13 Best Relaxation Techniques For Anxiety
Anxiety is a natural response to life events that have an uncertain outcome. Feeling nervousness or uneasy about what the day will bring is something most people experience regularly. However, chronic anxiety or stress can take its toll on your mental health and general well-being. Fortunately, you can manage this anxiety with healthy coping mechanisms and help build resilience to life’s unforeseen challenges. For many people, practicing relaxation techniques can help manage symptoms in the midst of anxiety and decrease anxiety overall. The following list of relaxation techniques can be added to your daily self-care routine to help you healthily manage stress throughout your day.
Relaxation Techniques And Stress Management
There are many treatment options that can help reduce stress and anxiety, including psychological interventions (i.e., cognitive behavioral therapy) and medications. Beyond these treatments, relaxation techniques have been shown in clinical practice to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and bring a sense of calm. hese techniques are meant to induce a feeling of relaxation and calm that can help reduce anxiety throughout the day. They can be used when your anxiety level is high or as part of a daily routine to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
It is important to note not all relaxation exercises for anxiety work for everyone. However, you can choose from different techniques to find which one will most benefit you. Relying on only one technique all the time may also not be beneficial. You may want to have as many tools in your arsenal as possible, with individual techniques appropriate for different situations. Making regular use of relaxation techniques for anxiety can help you reduce stress, manage anxiety attacks, and may decrease your reliance on medications and other therapies. The following list is an introduction to several different options you have to help you relax. If you want to learn more about individual therapies, speak with your therapist or healthcare provider to learn more.
If you find that your anxiety is unmanageable and you feel it is affecting your ability to accomplish daily tasks or diminishing your quality of life, talk to your healthcare provider or make an appointment with a therapist for help.
Research in meditation has shown this practice to be one of the most effective forms of stress reduction. The origins of meditation date back to the thousands of years and are rooted in Chinese, Buddhist, and Hindi traditions. There are several types of meditation and a few are covered in this article. The general practice involves clearing your mind or focusing on your breath by using both physical and mental methods. No matter which technique, the end result typically brings relaxation and a notable reduction in anxiety and stress.
Many studies have found transcendental meditation to be highly beneficial to people with anxiety. In transcendental meditation, you simply repeat a mantra consistently for about 20 minutes. A mantra is a word or sound that is repeated to aid in your focus during mediation. The mantra can be just about anything you desire. The most common that most people will recognize is the sound or syllable “om” rooted in Sanskrit.
Repeating a mantra, especially the sacred mantra om, may help in your relaxation beyond the simple practice of the meditation. When you draw out the "om," it creates a vibration in your vocal cords. This activates the vagus nerve, which is the longest cranial nerve. Activating this nerve can lower your heart rate and deepen your breathing, resulting in a very calming effect.
Guided meditation requires more concentration than transcendental meditation. A guided meditation might be a video or audio-only experience. A soothing voice will provide guided imagery, leading you to visualize certain scenes, usually nature scenes.
The guided meditation may also provide a soothing voice telling you to let go of your thoughts. Guided meditations are good for people with a hard time with other forms of meditation as someone keeps your focus on the task at hand.
Concentrated meditation is the practice of concentrating on a specific idea or clearing your mind. You can do this with or without background music, as you prefer. When doing concentrated meditation, you are focusing on one specific idea or image in your mind. As distracting thoughts come to the forefront, you acknowledge and dismiss them until your mind is a blank slate.
This is often considered the most difficult type of meditation to accomplish. Many people who start with this method become frustrated and think that meditation is not for them. If the concentrated form of meditation does not work for you, move to a different one. With more practice, you may be able to return to a concentrated meditation that helps you practice.
Body Scan Meditation
According to Harvard Health Publishing, body scans can help produce a relaxation response in the body. In body scan meditation, you focus your attention on different parts of your body. You start with your feet and work your way up. You should avoid tensing and relaxing your muscles with this meditation. You are only focusing your awareness on that part of your body and assessing how it feels. For example, during your body scan you may ask the following: If you are wearing socks, how do your feet feel in the socks? How does your shirt sleeve feel against your skin?
It is suggested that practice body scan meditation lying down, with your legs uncrossed in a comfortable place. As you experience feelings and sensations in each part of your body, simply bring your attention to them and take note of what they feel like.
Mindfulness meditation is designed to bring you into the present moment. Rather than focusing on what may happen in the future (which can lead to anxious thoughts), you focus your mind on what is happening right now at this moment.
There are a lot of ways that you can do mindfulness meditation. You can focus on breathing patterns or one specific sentence or phrase. You can focus on following intrusive thoughts and releasing them. You could also focus on the sensations of things around you, such as what you can smell, see, touch, or hear.
Yoga is another meditative practice that has proven health benefits and can help lower your anxiety. It is rooted in ancient Buddhist traditions and typically involves breathing techniques, physical postures, and meditation (in the United States). Studies have shown that cyclic meditation in yoga can decrease symptoms and occurrences of anxiety in many patients. Cyclic meditation in yoga is alternating yoga poses with supine rest.
There are several different styles of yoga that range from gentle practices to physically demanding ones. Make sure you are choosing one that focuses on slow, steady movement and deep breathing. For more information on yoga and how it can reduce stress, read this article from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Deep breathing is a highly effective relaxation technique for anxiety attacks, stress, and other mental health concerns. You can practice deep breathing anywhere and at any time. It can performed alone or in combination with other types of relaxation techniques such as meditation, aromatherapy, or while listening to relaxing music. Deep breathing exercises are best done sitting up in a straight posture where you can take slow, cleansing, deep breaths. The technique is as follows:
Take a regular breath through your nose and out through your mouth. Counting slowly as you inhale will increase the depth of the breaths you take and ensure that you are expelling all air from your diaphragm as you exhale. To ensure you are breathing correctly, rest one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. As you breathe, the space between your hands should increase with your inhalation and decrease with your exhalation. Take slow, regular breaths—breathing in too deeply or rapidly can make you feel dizzy and potentially create more stress. One method to help increase stress resilience is to imagine that you are pushing out all of the worries and anxious feelings as you exhale.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a straightforward relaxation technique that can help you control and manage anxiety and reduce muscle tension. Of the various relaxation techniques for anxiety discussed, this is one that can be used during an anxiety attack or when you are feeling anxious in nearly any situation. You only need a few minutes without interruption.
You can practice progressive muscle relaxation while laying down or seated comfortably. The technique involves tensing each muscle for a few seconds, starting with your feet, before relaxing and moving to the next muscle group. Work your way up through your body: from your feet into your legs, into your thighs, to your buttocks, your abdomen, your chest, your arms, hands, and finally your shoulders and neck. Trying not to think of anything else, focus on tensing and releasing each muscle group and observe the tension leaving those muscles. Regular practice of progressive muscle relaxation can lead to stress management, pain relief, and even improved sleep.
Rhythmic Movement And Mindful Exercise
You may not initially think of exercise as relaxing, but rhythmic movement and mindful exercise can be great relaxation techniques. Some of the best examples are dancing, walking, running, swimming, or rowing. As you are doing these activities, it is important to be mindful.
Mindful exercise is focusing your mind completely on the present. Focus on the rhythm that your body is making with the movements. Focus on the music you are listening to while exercising or dancing. Focus on the feeling of your muscles tensing and relaxing with the movement and how your body feels. Focus on your breathing. Your entire focus should be on what you are doing at this moment.
Visualization is an ideal relaxation exercises for anxiety and stress management because it too can be done anywhere at any time. Simply sit comfortably and close your eyes. Visualize a place that makes you feel calm—the so-called “happy place.” It could be a favorite childhood spot, a clearing in the woods, a nature park you like to frequent, a beach, or your favorite camping spot.
As you bring this image to mind, focus your attention on making the image as clear as possible. What details can you see? You can also take the visualization further by looking for things that affect the senses. What could you smell, hear, touch, taste, or see if you were really in this place? Focusing on these details will help the image become clearer to you and focus your mind. When you are done, slowly open your eyes and take note of the exercises impact on the stress response. Guided imagery allows you to replace negative mental images that may be affecting your mental well-being with more positive ones.
Tai chi is an internal Chinese martial art practice used for its health benefits, defense training, and meditation. It is characterized by slow, flowing body movements. Tai chi is considered exercise, but one that is low impact and not stressful. According to Harvard Health Publishing, tai chi is another way of producing the relaxation response and improving mental health. Tai chi can not only help combat the stress response but also decrease pain, help with weight loss, and improve brain function. It is best to learn tai chi in a class setting. You can find tai chi classes in your local community through community centers or gyms. You can also find tai chi classes online and do them virtually in your own home.
Massage is a pain-relieving and stress-relieving form of physical therapy that is typically performed by a massage therapist. You may not realize that you can get many of the same benefits of a professional massage by simply massaging yourself. This simple relaxation technique can help you at the end of a long day or when you are trying to release your anxiety to sleep at night.
You can start your self-massage by kneading the muscles in your neck and shoulders. Use your fists to work the tense muscles, and then use your fingertip to massage your neck up to the base of the skull. Then you can use your fingers to massage your face as well.
Electromyography (EMG) Biofeedback Therapy
Electromyography is a type of biofeedback that is helpful in the treatment of anxiety. Sensors are placed on the body that measures muscle tension and provide feedback in the form of sounds or pulses. Studies have found that EMG biofeedback is particularly helpful for situational anxiety such as test-taking anxiety as well as general anxiety. In this therapy, a practitioners will guide you through the process to help you understand the results and give you tips on how to relax the tense muscles.
There are other exercises you can try, such as art therapy, qigong, or aromatherapy. As discussed above, mixing in several different relaxation techniques may be necessary. The important thing is that you’re addressing stress and anxiety and learning how to relax when necessary. To learn more useful tips on relaxation and stress reduction, take a look at this resource from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
For some people, these relaxation techniques for anxiety are not enough. You may require additional treatment methods such as medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, or other types of psychotherapy to overcome and decrease your anxiety. Contacting a therapist is often the first step in improving your mental well-being and overcoming your anxiety for good. If you are having a difficult time finding a therapist locally or simply do not have the time to go to and from appointments, consider online therapy. Research shows that online therapy can play a significant role in reducing depression and anxiety symptoms. For example, , with participants in the online group showing continued symptom reduction three months after treatment.
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