Mental Health Resources for Students

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Self-Help Resources

Online Resources Expand answer
  • Half of Us
    Resources for dealing with or helping a friend with mental health issues.
  • Healthy Living Around Campus
    Tips from the University Fitness Center.
  • Healthy Sleep Awareness
    Resources for healthy sleep habits, healthy sleep awareness, symptoms of sleep disorders, bedtime calculator and other information regarding sleep and benefits of getting the right amount of sleep as it relates to your health.
  • How to Overcome Test Anxiety in College
    Information and tips for a stress-free exam experience.
  • Mental Health & wellness for Medical Professionals
    “An online guide to mental health, warning signs, and where to get help when you need it.”
  • Sleep to Stay Awake
    A brief online sleep education program to address bedtime habits, mood and sleep quality. The website includes a quiz about your sleep habits and level of sleepiness. Take the quiz and receive actionable tips tailored to your sleep personality profile.
  • Student Guide to Managing Stress
    Education specialists at BestColleges.com created this resource, which includes information on the effects of stress, managing stress, and getting help for stress.
  • The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) National Help Center
    Founded in 1996, is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that provides vital peer-support, community connections and resource information to people with questions regarding sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
24-Hour Crisis Support Expand answer

Office of Student Mental Health and Counseling providers work on an appointment basis, but in most instances, providers should be able to respond to a mental health emergency during business hours. If a particularly urgent situation (suicidal thoughts, assault, extreme panic) presents itself during these hours, students can contact the office and indicate the need for immediate attention. We will then make every effort to respond promptly.

Between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., please contact Dr. Holder directly (call 717-531-8658 or page 6529).

24/7/365 options for crisis situations include:

The Penn State Crisis Line is an extension of the services offered by the Office of Student Mental Health and Counseling. Reports from calls made to this crisis line are received by our office.

Students experiencing a life-threatening emergency should call ext. 8888 if on campus, and 911 for off-campus emergencies, or go to the nearest emergency room.

Stress Management Tip Sheets

101 Ways to Reduce Stress Expand answer
  1. Go for a walk
  2. Shrug your shoulders
  3. Read a book that’s not required
  4. Call your mom or dad
  5. Take a five-minute break
  6. Do projects now instead of later
  7. Plan a hot tub party
  8. Draw your version of what stress looks like
  9. Make a new friend
  10. Play in the rain
  11. Count backwards from 100 in Swahili
  12. Make a daily “to do” list and check off those you have accomplished
  13. Hug someone
  14. Get a massage
  15. Pet a dog or cat
  16. Talk about it
  17. Watch cartoons
  18. Breathe deeply
  19. Trade dirty jokes with a friend
  20. Iron your clothes
  21. Ask someone out on a date
  22. Smile at a stranger
  23. Cry
  24. Make a budget
  25. Do a crossword puzzle
  26. Eat a healthy meal
  27. Leave a note on a friend’s car and let them know you care
  28. Just say “no” when you’ve got too much to do
  29. Take a nap
  30. Learn from your mistakes and move on
  31. Go for a swim
  32. Give yourself a compliment
  33. Find a quiet place to be alone
  34. Take a long, hot bath
  35. Arrange a surprise picnic for someone
  36. Go to church
  37. Think about soaking up the sun in Jamaica
  38. Clean your room
  39. Volunteer for a good cause
  40. Dance around your room in your underwear
  41. Buy yourself a new shirt
  42. As yourself, “Does it really matter?”
  43. Get rid of things you don’t need
  44. Go for a bike ride
  45. Go rollerblading
  46. Catch the new movie at the theater
  47. Listen to music
  48. Incorporate fun activities into your everyday routine
  49. Write a letter to an old friend
  50. Change the message on your voicemail or answering machine
  51. Stop drinking anything with caffeine
  52. Go to work/school using a different route
  53. Look for shooting stars
  54. Walk around a mall
  55. Rent old movies
  56. Make a CD or tape of your favorite songs
  57. Write down your dreams for the future
  58. Snuggle up with a teddy bear
  59. Have a water balloon fight with friends or family
  60. Play Frisbee
  61. Plan a weekend trip to the zoo
  62. Play a board game like Pictionary or Monopoly
  63. Bake cookies and give them to your neighbors
  64. Wash your car
  65. Make eye contact with a person you’ve been admiring
  66. Write a love letter
  67. Read poetry
  68. Send flowers to a friend “just because”
  69. Walk in the moonlight
  70. Watch the sun rise
  71. Take a leisurely drive
  72. Wink at someone you think is cute
  73. Visit historical landmarks in town
  74. Go out to eat
  75. Flirt with the waiter or waitress
  76. Cook your favorite food
  77. Look at old pictures
  78. Start a new hobby
  79. Do your holiday shopping early
  80. Watch the sun set
  81. Go bowling
  82. Send a funny card to you dad or mom
  83. Plan a candlelight dinner
  84. Eat frozen yogurt
  85. Buy yourself something you don’t need
  86. Ask for help
  87. Get up ten minutes early
  88. Catch some rays
  89. Feed the squirrels
  90. Talk to your boss or professor
  91. Join a new organization or club
  92. Call your best friend
  93. Adopt a grandparent
  94. Eat your vegetables
  95. Go to bed early
  96. Visit the toy store
  97. Play in the park
  98. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister
  99. Organize your calendar, address book, and phone numbers
  100. Go for a run or walk
  101. Have a marshmallow fight with your friends
13 Ways to Reduce Stress While Sitting Expand answer

Try these 13 ways to reduce stress while sitting in a straight-backed chair.

  1. Extend the chin, drop it to the chest. Try to pull the chin to the sternum. Chin up, return to neutral.
  2. Look up first with the eyes. Let the chin follow. Stretch the neck. Return to neutral.
  3. Extend the chin, drop it to the chest. Turn eyes and head to the right side. Bring head to neutral.
  4. Extend the chin, drop it to the chest. Turn eyes and head to the left side. Bring head to neutral.
  5. Keeping head at neutral, turn head to right. Count to 10. Return to neutral.
  6. Keeping head at neutral, turn head to left. Count to 10. Return to neutral.
  7. Lean forward in chair. Pull the shoulders down, and then squeeze them back for 15 seconds. Return to neutral sitting position.
  8. Lift elbows, put fingers at your ears. Squeeze shoulder blades together for 15 seconds. Return to neutral sitting position.
  9. Grasp hands in front. Stretch and round shoulders for 15 seconds. Push away from the table. Return to sitting position.
  10. Sit tall in the chair, feet flat on the floor. Lift shoulders to your ears for 15 seconds. Return to neutral sitting position.
  11. Sit tall in the chair, feet flat on the floor. Press down with both hands at your side for 15 seconds. Return to the neutral sitting position.
  12. Sit tall in the chair, extend hands diagonally back. Press back for 15 seconds. Return to the neutral sitting position.
  13. Sit tall in the chair. Reach diagonally across and up with the right hand. Alternate arms. Return to the neutral sitting position.
Concentration Expand answer

When you’re studying, distracting thoughts will slow you down (e.g., less efficient/study longer). Even worse, you are practicing distracted thinking while you study.

What you practice, you perform. Research indicates that when people are stressed (like at the time of a test), it is more challenging to think critically. Stressed individuals typically resort to automatic thinking (or thinking that has been practiced repeatedly). If you are studying in a distracted state, you are practicing distraction and this may manifest on the exam.

To enhance your concentration and decrease distraction while studying:

  • As you read or review the study material, attend actively to your “running dialogue.” Your running dialogue is your thoughts, attitudes, or feelings about what you are reviewing or may be distracting thoughts.
  • Examples of distracting thinking include:
    • Reading the same paragraph or page three times and you still cannot recall what you’ve read.
    • Thinking about another assignment, test or project while you are studying.
    • Thinking about non-academic-related activities (e.g., what’s for lunch? I wonder what so-and-so is doing now, etc.)
    • Thinking about what you reviewed 10 minutes ago or what you are going to review 10 minutes from now.
  • Remind yourself that all of the things that intrude in your thinking (i.e., distracters) are likely important, just not at this time.
  • Write out distracting thoughts on paper as they come to you.
  • Say to yourself, “These things are important, just not at this time.”
  • Re-direct your focus to your study material.
  • During each study break, allow yourself to actively worry about what you have written down as a distraction.
    • Intentional worrying tends to be more productive than intrusive worry.
    • The distracters likely have some significance if they called your attention away from the material.
  • Remind yourself: You are preparing not only by learning the content, but also by training the state of mind you hope to have when you take the exam (i.e., high concentration/low distractibility). If you practice this enhanced concentration, this state of mind will most likely occur automatically at the time of the exam.
Decreasing Negative Thinking about Exams Expand answer

Negative thinking is much like distracting thinking, only worse. With negative thoughts, not only are you distracted, but also you practice critical or self-debasing thinking.

The more you practice negative thinking, the better you get at it, and the more it becomes automatic in your thinking.

When individuals are stressed (like at the time of an exam), they tend to not think clearly and use automatic thinking more often. If you’ve rehearsed negative thinking, you will most likely think negatively automatically at the time of an exam.

To decrease negative thinking and practice more functional thinking while preparing for an exam:

  • As you read or review the study material, attend actively to your “running dialogue.” Your running dialogue is your thoughts, attitudes, or feelings about what you are reviewing or may be distracting thoughts.
  • Examples of negative thoughts include:
    • “I should know this by now.”
    • “I am never going to get through all this material.”
    • “I may know this stuff now, but I’ll surely forget it by the time the test occurs.”
  • Remind yourself that you do not want to have such negative thoughts become rehearsed and to occur automatically at the time of an exam.
  • Write out negative thoughts on paper as they come to you.
  • After writing, take the opportunity to reframe the negative thought and make it more functional or positive. This must be done in a realistic, non-fluff way. Your reframed thought (the thought you hope will become automatic) is something that you have to believe.
  • Examples of reframed negative thoughts include:
    • “I should know this by now” … “I learn different content areas at different paces. Some info will be remembered easily and some will be more challenging” OR “If I continue to follow my study plan, I will remember and be able to verbally recall more and more” OR “It doesn’t serve me to be frustrated right now. I need to ‘stay the course’ and continue to focus until the break.”
    • “I am never going to get through all this material” … “Although there is a lot to go through, I’m going to prioritize the study material and focus upon the most important information first.”
    • “I may know this now, but I’ll likely forget it on the test” … “I have recalled important details on previous tests” OR “If I relax, concentrate, and take one section at a time, I’ll succeed” OR “A relaxed mind recalls much more information than a stressed mind.”
  • Although initially reframing negative thinking is time consuming, the more you do it, the more proficient (or automatic) you do it. As you become more proficient, you’ll reframe negative thinking automatically.
Healthy Thinking Expand answer

(Adapted from the Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Handbook, Time Life Medical, 1996)

Optimistic thinking can have an effect on your overall health. It can help improve your mood and self-esteem, and decrease depression, anxiety, and hostility. Research suggests that optimistic thinking also can lessen pain, speed recovery from surgery, and enhance immune system functioning.

You Feel What You Think

People assume that outside events cause our moods.

However, we can experience the exact same situation and, at different times or in different moods, we can feel and respond differently in that same situation. This is because we are constantly talking to ourselves and we use this self-talk to explain the world around us. These explanations or interpretations influence how we feel and what actions we take. However, we are often not aware of these automatic thoughts we are having.

Instead, we notice anger, depression, or anxiety without connecting these feelings with the negative thoughts that are going on in our minds. For example, after getting a grade that was lower than you expected, you might say to yourself, “I shouldn’t be here — I am a bad student.”

This type of thought is often followed by sadness—which you typically will notice.

The good news is that this distorted or negatively skewed self-talk can be changed and healthier thoughts can be cultivated.

How to Think in a Healthier Way

The first step in changing your thinking is to recognize unhelpful negative thoughts. On a piece of paper, write down the situation that is bothering you. Only write down the facts at this point, no interpretation or judgment. You have to practice this — simply reading the exercise below or doing it in your head will not change your thinking.

  • Draw three columns on the sheet. Label the far left column “Feelings/Body response,” and write down what you feel (angry, depressed, anxious, guilty, neck ache, heart racing, etc.).
  • Label the middle column “Negative Thoughts,” and list the thoughts or pictures that went through your mind just before and during the situation.
  • Label the far right column “Alternative Responses,” and list the arguments against each of your major negative thoughts. Write down a more rational response to it. See below for questions to help you challenge your negative thoughts.

Example situation: I didn’t get the grade that I wanted on my test.

Feelings/body responses | negative thoughts | alternative responses: I feel depressed | I’m a bad student | I’m successful in many ways.

I feel discouraged | I’ll never be successful | I can ask for help with my study strategies.

Next, challenge your automatic thoughts. Each time you discover a pessimistic thought, use the following questions to challenge them:

  • Have I really identified what’s bothering me?
  • Am I greatly exaggerating the situation?
  • Am I overgeneralizing? For example, “I’ll never be successful.” Simply because something happened once, doesn’t mean it will happen again.
  • Am I over-worrying?
  • Am I assuming the worst? When I consider the worst thing that could happen, would it truly be a disaster? With catastrophic thinking, small events can become exaggerated. Counter these thoughts with facts and reason.
  • Am I making an unrealistic or unfair comparison? Who am I comparing myself to?
  • Do I have the evidence for my conclusion? Am I reading someone’s mind or predicting the future? For example, if you think: “I will never get a good grade,” you are attempting to predict the future.
  • Am I taking it too personally? For example, if you think: “If I would have treated him better, he wouldn’t have left me.” It is healthy to accept personal responsibility, but not to blame yourself for situations that aren’t entirely under your control.
  • Am I discounting the positive? Do you say, “I was just lucky” or “She just said that to make me feel better,” you may be ignoring positive aspects of the situation. Then, the negative thoughts can affect your mood.
  • Am I expecting perfection? Give yourself a break. Mistakes are part of being human and can be opportunities to learn and grow.
Relaxation Techniques Expand answer

This is a list of some brief relaxation exercises that you may wish to employ any time during your day, in between classes, before exams, while studying, before a presentation or speech, or prior to a big date or an appointment.

General Directions

For all of these exercises, it is best to be seated, eyes closed, feet flat on the floor or crossed at the ankles, and hands resting comfortably in the lap. Begin each exercise with a deep breath that you let out gently. As you let it out, feel yourself beginning to relax already.

Gentle Arousal

After the exercise, slowly and gently activate by breathing a little more deeply, wiggling your fingers and toes, and opening your eyes at your own rate.

Tense-Relax

(Follow general directions first). Clench your fists. While keeping them clenched, pull your forearms tightly up against your upper arms. While keeping those muscles tense, tense all the muscles in your legs. While keeping all those tense, clench your jaws and shut your eyes fairly tight… but not too tightly. Now while holding all those tense, take a deep breath and hold it for five seconds. Then, let everything go all at once. Feel yourself letting go of all your tensions. Just enjoy that feeling for a minute as your muscles let go more and more. If we had a finely-tuned electromyography hooked up to you measuring the level of tension in your muscles, it would show that you relax more and more for up to 20 minutes. Just enjoy focusing, gently, on letting go (gentle arousal).

Heaviness and Warmth

(Follow general directions first). Just imagine that your feet and legs are getting heavier and heavier and warmer and warmer. It’s almost as if you are wearing some lead boots. Feet and legs heavy and warm, heavy and warm. Now, imagine your stomach and the whole central portion of your body getting warm… warm and relaxed. Your forehead is cool… cool… relaxed and cool. And your breathing is regular… easy and regular. Just feel the warmth and heaviness spread all over the body (gentle arousal).

Breathing Your Body Away

(Follow general directions first). Gently focus your attention on your feet and legs. Be aware of all the sensations from your feet and legs. Now, inhale and long, slow breath, and as you do, breathe in all the sensations from your feet and legs. In your mind’s eye, imagine that you are erasing this part of your body, so that in your mind, you can see only from your hips up. Now, with another long breath, breathe in all the parts of your body to your neck, and as you exhale, breathe it away. Now, beginning with your fingers, breathe in your fingers, hands, wrists, and arms, and exhale them away. Now, your neck and head… as you breathe in, imagine your neck and head being erased and now breathe them away. Let’s go back over the whole body in one breath, beginning with the feet. A long slow breath in, and as you do, erase any little parts that still remain. Now, let out a long slow breath as you exhale all the remaining parts. Just sit quietly for a minute and enjoy feeling yourself relax deeper and deeper (gentle arousal).

Sleep Hygiene Expand answer

Good sleep leads to excellent performance. Follow these sleep hygiene tips:

  • No caffeine (including cola and chocolate) 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Set your body clock. Keep the same sleep schedule daily. Don’t try to catch up by sleeping late on the weekends.
  • Avoid naps. In general, taking naps during the day leads to poorer sleep patterns. If you must nap, do so for no longer than 20 to 30 minutes (“power-nap”). Six hours before bedtime, no power naps.
  • Develop a bedtime routine (for one hour before bedtime). This may include hot bath, listening to soothing music, deep breathing, meditation, etc.
  • Create a conducive sleep environment. Cool, dark and uncluttered space. Use white noise, eye shades or ear plugs, if noise and/or light interfere with sleep.
  • No large meals at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid spicy foods.
  • Try a light snack before bed. Warm milk and foods high in the amino acid tryptophan such as peanut butter and cheese may help with sleep.
  • Only use sleep-inducing aids on occasion, such as Benadryl and Tylenol PM.
  • No alcohol or tobacco within four to six hours of bedtime.
  • No computer, TV, or arguments half an hour before bed. Listen to soothing music or read.
  • Exercise regularly, but complete it four hours prior to bedtime.
  • Take a hot bath one hour prior to bedtime.
  • No work or studying one hour before bedtime.
  • Don’t study, work, read or watch TV in bed.
  • Don’t take worries to bed. Set aside a worry period earlier in the evening. Write out the issues and how you will tackle them the next day.
  • If you wake up and cannot get back to sleep within 15 to 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel tired. Keep your bed associated with falling to sleep.

Test Anxiety

Overview Expand answer

Test anxiety is “worry or fear caused by having to take tests.” Students may describe symptoms of test anxiety in several ways. For example, some students describe test anxiety as “mental distraction” in which they are unable to concentrate, because they are distracted by a variety of external factors. Some students experience test anxiety as physical symptoms, such as “butterflies” in the stomach, a quickened heart rate, rapid or shallow breathing, nausea, sweaty palms, headache, etc. Students also have characterized test anxiety as a “mental block” during which they are unable to focus on the assignments (exams, oral quizzes, etc.) that they are confronting.

There is no magic cure for “test anxiety.” However, students who develop an understanding of what test anxiety is and who acquire and practice techniques to allay the potential debilitating aspects of test anxiety are better able to prepare themselves for a successful educational experience.

The material in this section was adapted from About Test Anxiety, Channing Libete Co., Inc., 1987.

Who is affected Expand answer

Many students face anxiety when approaching an exam. However, for certain students, this anxiety may become severe enough that it affects how they function during the exam. Some students become quite anxious because they have failed exams in the past and they fear that they will experience this failure again. Students experiencing “test anxiety” may remark that they studied and believe they mastered and comprehend the material; yet, because of the anxiety, they may not perform adequately on the exam.

Managing Test Anxiety Expand answer

Test anxiety may result from “pressure, past experience, and fear of failure” (p. 4). Suggestions for managing test anxiety include the following:

  1. Give yourself permission to believe that one test will not influence all future educational and career endeavors.
  2. Learn about stress and develop relaxation techniques. Practice the techniques daily and use them when you’re experiencing anxiety.
  3. Believe that active study procedures yield positive results.
  4. Remember that the important people in your life (parents, friends, significant other, etc.) will still care about you despite your test score.
  5. Develop appropriate study strategies to curb or eliminate test anxiety.
  6. Remember that studying is an individual process. Each student establishes study strategies that are effective for him/her. A study approach that works for your best friend may not be the one that is most beneficial to you.
  7. Acquiring relaxation techniques might help in testing situations in which anxiety is so high that test answers are forgotten during the exam but recalled minutes after handing in the test.
Effective Study Techniques Expand answer
  1. Select an appropriate place to study that is free from distractions. Attempt to study in the same location on a daily basis. Be alert and rested when you are studying.
  2. Look over class notes as soon as possible after each class. Incorporate review time each 2-3 days to re-review your class notes.
  3. Schedule your time so that you are aware of test dates, review periods, and social/recreational time. Consider studying in shorter blocks of time (such as 30 minute sessions) rather than one 4-hour period.
  4. Determine study strategies that are effective for you. For example, some students learn well with note cards. Others find that notes in the margins of their class notes or brief outlines enable them the most effective learning.
  5. Acquire good eating and sleeping patterns so that your mind and body are functioning well. Make a concerted effort to practice study strategies so that “cramming” is eliminated.
Some Test-Taking Skills Expand answer
  1. Plan your time. Check to see how many points each question is worth. Spend more time on the questions that are worth more points.
  2. Determine which questions are the easiest and do those first.
  3. Budget time to review your answers before handing the test in.
  4. Try not to panic when confronting a difficult question. Place a mark beside the questions and continue. Go back later, and try to answer the hard questions.
  5. Be alert to words such as “always,” “never,” “after,” etc.
  6. Take time to assure yourself that you understand what the questions is asking in a multiple-choice exam.
  7. If there is no penalty for guessing, take time to go back and answer any questions that were skipped earlier in the test.
Methods for Controlling Anxiety Expand answer
  1. Attempt to replace negative thoughts with positive or more realistic statements. For example, assume that a lower exam score might be O.K. rather than assume that you are a failure.
  2. Try to imagine yourself as calm and in control. Strive to eradicate dismal thoughts and feelings that contribute to anxiety. Develop positive thinking skills.
  3. Invest some time in acquiring relaxation techniques to manage anxiety.

If tension and anxiety increase during an exam, try the following exercise:

  1. Close your eyes
  2. Take a long, deep breath (from your belly, not shallow breathing from your chest)
  3. Let it out slowly
  4. Concentrate on your breathing—actually feel or hear yourself breathe. Don’t allow yourself to worry about the time or tension.
  5. Repeat once, then return to the test (p. 13).
Prevention Strategies Expand answer
  1. Seek assistance from an academic support counselor or other qualified professional on the University campus. Tips on how to combat test anxiety and other study strategies are usually available.
  2. Talk to your friends and classmates. Perhaps they have experienced similar concerns and can provide some ideas that may help you.
  3. Visit the class instructor if you are encountering difficulty with course material or with comprehending lectures.
  4. Discuss your feelings with the important persons in your life (parents, spouse, girl/boyfriend, etc.) Receiving their support and concern may help in calming your fears.

Communication Resources

Assertive Behavior Expand answer

Assertive behavior includes standing up for your rights without infringing on the rights of others. Assertive behavior results in an “I win; you win” outcome.

Assertion involves expressing beliefs, feelings and preferences in a way which is direct, honest, appropriate and shows a high degree of respect for yourself and for others.

“When you talk, I can’t hear the movie. Please keep it down.”

“I really like it when you wear that shirt. You look great!”

Passive/nonassertive behavior is when someone gives up their own rights and (directly or indirectly) defers to the rights of another person. Passive behavior results in an “I lose; you win” outcome.

Passive behavior includes violating your own rights through inaction or by failing to express your thoughts, feelings or desires.

“We can do whatever you want. Your ideas are probably better.”

Aggressive behavior is when someone stands up for their own rights without regard for others. Aggressive behavior results in an “I win; you lose” outcome.

Aggression is self-expression that demands, attacks or humiliates other people, generally in a way which shows lack of respect for others.

“Hey, I’m in a hurry. Get out of my way.”

Passive-aggressive behavior occurs when someone acts out aggressive impulses in an indirect way. When people act passive-aggressively, they attempt to get what they need or want indirectly or manipulatively. Passive-aggressive behavior is an indirect attempt to control or punish others.

“I’m sorry I’m so late. I didn’t realize this was such a big deal.”

“Oh, don’t bother, I’ll just have to do it myself.”

Assertive behavior is: Self-Expressive; Honest; Respectful of the Rights of Others.

Direct and Firm; Socially Responsible; Learned, not Inborn.

Equalizing – benefiting self, other and relationship.

Verbal – includes feelings, thoughts, desires, rights, facts, opinions.

Nonverbal – eye contact, voice, posture, facial, gestures, timing.

Appropriate – for the person, culture and situation.

Assertiveness script: “When you behavior, I feel/think feeling/thought, so, I would like new behavior.”

Types of Assertion

Basic assertion: Simple expression of standing up for personal rights, beliefs, feelings or opinions.

Example: When being interrupted, “Excuse me, I’d like to finish what I’m saying.”

Empathic assertion: Recognition of other person’s situation or feelings followed by another statement standing up for speaker’s rights.

Example: “I know you are feeling angry and frustrated while you wait for a response. But, the best I can do is give you a ballpark estimate of how long it will take.”

Escalating assertion: Start with a “minimal” assertive response… Other fails to respond… Gradually escalate the assertion, increasingly firm without being aggressive.

Example: From the first example, “I know what you have to say is important but I really want to finish what I was saying.”

“I really want to finish before you begin to speak.”

Confrontive assertion: Describe what was to be done. Describe what actually occurred… Express what you want.

Example: “I told you to complete the forms by Nov. 15, and you agreed to do so. Now it is Jan. 15 and you are telling me that you forgot the forms but you still expect to complete our business on time. What is it that you want me to do?”

I-Language assertion:

Description of behavior: “When you ______,”

How it affects your life: “It affects ______,”

Describe your feelings: “and I feel ______;”

Describe your desire: “Therefore, I would like _____.”

Example: “When you shout, the effect is I am unable to work with you and I feel angry. Therefore, I would like for you to stop shouting and tell me what you want.”

Positive assertion: Expressing positive feelings about yourself or someone else.

Examples: “I’m glad you came back to see me.”

“I did a good job working with that upset student.”

Repeated assertion: Sometimes called “Broken Record.” Opposite of escalation. Simple, calm, repetition – saying what you want over and over again, rote repetition.

Example: “You said you would complete this form and there is missing information.” (Person gives a sarcastic reply.) “The form has not been completed.” (Person makes another comment.) “I have to have this form completed.”

Fogging assertion: Acknowledging possibility of truth to what other person is saying; agreeing in concept but not necessarily in fact.

Example: “I know these rules may appear to make no sense, but they are the procedures I must use.”

Fair Fighting Expand answer

Use these guidelines for “fair fighting” to increase communication effectiveness.

  1. Own Your Response. Use “I-language” instead of falling back on the “make-feel” myth. For example, say, “I feel worried and scared when you drink so much beer” instead of “your drinking is making me crazy.”
  2. Be Specific. Avoid using extreme or global language like “always,” “never,” “everyone.” Instead, use more modifying or tentative statements, “sometimes,” “often” or “maybe.” Avoid character assassination. Talk about incidents rather than personality traits.
  3. One at A Time. Solve one problem at a time, stick to the present situation and stay focused.
  4. Listen As Much As You Talk. Make reflective or clarifying statements in order to show that you understand the other’s position. Seek information as much as you give your opinion.
  5. Avoid Intention-Reading (aka Mind-Reading). Get “reality checks” instead of acting on assumptions of the other person’s intentions or motives. “I think you’re afraid of letting me have space because you’re afraid of losing me. Is that right?” Instead of “You just want me to live a miserable life, held hostage in this disaster you call a relationship.”
  6. Avoid Arguing Reactively. Stay calm, keep control of your behavior and as much as possible speak in a neutral tone of voice. Give yourself the luxury of a “time out” to rethink your position and make effective decisions.
  7. Admit Your Part of the Problem. Ongoing conflicts are like dances; “It takes two to tango.” Focus on identifying your own dance steps that keep a conflict going then learn a new step.
  8. Ask Yourself, “Whose Problem Is This?” Avoid taking too much responsibility for another’s behavior. In most cases, allow others to experience the consequences of their behavior and thinking instead of needlessly protecting them.
  9. Argue Sober. Avoid discussing important issues with any individual who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  10. Sleep On It. Sometimes it is OK to “let the sun go down on your anger.” Agree to discuss “hot” topics at a time when each person is rested and alert. A good night’s rest can facilitate a refreshed perspective. However, it’s important not to collude with your partner to avoid the problem the next day.
  11. Agree To Disagree. Know that many arguments are about opinions, not facts, or at least opinions about facts. Be tolerant of different opinions and perspectives.
  12. Avoid Power Struggles. Power struggles are about me trying to get you to do, be, or think like me so that I’ll get what I want or will feel more comfortable. Focus on resolving the power struggle instead of getting caught up in big arguments over “little things.”
  13. Declare A Cease-Fire. If you at an impasse, then it’s time to declare a cease-fire. Carefully learn the other person’s perspective and wishes. Thoughtfully examine and express your own. Then consider compromise, creative alternatives, going along or sticking to your guns. Take your time.
  14. Focus On What’s Right. Acknowledge the accuracy of the other person’s statements instead of focusing on how they are “wrong.”
  15. Clarify Your Wants. Realize that most of what are called “needs” are really “wants”. You need to breathe air, drink water, etc. Ask for what you want without making demands.
  16. It Takes Time. Realize that effective problem-solving takes time, effort and practice. Tolerate disappointing results and use feedback to help improve your skills.
  17. Ask For Help. Be willing to get help from a neutral, third person if you are in a stuck or deteriorating relationship. Friends, family members, ministers or counselors can often provide assistance to help you get things back on track.

Unfair Fighting and Mistakes In Communicating

  1. “You Make Me Feel” myth.
  2. Globalization or extreme language.
  3. “Gunnysacking” – Saving all your gripes and using them all at once.
  4. Listening means I agree.
  5. Mind-reading or intention-reading.
  6. Speaking loudly or yelling helps your partner hear better.
  7. It’s all your fault (and I had no part in the problem).
  8. For your own good… (overprotection).
  9. A drink will take the edge off (and help us communicate).
  10. Marathon arguing.
  11. Everyone thinks, processes, values similarly.
  12. I win-you lose (what were we talking about?)
  13. Fight until the fight is finished (without a break).
  14. Lawyering or being a philosopher – pick apart flaws in arguing (what were we talking about?)
  15. “I need…” myth (as opposed to “I want…”).
  16. Expecting immediate change or results. Unrealistic expectations for change.
  17. Doing it alone – not seeking assistance from a neutral third party.

Suggested Apps

iPad and iPhone Apps Expand answer
  • A Friend Asks – Help a friend who might be contemplating suicide.
  • Fooducate – Learn more about healthy food to fuel your body and mind.
  • MindShift – Stop anxiety and fear from controlling your life.
  • Unstuck – This app helps you move past things in your life making you feel stuck.
  • The Now – Learn how to live fully in each moment.
  • Take a break! – Meditations for stress relief.
  • WellTrack – Interactive self-help therapy.
  • What’s up? – A free app utilizing some of the best CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) methods to help you cope with depression, anxiety, anger, stress and more.
Android Apps Expand answer
  • A Friend Asks – Help a friend who might be contemplating suicide.
  • Boost Me – Provides positive activity suggestions to aid with increased mood.
  • Breathe2Relax – This portable stress management tool teaching diaphragmatic breathing.
  • Conscious – Increase your mindfulness and awareness.
  • Daily Feats – Encourages you to incorporate worthwhile and productive activities into your day.
  • Fooducate – Learn more about healthy food to fuel your body and mind.
  • Lightning Bug – Ambience and white noise mixer.
  • Self-Help Anxiety Management – Learn to manage your anxiety.
  • Slumber Time – Comprehensive sleeping app.
  • Thought Challenger – Gain control of how you feel by challenging negative and unhelpful thoughts.
  • WellTrack – Interactive self-help therapy.
  • What’s up? – A free app utilizing some of the best CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) methods to help you cope with depression, anxiety, anger, stress and more.
  • Worry Knot – Teaches you to manage your worry with lessons, distractions and proven worry management techniques.

Organizations

Active Minds Expand answer

Active Minds is a nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for students.

Active Minds is opening up the conversation about mental health and creating lasting change in the way mental health is talked about, cared for and valued in the United States.

See general information about Active Minds here.

Email Jenna Wilcox at jwilcox1@pennstatehealth.psu.edu for details about the College of Medicine chapter of Active Minds.

Relaxation Exercises

Balloons Expand answer

Transcript

Visualizing that you are outdoors (pause, 2 seconds). This can be in your backyard, (pause, 1 second), the park (pause, 1 second) or anywhere else outside (pause, 2 seconds). Imagining that you are holding a handful of helium balloons. (Pause, 1 second). Each balloon represents a different one of your tasks (pause, 2 seconds). Feeling a breeze on the back of your body (pause, 1 second). As you’re holding this handful of balloons (pause, 1 second), thinking about what you are going to be doing after this (pause, 3 seconds). Taking the balloon that represents what you are doing next (pause, 1 second) into your free hand (pause, 1 second). If the thing you are doing next is something you are looking forward to doing, make the balloon your favorite color. (Pause, 2 seconds). Letting go of the handful of balloons (pause, 2 seconds), watching them climb higher in the sky from the helium as the wind moves them farther and farther away (pause, 1 second). Seeing the balloons appearing smaller and smaller in your field of vision (pause, 3 seconds). Soon they are just a few dots in the sky until they completely disappear. (Pause, 2 seconds). Focusing on your next event (pause, 1 second). If the balloon you’re still holding (pause, 1 second) is a task or worry, you’re relaxing now (pause, 1 second) such that it is best to focus on the moment by letting go of this last balloon too (pause, 1 second). Watching it float up in the sky and drifting further away (pause, 2 seconds). Seeing it get smaller and smaller until it‘s just a dot in the sky before it disappears completely. When it disappears, focusing your attention on the moment (pause, 2 seconds), noticing the surfaces beneath you (pause, 2 seconds), or switching to another relaxation strategy.

(Adapted from “The Anxiety, Worry, & Depression Workbook” by Jennifer L. Abel, PhD)

Clouds Expand answer

Transcript

This next exercise is imagery of lying on a raft, becoming progressively more and more relaxed with each passing cloud. If you happen to be afraid of water, visualize yourself on the sand or in a lounge chair.

Visualizing yourself lying on a large, dry air mattress. (Pause, 1 second). You can be in a deep or shallow pool (pause, 1 second), on a pond (pause, 1 second) or on a lake (pause, 1 second), on the sand (pause, 1 second) or in a lounge chair (pause, 3 seconds). It can be somewhere that you’ve been before (pause, 1 second), somewhere you have seen in a movie (pause, 1 second), or a photo, or a place you make up in your imagination. (Pause, 1 second). Begin by feeling the warmth of the sun with a nice, gentle breeze (pause, 2 seconds). As you look up into the sky, it’s mostly blue, but you’re noticing a few white, fluffy clouds floating across your field of vision (pause, 3 seconds). Noticing a cloud shaped like the number 9. As you watch it floating through the sky (pause, 1 second), you feel a little more relaxed (pause, 3 seconds). Noticing a cloud shaped like the number 8 moving across the sky (pause, 1 second) and feeling more floaty (pause, 1 second). As you see the 7 across the sky, feeling a sense of peace and tranquility (pause, 3 seconds). Watching number 6 float across the sky as your sense of peace and tranquility doubles (pause, 3 seconds). Noticing your body sinking into the raft as you watch the cloud shaped like the number 5 drifting across the sky (pause, 3 seconds). Allowing your sense of floating to double as you watch the 4, following the 5 (pause, 3 seconds). Just watching the 3 and enjoying how you feel (pause, 3 seconds). Allowing the sense of sinking into the raft to double as you watch the 2 (pause, 3 seconds). Allowing the relaxation to double or become as relaxed as you’d like to be as you watch the 1 (pause, 3 seconds). Memorizing how you feel as you watch the cloud shaped like a zero move across the sky (pause, 3 seconds).

(Adapted from “The Anxiety, Worry, & Depression Workbook” by Jennifer L. Abel, PhD)

Focused Breathing Awareness Expand answer

Transcript

This is a focused breathing exercise. You should begin this exercise by first getting yourself into a comfortable position on a chair or on a bed. (Pause, 3 seconds.) I assume that you have already found a quiet place (pause, 3 seconds), a place where you will not be disturbed (pause, 3 seconds), a place where you can allow yourself to experience the full benefits of this time out relaxation exercise (pause, 3 seconds). Just settle back and let the chair or bed completely support your body.

Feel yourself sinking into the chair (pause, 2 seconds) or bed as you allow all of your muscles go loose and slack (pause, 3 seconds). Now take in a deep, single breath, filling your lungs with air… holding it in until you notice a little tension building in your chest (pause, 3 seconds) and then let the air out slowly, (pause, 2 seconds) relaxing as you do (pause, 3 seconds). Close your eyes and take in another deep breath, holding the air in until you feel the tension (pause, 3 seconds) then let the air out slowly, relaxing as you do.

Become very aware of your breathing. Pay close and careful attention to each and every breath that you take. Just watch it (pause, 2 seconds), observe it (pause, 2 seconds). Simply become aware of how easily and naturally your body breathes itself (pause, 1 second), free and easy, in and out (pause, 2 seconds). At all times your body is breathing itself, you do not even have to think about it (pause, 3 seconds). Your body breathes automatically, at all times, whether you are sound asleep or wide awake, aware or unaware as long as you are alive, you are constantly breathing. And all you have to do right now is to simply become aware of this process, this process of your body breathing itself (pause, 3 seconds), notice the steady rhythm (pause, 2 seconds), the air coming in and going out again.

Allow your breathing to be natural and free (pause, 2 seconds) without trying to change and without trying to interfere. If your breathing is slow, let it be slow. If it is deep, let it be deep. If your breathing is shallow, let it be shallow. Just passively watch your body breathing itself. Be aware of the cool air coming in through your nostrils (pause, 3 seconds) and then the warm air flowing out. Notice the slight pause between each inhalation and each exhalation. Notice your chest as it ever so slightly rises (pause, 2 seconds) and falls (pause, 2 seconds) with each automatic breath (pause, 2 seconds) as your lungs expand when the air flows in (pause, 2 seconds) and then contract when the air flows out. You may also notice your abdomen rising (pause, 2 seconds) and falling each time that you breathe in (pause, 2 seconds) and breathe out.

Experience the natural tides of your breath, the ebb (pause, 2 seconds) and the flow, as the air comes in and flows out again. (Pause, 3 seconds.)

If your mind should wander or your attention is pulled somewhere else, simply catch yourself and refocus on your breathing (pause, 3 seconds) refocusing again and again if necessary. Do your best to keep your mind focused on your breathing (pause, 2 seconds). Just watching and observing (pause, 2 seconds). Nothing to change (pause, 2 seconds) and nothing to hold on to, nothing to do (pause, 1 second) just awareness (pause, 1 second), watching (pause, 1 second), observing (pause, 1 second) and allowing your mind to breathe free and easy natural and automatic (pause, 3 seconds).

And now, as you continue to passively observe your body breathing itself, you can begin to add simple mental suggestion, a suggestion aimed at helping you to experience even more relaxation and comfort. (Pause, 3 seconds). Right now, as you focus your mind on your breathing, you can begin to imagine that each time you breathe out, each time you exhale, you are letting go of unnecessary tension. Letting go of negative thoughts and worries, letting go of more and more discomfort (pause, 2 seconds). Just letting it all go. Allow yourself to breathe in fresh, positive, and healthy thoughts and feelings. Breathing in the good, breathing out the bad. Over and over and over again. And so with each complete breath cycle, you can allow and experience both your mind and body becoming more comfortable more relaxed and more at ease. Enjoy the natural mental and physical cleansing that your breathing can bring you (pause, 3 seconds). If it helps, you can even count each of your breath cycles, inhale 1 (pause, 1 second), relax (pause, 1 second), inhale 2 (pause, 1 second), relax (pause, 1 second), inhale 3 (pause, 1 second), relax (pause, 1 second), inhale 4 (pause, 1 second), relax (pause, 1 second), inhale 5 (pause, 1 second), relax, and so on, counting up until you reach the number 10 (pause, 1 second) and then you can start all over again, (pause, 1 second) inhale 1 (pause, 1 second), relax (pause, 1 second), inhale 2 (pause, 1 second), relax (pause, 1 second), just counting your breath cycles up to 10, and then repeating this over and over (pause, 2 seconds). Just counting your breath cycles (pause, 1 second), letting your breathing carry you into a deeper (pause, 1 second) and deeper state of relaxation and comfort, enjoy the mental tranquility and the peacefulness that this breathing meditation can bring you. (Pause, 3 seconds).

And now (pause, 1 second), you can continue this focused breathing awareness on your own for as long as you wish. (Pause, 2 seconds). Just continue to watch your breathing (pause, 1 second), or count your breath cycles for as long as you find necessary and then (pause, 1 second), whenever you are ready to stop (pause, 1 second), you can bring your awareness back to a more normal (pause, 1 second), alert (pause, 1 second) and wide awake state (pause, 1 second) by counting upward slowly from 1 to 3 (pause, 1 second), so that by the time you reach 3 you can take in a nice, deep, refreshing and energizing breath and then stretch comfortably to end this time-out relaxation exercise.

(Adapted from “Pain Management Handbook, Chronic Pain Management Program, Long Beach VA Medical Center” by Richard W. Hanson, PhD)

Mindful Breathing Expand answer

Transcript

This is a mindful breathing exercise.

I will read the general instructions to you; after I do that, I will give you several suggestions of ways that you can practice this exercise. I encourage you to experiment by trying various combinations of the strategies and comparing them with simply observing your breathing.

Let’s begin.

Making no effort to breathe in any certain way, instead (pause, 1 second) just observing your breathing. (Pause, 3 seconds). Follow your breathing (pause, 3 seconds). As you begin focusing on your nose (pause, 1 second), notice that as you breathe in, the air feels cool, and as you breathe out, the air feels warm (pause, 3 seconds). Feeling the cool air expanding your lungs as you inhale (pause, 1 second) and noticing the warmer air escaping through your nose as your lungs relax. Noticing if you can hear the sound of the air coming in (pause, 1 second) and out of your nose (pause, 3 seconds).

Noticing that just after you breathe out, your body is still before you breathe in (pause, 2 seconds) enjoying that quiet pause, (pause, 1 second), noticing how still and relaxed your body is between breaths. (Pause, 3 seconds.)

You may repeat this exercise again, but instead of thinking of the words, focusing on raw sensations of your breathing. That is, focusing on the sound, feeling and physical sensations of your breathing, without labels, like a baby would. (Pause, 3 seconds.) You may try the exercise again, integrating a word or words you have found to be relaxing. For instance, if the word was “releasing,” think this word with your breathing: thinking “re” as you breathe in (pause, 1 second) “lease” as you breathe out, and “ing” during the quiet pause (pause, 1 second). Or you like the words “peace” and “soft,” you can think “peace” as you inhale, “soft” as you exhale, (pause, 1 second) and just enjoy the quiet pause. (Pause, 3 seconds.)

You may also try this exercise instead of thinking words, you may visualize colors. As you breathe in, (pause, 1 second), you can choose a relaxing color. (Pause, 2 seconds.) Preferably pick a cool color such as blue or aqua, but any color you like is fine (pause, 2 seconds). You may also visualize yourself breathing in fresh, (pause, 1 second) clear, (pause, 1 second) oxygenated air. As you breathe out, a warm color such as yellow or red. Or think about what color your anxiety feels like and breathing out that color. (Pause, 2 seconds.) Avoid forcing it out – instead, just allowing the air to escape little by little. (Pause, 3 seconds.)

During the next quiet pause, thinking the number 5. Thinking 4 during the next quiet pause, (pause, 1 second) and thinking one lower number for each quiet pause between breaths, (pause, 1 second) counting all the way down to zero. When you get to zero, taking one more breath and then opening your eyes. (Pause, 1 second.) Experiment with various combinations of the suggestions I have given. Use this mindful breathing exercise as many times or as often as you want.

(Adapted from “The Anxiety, Worry, & Depression Workbook” by Jennifer L. Abel, PhD)

Mountain Scene Expand answer

Transcript

This is a guided relaxation imagery exercise. Soon I will be describing a relaxing scene for you. But first of all, make sure you have found a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, and then get yourself into a relaxed position on a chair or bed. Close your eyes. (Pause, 1 second.) Take in a deep signal breath, holding it in for just a few moments. (Pause, 2 seconds.) And then let go, relaxing as you do. Now as I continue talking to you, you can allow a calm (pause, 1 second), relaxed feeling to settle over your body and mind. Letting go of any unnecessary tension in your shoulders, arms and hands. As your shoulders and arms hang loose by your side, let all of the tension drain out through the tips of your fingers. Let the relaxation flow from your shoulders into the back of your neck as the tension dissolves and melts away, relaxing your neck and scalp, also your face (pause, 2 seconds), including your mouth, tongue and jaw.

Let the relaxation flow down into the rest of your body (pause, 2 seconds), your chest, (pause, 2 seconds) abdomen (pause, 2 seconds) and back. Feel all the muscles of your body becoming loose and slack. Let the relaxing feelings flow into your legs (pause, 2 seconds) traveling from your upper legs to your lower legs, ankles, and feet. Just allow your entire body to become loose, heavy, and relaxed. (Pause, 3 seconds).

And as your body is continuing to relax, you can now picture yourself, in your mind’s eye, inside a log cabin somewhere high up in the mountains. It’s wintertime, but even though it’s very cold outside, you can enjoy the warmth and comfort of the cabin (pause, 2 seconds), for inside this cabin is a large fireplace with a brightly blazing fire providing just the right amount of heat and warmth. And you can feel so comfortable (pause, 1 second), so peaceful (pause, 1 second) and so deeply relaxed inside this cabin.

And now after you look around and quickly scan the layout and the contents of the room (pause, 2 seconds), you can go up to one of the windows and notice the frost on the window pane (pause, 2 seconds); you can even put your warm hand (pause, 2 seconds) on the cold, hard glass of the window pane, feeling the heat from your hand and fingers melting the frost (pause, 2 seconds) and then look outside seeing lots of tall evergreen trees and lots of snow on the ground (pause, 2 seconds) and now, to get an even better view, you can begin to open the window, feeling it give way against the pressure of your hand (pause, 2 seconds) and as the window opens (pause, 2 seconds) you take a big breath of that pure, fresh, cool mountain air and feel so good (pause, 1 second), so healthy (pause, 1 second) and so alive. (Pause, 2 seconds).

Then look outside, seeing more clearly the green trees against the whiteness of the snow (pause, 2 seconds), looking out and seeing a beautiful view, perhaps of a valley down below or other mountain peaks far, far off in the distance (pause, 3 seconds).

And now, you can close the window and walk over to the fireplace, feeling its relaxing warmth as you get closer (pause, 3 seconds). You can go ahead and sit back in a comfortable chair facing the fire, or you may even want to lie down next to the fire on a soft, fluffy bearskin rug (pause, 2 seconds), feeling the soothing warmth of the fire against your skin (pause, 3 seconds) letting your body absorb the warmth, bringing you deep relaxation and comfort (pause, 3 seconds). You can enjoy looking at the fire, seeing the burning logs, hearing the crackling of the logs and hissing sounds from the sap encountering the fire (pause, 2 seconds), smelling the pungent smoke from the burning logs.

You can even look around you, noting what the room looks like as it illuminated by the light from the fire (pause, 2 seconds). Notice the flickering shadows on the walls (pause, 2 seconds); notice the furniture in the room (pause, 1 second); just look around you taking it all in (pause, 2 seconds)… all the sights and sounds and smells (pause, 2 seconds) feeling so peaceful, so calm and so deeply relaxed in this place.

And as your attention returns to the fire, you can feel so comfortable and so relaxed. (pause, 2 seconds) For even though the cold wind is howling outside you can feel so warm inside. And perhaps you may even want to shift your position, even a little so that the fire can penetrate all parts of your body too soak up the warmth and comfort from the fireplace letting that soothing comfort spread to all parts of your body. For in this place of deep relaxation, you have absolutely nothing to worry about, nothing to concern you, for all that really matters is that you allow yourself to enjoy the peacefulness, the comfort, and the deep tranquility of being in this relaxing place right now. (Pause, 2 seconds).

And so, you can allow a relaxing, drowsy feeling to come over you as all the sights and sounds and smells gradually fade away and you while drift, and float and dream in a cabin far off in the mountains.

While you drift, and float and dream in a cabin far off in the mountains. (Pause, 3 seconds). And then, (pause, 1 second), whenever you are ready, you can bring yourself back, by counting slowly from 1 to 3 so that when you reach the number 3 you will open your eyes, and feel completely refreshed and comfortable.

(Adapted from “Pain Management Handbook, Chronic Pain Management Program, Long Beach VA Medical Center” by Richard W. Hanson, PhD)

Ocean Scene Expand answer

Transcript

This is a guided relaxation imagery exercise. Soon I will be describing a relaxing scene for you. (Pause, 1 second). But first of all, make sure you have found a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, and then (pause, 1 second) get yourself into a relaxed position on a chair or bed. Close your eyes (pause, 1 second), and take in a deep single breath, holding it in for a few moments (pause, 1 second) and then let go (pause, 1 second), relaxing as you do. (Pause, 1 second).

Now as I continue talking to you, you can allow a calm, relaxed feeling to settle over your body and mind. (Pause, 1 second). Let go of any unnecessary tension in your shoulders, arms and hands. (Pause, 1 second). As your shoulders and arms hang loosely by your side, letting all of your tension drain out through the tips of your fingers.(Pause, 2 seconds). Letting the relaxation flow from your shoulders into the back of your neck (pause, 2 seconds) as the tension dissolves and melts away, relaxing your neck and scalp, and also your face (pause, 1 second) including your mouth, tongue and jaw. Letting the relaxation flow into the rest of your body (pause, 1 second), your chest (pause, 1 second), abdomen (pause, 1 second) and back. (Pause, 2 seconds). Feeling all the muscles of your body becoming loose and feeling relaxed. Let the relaxing feelings flow into your legs (pause, 2 seconds) traveling from your upper legs to your lower legs, ankles and feet. Just allowing your entire body to become loose, heavy and relaxed. (Pause, 3 seconds).

And as your body is continuing to relax, you can now picture yourself somewhere by the ocean. (Pause, 2 seconds).

Just project yourself to any relaxing place along the ocean (pause, 2 seconds), perhaps a place you have been (pause, 2 seconds) or a place you would like to go (pause, 2 seconds). It may be a wide sandy beach or a rocky beach (pause, 2 seconds). You may be on a pier or even on a cliff overlooking the ocean (pause, 2 seconds), any place you choose is all right. (Pause, 3 seconds). Looking around you (pause, 2 seconds), what do you see? (Pause, 2 seconds). Can you see it clearly in your mind’s eye? (Pause, 1 second). Do you notice the vastness of the ocean stretching out as far as you can see? (Pause, 2 seconds). Now inhale deeply (pause, 1 second), smelling the fresh sea air (pause, 1 second). Feel the warmth of the sun, (pause, 1 second) the cool ocean breeze, how peaceful and relaxing it is (pause, 2 seconds). And now, listen more closely to the sounds (pause, 2 seconds), especially the sound of the waves. (Pause, 2 seconds). Pay close attention to the sound of the waves and notice how soothing and relaxing this sound is (pause, 2 seconds) as you hear and watch the waves roll in (pause, 2 seconds) and out again (pause, 1 second), in and out (pause, 2 seconds), the constant rhythm of the waves, the ebb (pause, 2 seconds) and flow (pause, 2 seconds) and each time the waves flow in (pause, 1 second) and out. You find yourself becoming more deeply relaxed (pause, 2 seconds), deeper and deeper (pause, 2 seconds) as your muscles go loose and limp (pause, 1 second) and the tranquility of this place. And now spend a few moments doing whatever you would like, (pause, 1 second). You may just want to lay out on the sand and soak up the sun (pause, 1 second); you may want to walk along the beach, or even go for a swim (pause, 2 second) or perhaps you would like to do some fishing or go sailing (pause, 2 seconds). Whatever you would like to do at the ocean is OK (pause, 1 second), but no matter what you do, just continue to be aware of relaxation (pause, 3 seconds).

And then (pause, 2 seconds), whenever you are ready you can bring this imagery to a close, just say to yourself, “now I am ready to return” and then count from 1 to 3.

(Adapted from “Pain Management Handbook, Chronic Pain Management Program, Long Beach VA Medical Center” by Richard W. Hanson, PhD)

Sponge Expand answer

Transcript

It is best if you begin seated with both feet on the floor or lying down.

This exercise is useful for reducing your muscle tension. (Pause, 2 seconds). Closing your eyes and noticing where your body is touching the surfaces beneath you. (Pause, 1 second). Feeling the floor beneath your feet, the couch beneath your legs and seat, and the surface or surfaces behind you. (Pause, 1 second). Visualizing (pause, 1 second), imagining (pause, 1 second), that the surfaces behind (pause, 1 second) and beneath you (pause, 1 second) are like sponges that, instead of absorbing water, absorb tension from your body (pause, 3 seconds). Making no effort to relax (pause, 1 second). Instead just feeling the absorbing power of the spongy surfaces beneath you (pause, 2 seconds). Allowing gravity to help drain the tension from your body (pause, 2 seconds). Allowing your breathing to help. (Pause, 2 seconds). Each time you breathe in, the tension is loosening (pause, 1 second), and each time you breathe out, you’re feeling a little more relaxed (pause, 1 second) as the tension drains into the spongy surfaces beneath you.

(Adapted from “The Anxiety, Worry, & Depression Workbook” by Jennifer L. Abel, PhD)

Tin Man to Scarecrow Expand answer

Transcript

This exercise involves tensing all the major muscle groups in the body, like a tin man, and then releasing them, feeling like a scarecrow (pause, 2 seconds). Do tense your muscles hard, but instead of thinking of making them as hard as steel (like Superman), aim for tin to avoid straining your muscles. (Pause, 2 seconds). This should never cause pain. (Pause, 3 seconds).

The following is a list of all the muscle groups. Try these individually, (pause, 1 second) as I read them to you. (Pause, 2 seconds.) If you don’t feel they are tense enough, (pause, 1 second) you can simply tighten these muscles internally. (Pause, 3 seconds). After I read each muscle group to you and instructions on how to tense them, I will be reading a muscle relaxation exercise in which you can combine all these muscle groups and reduce muscle tension.

If you have more, time you can go back through the exercise again and do each of the muscle groups separately.

Here is the list of muscle groups: (pause, 1 second)

Arms – Make fists and press your elbows back into the surface behind you or beneath you. You can also press your elbows into your sides. (Pause, 3 seconds.)

Face – Furrow your brow as if confused, scrunch up your nose and cheeks, and press your teeth together lightly (don’t clench). (Pause, 1 second). You can also press your tongue to the roof of your mouth. (Pause, 3 seconds).

Neck – Bring your chin down toward your chest while pulling your neck back at the same time. It should feel as if the front and back of your neck are in a tug-of-war. (Pause, 3 seconds.)

Torso – Take a deep breath, high into your lungs, while at the same time pulling your shoulders back and tightening your abdomen. (Pause, 3 seconds).

Legs and Feet – Lift your legs while at the same time (pause, 1 second) pulling them in toward yourself. Also, you can bend your ankles and bring your feet and toes back toward your shin. (Pause, 3 seconds.)

Get ready to tense all the muscles in your body like a tin man. (Pause, 1 second). Tense them now. (Pause, 1 second). Feel the tension. Notice how the tension feels. Notice where all the tension is coming from. (Pause, 1 second.)

Hold the tension for about eight seconds. (Pause, 8 seconds.) Releasing into the scarecrow making loose, soft, with no joints. Noticing how muscles feel loose as compared to before. Releasing into scarecrow, now as compared to before.

Limp and soft, no joints like a scarecrow, making no effort to relax, allowing the entire body to feel. Enjoying the relaxation for about 30 to 40 seconds, and repeat the tin man to scarecrow cycle one or two more times. If you have more time, you can work through the muscle groups separately.

(Adapted from “The Anxiety, Worry, & Depression Workbook” by Jennifer L. Abel, PhD)