Time icon
Frequency icon
Material icon


5-10 minutes


Multiple times daily




To help students develop the skills to notice how their body feels when they are tense and relaxed and to learn how to relieve tensions and to self-regulate.

  • Provide context for the practice (see “Evidence” section).
  • Together with students, model these relaxation practices; discuss/reflect about how students feel after the practice.

NOTE: if a student feels pain or discomfort, invite them to sit and pay attention to their breath instead.

I don’t know
  • Push your shoulders up to your ears (as if you were shrugging your shoulders).
  • Hold this for a count of five.
  • Now relax your shoulders slowly for the count of five.
  • Repeat.
Squeeze a lemon
  • Squeeze your hands together into fists (as if you were squeezing lemons).
  • Hold this for a count of five.
  • Now relax your hands slowly for the count of five.
  • Repeat.
Stone abs
  • Squeeze your stomach in.
  • Hold this for a count of five.
  • Now relax your stomach slowly for the count of five.
  • Repeat.
Push the ground
  • Push your feet down into the floor (as if you were squishing mud).
  • Hold this for a count of five.
  • Now relax your feet slowly for the count of five.
  • Repeat.
  • Students can select their favourite practice(s) to continue to use on their own.

Tense and relax - see instructions below

Tense and relax:

  1. Push your shoulders up towards your ears and hold
  2. Now let your shoulders go and relax
  3. Notice how it feels when your muscles are contracted vs. relaxed
  4. Let’s try again

See our social-emotional learning poster series for a tense and relax classroom poster.

Understanding the difference in how the body feels under tension and in a relaxation state is a helpful tool to identify and regulate emotions. When students have the opportunity to simulate what it feels like to relieve tension, they can become more mindful of their emotions, and learn to effectively self-regulate (Blair & Diamond, 2008; Klingbeil et al., 2017).

Blair, C., & Diamond, A. (2008). Biological processes in prevention and intervention: The promotion of self-regulation as a means of preventing school failure. Development and Psychopathology, 20(3), 899-911. doi:10.1017/S0954579408000436

Klingbeil, D. A., Renshaw, T. L., Willenbrink, J. B., Copek, R. A., Chan, K. T., Haddock, A., . . . Clifton, J. (2017). Mindfulness-based interventions with youth: A comprehensive meta-analysis of group-design studies. Journal of School Psychology, 63(Complete), 77-103. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2017.03.006