at least one of these. Drinking and drug use should not be on this list.
- Reach Out – Call a friend or family member just to talk.
Audio files to help you relax
All files are in MP3 format. To download, right- or Ctrl-click and select Save As.
- Breathing Relaxation Exercise (male voice) (female voice )
- Alternative Nostril Breathing (male voice) (female voice)
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation (male voice) (female voice) Note: If you have a history of serious muscle problems (spasms, injuries, or neck or back problems) you should consult with a physician before attempting this exercise because PMR could exacerbate these problems.
- Guided Imagery
- Grounded/Shift to the Present (male voice)