Mindfulness/ Relaxation

The Intervention

Mindfulness is the action of bringing awareness to your thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and actions in the present moment. It involves non-judgmental acceptance of these feelings and experiences. Mindfulness and relaxation skills can be used to help students cope with various emotional and behavioral problems and general life stressors. These tools can help students gain awareness of their mind-body connection by helping them notice feelings and emotions and how they affect their body. When faced with situations that evoke strong emotions, mindfulness strategies can be used to bring awareness to emotions and body sensations. When implementing a mindfulness intervention, it is important to model the intervention, practice it with the student, and then allow the student to practice it in their everyday life. Once they practice it on their own, you can give them feedback and try the same strategy again or try a different relaxation strategy. Mindfulness and relaxation strategies can also be used in combination with many more specific, targeted interventions.

  1. Explain to your student what mindfulness is and why it can be useful. It may be helpful to draw the connection to their personal stressors or emotions (e.g., anxiety about tests, strong emotions when they get homework problems wrong, general worrying, etc.). Discuss the mind-body connection with the student.
  2. Discuss various triggers that evoke strong emotions for the student. These triggering moments may be times that they want to try implementing a mindfulness or relaxation strategy.
  3. Pick a mindfulness strategy to practice. Mindfulness and relaxation strategies are not one size fits all strategies. Some students may find certain strategies useful and may not feel connected to other strategies.
  4. Practice the strategy with the student.
  5. Once you have practiced the strategy, debrief with the student about how it felt.
  6. Discuss a time that the student can practice this strategy during the week. They can practice the strategy on their own.
  7. Discuss how it felt at your next meeting. Give the student feedback about their use of the strategy.
  8. Repeat the process with another strategy once they have mastered the previous strategy. They may need to repeat one strategy multiple times. Even if the student liked the first strategy you practiced, it can be helpful to build their toolbox of mindfulness and relaxation strategies.

  • How do you feel after doing this activity?
  • How did your body feel before? After?
  • What were your expectations about this activity? Did it turn out how you expected?
  • Was this easy for you? Difficult for you?

The goal of the activities below is to learn how to use these activities effectively so they can relax their body and their mind when needed in day-to-day activities. The steps described below are for training purposes. When students use these to relax during daily activities, they will not need to go through every step of the training process (e.g., tensing and relaxing various muscle groups). Instead, they will be able to perform the steps in a discrete manner so others will not notice and still achieve the same mind and body relaxation.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) can be useful for helping students to become aware of the stress and tension that they are holding in their body through various muscle groups. When leading PMR with a student (or group of students) you will guide them through tensing and relaxing each muscle group. For example, you may start with their feet. As they inhale, you can ask the student(s) to squeeze their toes as hard as they can and make them very tense. They will hold the tension in their feet for a few seconds and then as they exhale, you will have them relax their feet. You will want to have them pay particular attention to the feeling of tensing and relaxing each muscle group and how they feel after they muscle group is relaxed. You will then work your way up the body through each muscle group. The students may take note of various muscle groups that they hold a lot of tension in day-to-day. See attached script for a detailed description of this exercise.

There are many exercises that may fall into the realm of PMR. There are many online resources with scripts and ideas for additional exercises that could work for your individual students.

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is a relaxation strategy in which you lead your student to imagine a pleasant or relaxing place to help increase feelings of calmness, relaxation and decrease stress. Depending on the student, you may have them choose a place that makes them happy or relaxed, or you may select a place to walk through (e.g., a beach, hiking in a forest, walking through a field etc.). You will lead the student(s) to enter this relaxing place and walk them through the experience. You will want to guide them to think about each of their senses; what they see, hear, smell, taste, and feel in this relaxing place. See the attached script for an example of a detailed outline of this exercise. When using this example, it should be read in a slow and calm voice.

There are many exercises that can fall into the realm of guided imagery. For example, mindful eating (e.g., piece of chocolate, orange, raisin).

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises can help students to focus on their breathing and feel calmer in stressful or anxiety provoking situations. There are a variety of different breathing exercises that you can do, but with all exercises, it is important that you help your student focus on breathing deeply through their diaphragm or belly rather than shallow breathing in their chest.

Example breathing exercises:

  • Belly breathing
  • Bunny breathing
  • Dragon breathing

You can find these and many others online, there are many guided videos that you can find for your students as well.

  • Utilize the Internet to find creative mindfulness and relaxation strategies. There are many great ones that you can find and share with your students.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation strategies can be used with individual students and can also be utilized for the entire class. You can also practice these strategies as a group to preventatively build up mindfulness skills for a larger group of students.
  • Not every strategy is going to work for every student. Some students feel very connected to certain strategies while others will find them boring or unhelpful. You can get creative and personalize the strategies to the interests and needs of the student.

Intervention Scorecard

This intervention is recommended for the following presenting problems.

Select an age group:


Other suitable presenting problems