UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls

Topic - Relaxation Exercises

Relaxation is allowing physical and/or mental tension to be released. Tension is the body's natural response to threat, part of the body's alarm or survival mechanism. It can be a very useful response, but a lot of the time, we don't need this tension, so it's okay to learn to let it go, and learn some relaxation skills.

Healthy living is a matter of balance. Relaxation is part of the balancing process alongside other aspects of your lifestyle such as what you eat, your physical activity and how you handle stress. Learning to relax takes practice, as with learning any new skill. It's a great help to learn a relaxation technique, to help us unwind and bring our tensions and anxiety under control. It's a good idea to practice regularly so we can be more prepared for the more stressful times.

Try the Five Finger Exercise to get you started:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your arms and legs uncrossed. Let your eyes focus gently on a point in front of you… and take a deep relaxing breath all the way down into your abdomen.
  2. Touch your thumb to your index finger. As you do so, go back to a time when your body felt healthy fatigue. Imagine that you feel the way you feel right after you have just finished swimming or jogging or doing yoga or some other exhilarating physical activity.
  3. Touch your thumb to your middle finger. As you do so, go back to a time when you had a loving experience. You may choose to remember a warm experience, a close connection or an intimate conversation.
  4. Touch your thumb to your ring finger. As you do so, recall the nicest compliment you have ever received. Try to really accept it now. By accepting it, you are showing your high regard for the person who said it.
  5. Touch your thumb to your little finger. As you do so, go back to the most beautiful place you have ever been; this place can be real or imagined. Dwell there for a while.

Now when you are ready, it is time to come back to the room. As you take another deep breath, begin to hear the sounds in the room. As you feel ready, return to an awareness of the room and what is going on around you.

View printable versiondocument of Five Finger Exercise

Created by Jennifer Wilson, Ph.D. Personal Counselor in Student Health and Counseling at University of Wisconsin – River Falls

These Links may also be helpful:

Relaxation mp3 tracks from UW - LaCrosselink

Progressive Muscle Relaxation scriptlink

Information on Relaxationlink - From Cognitive Behavioral Self-Help Resources

Page updated January 2013 by Mark Huttemier, MA, LPC. Personal Counselor in Student Health and Counseling at University of Wisconsin – River Falls


Student Health and Counseling Services, Division of Student Affairs | 211 Hagestad Hall
Student Health: 715-425-3293 | Counseling: 715-425-3884 | M-F, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.