Learning to relax is like learning any new skill: It takes practice to become good at it.
We have prepared three kinds of relaxation exercises: Active , Progressive , and Visualization. Choose one and see if it works for you. Everyone is different and different techniques work for different people (several stress and relaxation CD's are available for checkout or for use in the Counseling Center's Chill Room).
Find a quiet time to practice. It is best to find a comfortable position, either lying down or sitting with your spine straight and arms and legs uncrossed.
One approach is to read a relaxation exercise into a tape recorder to make an audiotape. Play the tape back to yourself so you can follow the instructions while listening.
Once you practice sufficiently at home, you will be able to use these exercises anywhere without anyone knowing you are doing them. For example, you can use them just before an exam or a presentation.
One way to test how well your practice with relaxation is progressing is to rate your level of tension before and after the exercise: Initially, on a scale from 0 to 100, rate your tension level with 0 being totally relaxed and 100 being totally tense. Then, when you finish the relaxation exercise, rate your level of tension again. If you are able to lower your tension level by even 1 point, you are being successful.
Have patience with yourself, and remember this is a skill you are learning (a skill you can keep and use throughout your life).