Calm Yourself! Using Relaxation and Anxiety Relieving Techniques to Beat Stress

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By Lisa Marie Ferry
Dean of Students

Hi Everyone! ‘Tis the season for holiday food, joy, celebrating the end of the year and yes, the dreaded semester exams. This time of year is stressful enough, so it is important to try to reduce stress and any anxiety about taking those end of the year tests and exams. 

So, what to do?  Never fear! Mrs. Ferry has some ideas for students to try. First a bit about studying and relieving that stress:


  • Study in small chunks. What do I mean by that? Start a week or two ahead of time and study each test or exam subject for 10-15 minutes each day. Students will learn and remember the material vs. memorizing and forgetting. Long-term retention will improve.
  • Find a good, quiet place to study and do work. This should not be a bed. When students are very comfortable, they are most likely to get distracted and not get work done.
  • Listen to calm, instrumental music quietly in the background. It actually helps to focus on the task at hand.
  • Eliminate distractions. Silent cell phone and put face down. Computers should only have the relevant tabs open, not social media. If these distractions are eliminated, students will learn and finish faster.  Just imagine how much time is spent answering a text, or reading whatever notification is received and time spent reacting. Save that for later when the work is finished.
  • Have a hard time learning terms? Use Quizlet. Another suggestion is to read it ten times, say it ten times, and write it ten times. 
  • Take breaks. During breaks, the student should do some kind of physical activity. Examples could be a short walk, ten on the treadmill, yoga, or stretching. Physical activity releases stress and clears the mind, once refreshed; it is easier to go back to studying.

So…Mrs. Ferry, my student got everything done like they wanted to, but now cannot fall asleep and/or relax because they’re worried about the tests.  Now what?


Unfortunately, this happens to everyone. Students are not alone. Whether we are worrying about a speech, presentation, test or what challenging things will happen at work, we all have times where we cannot relax.  What can be done? Here are some ideas:

  • Light stretching or yoga before bed. What can I say- yoga is awesome! It is not only great exercise but also seriously tones muscles and relaxes you.
  • Take a hot shower to relax before bed.
  • Make sure everything that has to be done is completed before laying down (pack lunch, etc.). If students say, “oh I’ll just do that in the morning”, that thought will be on their mind all night, hindering deep sleep.
  • While lying in bed, focus on breathing. Focus full attention on the air being taken into the lungs. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 6, exhale for 7, repeat. This slows the heart rate and automatically creates a relaxed feeling.  Do at least 5-6 times ONLY focusing on breathing, nothing else.
  • Imagery. As students breathe in, have them imagine that action is the waves coming to the beach. When they exhale, the waves are rolling back out to sea.
  • Listen to meditative music or nature sounds while falling asleep, using the timer of course. My favorite app is Insight Timer, but there are many out there.


Lastly, let’s look at this situation. It’s an hour before a test/exam and a student feels this overwhelming panic comes over them. At this point, the brain may doubt that the student knows the material. Ugh, panic attacks. Yes, they are different for everyone, but there are a few things to do to prevent students from going down that spiral hole:

  • Have them look around. Find 5 things they can see, 4 things they can touch (and actually touch them), 3 things they can hear, 2 things they can smell, and one thing they can taste. This is called grounding.  It can help students when they feel like they have lost all control of their surroundings.
  • Talk to someone. Students feel better when they get that stuff off their chest.
  • Stay in the present. Don’t spend time in the “what if land”.
  • BREATHE. Refer to the above relaxation breathing.
  • Purposely relax the forehead, neck, jaw, and shoulders.

Just remember! As long as students chunk out studying and pay attention in class, THEY GOT THIS!

And as always, you can encourage your students to free to chat with me.

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