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Relaxation Tips & Resources
 

Developing Personalized Stress Management Exercises

Our Professional Staff are trained and experienced in helping people develop relaxation and stress management exercises tailored to their specific needs. USC faculty and staff interested in a stress management consultation can call (213) 821-0800 to make an appointment.

 

The Relaxation Page

Since stress can arise in so many areas of life—work, relationships, parenting, etc.—the Center for Work and Family Life has created The Relaxation Page, a virtual de-stressing center offering advanced tools to cope with life's pressures.

Meditation

At the Center for Work & Family Life, faculty and staff can learn to meditate, one-on-one, with training and support from a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Video Relaxation Exercises

Audio (MP3) Relaxation Exercises

These exercises, produced and read by CWFL Professional Staff, are designed to help listeners reduce tension and regain energy. They feature breathing, muscle relaxation, and guided imagery techniques. Listeners have the option of practicing these exercises with or without music, whatever their preference.

You can download these MP3 files and listen directly from your computer. You can also download them to a portable MP3 player or burn them to a CD, giving you easy access to relaxation any time, any place.

Current Files Available for Download

Guided Imagery Relaxation Exercise: Breathing for Health and Relaxation
File with music
Performed by Craig Joyce
(4:45) (11.00 MB)

Script
Close your eyes… Focus your mind on your breath… Just follow the air as it goes in… and as it goes out. Feel the air come in… your nose feels a cool rush… and feel the air go out… your lips sense the air passing through them.

Feel your stomach rise… your ribs expand… and your collar bone rise, as you breathe slowly and naturally.

With each exhalation, you release all the air from your lungs… letting it all go… as you sink deeper and deeper into your chair.

Now take in a full, deep breath… feel your stomach rise… your chest expand… filling your body with fresh oxygen.

Breathe out… relaxing… feeling all sensation of tension release from your body… letting go.

With each breath you feel a soothing sensation… taking in clean, fresh air… with each breath your body heals itself… calming your nerves… and relaxing your muscles.

Breathe in again, fully and completely. Oxygen is entering your blood stream, nourishing your organs and cells… protecting you.

Breathe out… release all the poisons and toxins… each breath cleanses and heals you.

Now imagine inhaling clarity… and exhaling confusion.

Imagine inhaling peace… and exhaling anxiety.

Imagine inhaling courage… and exhaling weakness.

Each time you exhale… allow yourself to feel peaceful… calm… and completely relaxed…

If your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath Pause Stretch and open your eyes, feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, alert, and fully alive.

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Guided Imagery Relaxation Exercise: Ocean Waves
File with music
Performed by Craig Joyce
(5:51) (14.4 MB)

Script
Sitting comfortably in a chair, let your eyes close. Take a deep, cleansing breath of fresh air in… feel the sensation of renewal enter your body. Feel all of your cares and worries leave with each exhale.

Focus your attention on your breath… inhale deeply into your core… briefly hold the breath… and slowly release all of your tension and stress.

Feel the relaxation overcome your body as you exhale… with each breath you feel more and more relaxed.

Imagine you are strolling along a beach… the ocean gently breaking at your feet… the sand slowly fades away with each wave as it passes.

There is a cool, comfortable breeze that passes along your face… your hair dances with it… and you breathe in the scents of the crisp ocean air

Your feet take you to a peaceful spot to sit… the sun provides a warming sensation across your entire body… as you gaze at the vast image of water in front of you.

Focus your attention on the ocean… hear the waves crashing… the rhythmic sound soothes your ears as the breeze caresses the surface of your skin.

Each wave forms and then crashes… the tiny white bubbles of foam travel up the shore and then sink back into the ocean… until the cycle begins again… fill your mind with the rhythm of the ocean as each wave forms and falls.

Relax. You don't have to go anywhere or do anything at this moment… just enjoy the clear blue sky, the sand beneath your feet, and the calming sounds of the vast ocean… be aware of nothing but your surroundings… the salty smell, the cool breeze, the warm sun, and the soothing rhythm of the waves.

With the ocean in front of you and the blue sky above, realize that you are as small as a grain of sand in the ocean of the universe… all worries and cares seem insignificant compared to the vast, peaceful universe around you.

You are very relaxed, at peace with yourself and with the universe around you… take the cool calm of the ocean around you… as you walk away from the beach, heading back home.

Bring your awareness to the present, feeling completely relaxed and calm.

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Guided Imagery Relaxation Exercise: A Favorite Scene, Place or Person
(File with music (2:17) (2.6 MB)
Guided Imagery Relaxation Exercise: A Favorite Scene, Place or Person
(File with voice only (2:17) (2.6 MB)
Performed by Bill Macias, LCSW

Script
Start off by finding a comfortable position, lying down, reclining on a sofa, or sitting with your feet flat on the floor. Let your hands rest comfortably.

Begin by taking a deep breath, then letting it out gently. Close your eyes. Inhale another slow, deep breath. As you slowly exhale, you may feel yourself beginning to relax.

In a moment, you may think about the most relaxing place you know. Perhaps it's a favorite place, somewhere you have visited, or a peaceful scene of your imagination, like a meadow, beach, forest, or island. If you prefer, you may think about being with a person with whom you feel at peace. Take a few moments to get that peaceful image in mind.

You may imagine yourself in that special place, using all of your senses—smell, color vision, hearing, touch—to feel all the good feelings you have there. Just enjoy being in this favorite place.

Enjoy the feelings you have while you are there.

When you are ready, take one last moment in your peaceful place.

Take your time coming back, and bring those calm, peaceful feelings with you. As you return, take a slow, cleansing breath, wiggle your fingers and toes, and open your eyes.

Guided Imagery Relaxation Exercise: The Forest
File with music (3:14) (3.8 MB)
Performed by Andrea Bardack, LCSW, CEAP

Script
Start off by finding a comfortable position, lying down, reclining on a sofa, or sitting with your feet flat on the floor. Let your hands rest comfortably.

Begin by taking a deep breath, then letting it out gently. Close your eyes. Inhale another slow, deep breath. As you slowly exhale, you may feel yourself beginning to relax.

Take a moment, let your body relax, and slowly breathe any tension away.

You may imagine strolling down a path into a lush, green forest. As you walk, you notice the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of the forest. All around you see trees, green ferns, grass, and flowers. You hear soothing sounds: birds chirping, twigs crunching softly beneath your feet, and the wind blowing gently through the trees. You can smell the rich fragrance of the forest. Sunlight peeks through openings, warming you. With each breath you take, you may feel a deep sense of peace and relaxation. You soon come to a stream. You sit on the soft ground of the banks and put your feet into the cool water. You feel the warm sun and a gentle, light breeze as you listen to the water trickling through the rocks. You put your hand into the water and touch your wet fingers to your cheek. The water is cool and refreshing. You close your eyes, soak up the warm sun, and feel as though you are floating… relaxing deeper and deeper. You have no worries, and are completely at peace in this place.

When you are ready, imagine that you slowly get up, leave the stream, and follow the path back through the forest. As you gradually exit this place, realize that you may return whenever you wish, and that this path will always lead you to a place where you will feel relaxed and at peace.

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Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercise
File with music
(10:58) (12.6 MB)
Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercise
File with voice only (10.31) (12 MB)
Performed by Andrea Bardack, LCSW, CEAP

This procedure teaches you to relax your muscles by applying tension to certain muscle groups, then stopping the tension and observing how the muscles relax as tension flows away. Through practice, you will learn to relax muscles effectively. Before practicing progressive muscle relaxation, you should consult with your physician if you have any history of serious injuries, muscle spasms, or back problems, because the muscle tensing of this exercise could possibly aggravate any of these pre-existing conditions.

Script
Start off by finding a comfortable position, lying down, reclining on a sofa, or sitting with your feet flat on the floor, letting your hands rest comfortably.

Begin by taking a deep breath, then letting it out gently. Close your eyes.

1. Inhale three slow, deep breaths. As you exhale, imagine the tension leaving your body.

2. Clench your fists, tightly, and hold for one, two, three, and release.

Notice how the tension flows away from your hands and fingers.

3. Next, tighten your biceps by curling your fist up toward your shoulders and making a muscle pose with both arms. Hold for one, two, three, and relax.

4. Tighten your shoulders by shrugging them upwards, as if to touch your ears. Hold for one, two, three, and relax. As you feel the tension leave, think to yourself, "I am relaxed, I am calm, I feel good."

5. Now, raise your eyebrows as high as you can. Hold for one, two, three, and relax. Feel the tension leave your forehead.

6. Now, shut your eyelids as tightly as you can. Hold for one, two, three, and relax them open. Notice how relaxed they feel now.

7. Next, open your mouth wide. Hold for one, two, three, and relax. Let your lips part and allow your jaw to gently hang loose.

8. If you suffer from neck problems, you can skip this step. If not, tense your neck muscles, moving slowly and carefully to avoid injury. Gently tilt back your head until it can go no further, and Hold for one, two, three, and relax, slowly allowing your head to come upright. Take a deep breath, exhale, and gently tilt back your head again, holding for one, two, three, and slowly releasing to an upright position again.

9. Next, push your shoulder blades back as if you were going to touch them together. Hold for one, two, three, and relax. Take a deep breath, exhale, and push your shoulder blades together again for one, two, three, and relax. Good. You are releasing tension. You are feeling better.

10. Take a deep breath and hold for one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and slowly exhale. Imagine the tension in your chest gently blowing away with your breath.

11. Next, suck in your stomach and hold for one, two, three, and let it out. Imagine a wave of relaxation spreading through you.

12. If you have back pain, avoid this exercise. Otherwise, arch your back and hold for one, two, three, and relax. Let all the tension flow from your back.

13. Now, squeeze the muscles in your thighs, and hold for one, two, three, and relax. Feel your thigh muscles smoothing out and relaxing completely.

14. Next, pull your toes upward to tighten your calf muscles. Hold for one, two, three, and relax.

15. Finally, curl your toes downward to tighten your feet. Hold for one, two, three, and relax. Feel the tension leave your legs and feet completely.

16. Still closing your eyes, scan your body for any areas that still have any remaining tension. If a particular area remains tense, use the same exercise for that area to tense, hold for three long seconds, then release.

17. Now imagine a wave of relaxation slowly spreading throughout your body, starting at the top of your head, and moving to the tips of your toes.

With your eyes still closed, feel free to enjoy this peaceful feeling of total body relaxation.

Once you are ready to open your eyes and continue with your wonderful day, you may take three deep breaths. With each breath, you are becoming more aware of your surroundings, and becoming more alert. Perhaps with your third breath, why not smile brightly, and let this mood carry you through the remainder of the day.

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Breathing Relaxation Exercise “4-6-8”
File with voice only (2.33) (2.9 MB)
Performed by Jason Sackett, LCSW

Script
To get the most from this exercise, you will want to practice breathing from your diaphragm. That is, when you inhale, your stomach expands, not your chest. Try that once right now.

Throughout this exercise, as you breathe, it is also helpful to lightly press your tongue against your upper front teeth, or the roof of your mouth, to create a connection.

Breathing 4-6-8 involves inhaling through the nose for four seconds, holding your breath for six seconds, exhaling through your mouth for eight seconds, and repeating that process two more times.

Let's get ready to practice this now. Touch your tongue to your upper front teeth or the roof of your mouth, and inhale through your nose for 1, 2, 3, 4, and hold 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and exhale, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

and inhale 2, 3, 4 and hold 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and exhale, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

and inhale 2, 3, 4 and hold 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and exhale, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

And, you are done.

Practice breathing 4-6-8 for 2-3 times a day, and you will reduce your overall stress level.

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The Mental Body Scan
File with music (9:57) (11.7 MB)
Performed by Zachary Ginder

Script
Now we are going to close our eyes and focus our attention within. Without furling your brow and with eyes closed, let your eyes move towards their natural resting place, focusing at a point just above your nose and eye brows, in the center of your forehead.

Sitting in a comfortable position, with feet flat on the floor, let your body begin to relax and melt into the chair. Feel your arms getting heavier and heavier…let them come to a comfortable resting place.

Let your legs begin to sink into the chair and floor. Feel your legs getting heavier and heavier until they are immobile.

Now imagine that you are tiny ball of pure light.

Notice the welcoming nature of the light. Notice the soft glow and the color; ask the light to be your guide through your body.

Now, send the light to the very tip of your toes. Notice the sensations that your toes, feet and ankles are feeling. Are they sore? Hurting? Content? Acknowledge any tension that might exist in your feet, toes and ankles.

Allow your ball of light to cleanse your feet and ankles, washing away pain or tension, filling them with a healing light.

Now slowly move your attention up the legs and knees. Observe without judgment, any pain or discomfort in your legs. Are the muscles tight? Pin point the specific muscles or areas that may be causing discomfort. Once you have identified any tension areas, acknowledge your discomfort and fill your legs with the healing light that still remains in your feet and ankles. Notice the warmth of the light.

Now moving up to your pelvic, low back and abdominal region; let your sphere of light explore this area, is there any discomfort or blockages? Are their any differences in color or temperature? Acknowledge these differences. Notice any muscles that are tighter than others. Notice any exhaustion that this area may be feeling. Acknowledge this. Now, imagine filling this area full of warm healing light, until it is glowing with a peaceful balance of strength and wellbeing.

Now move your sphere of light up to your mid and upper torso area. Observe the beating of your heart.

Notice the pattern.

Thank the heart for its continued work and strength.

Now move to the muscles in your mid back. Notice the tautness of these muscles. Identify the specific muscles that are tight. Notice any tension in your shoulders. Have your sphere of light move through these muscles one at a time, cleansing and relaxing as it moves, filling them with a glowing light of acceptance and health.

Now notice any tense muscles in your pectoral and chest region. Breathe in a deep and pure breath, exhaling any impurities or negative emotions resting in that area.

With the next breath in, fill your torso with healing light. Notice the color and warmth of the light.

Now have your sphere of light move down your left arm. Notice any tension in the upper arm. Notice any tension in your hand or lower arm. Acknowledge this tension. Now have your sphere of light move down your right arm. Notice any tension in the upper arm. Notice any tension in your hand or lower arm. Acknowledge this tension. Fill both your arms with this healing light, letting any tension melt away.

Now move the sphere to the neck. Have the sphere of light trace the muscles of the neck on the right side.

Now the left side

Now the front

And now the back

Take note of any tension or soreness in your neck

Give those muscles permission to let go and relax

Now move your attention to your head. Acknowledge any nagging thoughts that may be reoccurring. Acknowledge any stress that you are experiencing. Now take a deep cleansing breath in and exhale all of those thoughts and stress. Now take another breath, breathing in while thinking peace and harmony and exhaling any impurities that are left. Now take a moment to focus your attention back to that special place in the center of your forehead, just above your brow.

Thank your body.

Remember this state of relaxation.

Now, without opening your eyes, slowly bring your attention back to both the internal and the external experiences happening currently.

Notice any sounds, smells or feelings.

When you are ready, open your eyes.

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