13 Best Relaxation Techniques For Anxiety

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated March 30, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Laura Angers, NCC, LPC

There are many treatment options for anxiety, but one of the best things you can do to manage your stress is through relaxation. Making regular use of relaxation techniques for anxiety can help you manage your symptoms, reduce anxiety attacks, and decrease your reliance on medications and other therapies.

For many people, relaxation techniques for anxiety can help manage symptoms in the midst of anxiety and decrease anxiety overall. These techniques can be used in the midst of high anxiety or as a daily routine to induce a feeling of relaxation and calm that can help reduce anxiety throughout the day.

Not all relaxation exercises for anxiety work for everyone. However, it is important to try many different techniques to find what will work best for you. Relying on only one technique all the time may not be beneficial. You want to have as many tools in your arsenal as possible, as different techniques may be appropriate for different situations.

EMG Biofeedback

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.

Meditation

Most people have heard of using meditation as a relaxation exercise for anxiety, but many people do not know how to meditate. There are several different types of meditation. Some types of meditation are more helpful in the treatment of anxiety than others. It is important to try each type of meditation to find what works best for you.

Transcendental Meditation

Many studies have found transcendental meditation to be the most beneficial to people with anxiety. In transcendental meditation, you simply repeat a mantra consistently for about 20 minutes. The mantra can be just about anything you desire. The most common that most people will recognize is "om."

Repeating a mantra, especially the traditional 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, which can produce a very calming effect.

Guided Meditation

Guided meditation requires more concentration than transcendental meditation. A guided meditation might be a video or audio-only experience. A soothing voice will lead you to visualize certain scenes, usually nature scenes.

The guided meditation may also simply provide a soothing voice telling you to let go of your thoughts. Guided meditations are good for people who have a hard time with other forms of meditation as someone is keeping your focus on the task at hand.

Concentrated Meditation

Concentrated meditation is where you concentrate on a specific idea, or you concentrate on clearing your mind. You can do this with or without background music, as you prefer. When doing concentrated meditation, you are focusing on one particular idea or image in your mind. As other thoughts come to the forefront, you acknowledge and dismiss them until your mind is a blank slate.

This is often considered the hardest type of meditation to do. Many people who start with this method become frustrated and think that meditation is not for them. Also, studies have found that it is not as effective as a relaxation technique for anxiety. However, for some people, it does work well.

Body Scan Meditation

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. If you are wearing socks, how do your feet feel in the socks? How does your shirt sleeve feel against your skin?

This meditation is about simply taking note of the feelings and sensations in each part of your body. It is a good idea to do the body scan meditation lying down, but you can also do it sitting up if that is your preference or the option available to you at the time.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is designed to bring you into the present. Rather than focusing on what may happen in the future, which is a big cause of anxiety for most people, with this meditation, 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 your 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

Yoga is a great practice that can help lower your anxiety. Studies have proven 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.

You can get started with yoga by taking a yoga class at your local gym or community center, hiring a private instructor, or even by watching YouTube videos online. There are several different styles of yoga; make sure you are choosing one that focuses on slow, steady movement and deep breathing.

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is one of the best relaxation techniques for anxiety attacks. You can practice deep breathing anywhere and at any time. You can practice deep breathing alone or in combination with other relaxation techniques such as meditation, aromatherapy, or while listening to music.

Deep breathing exercises should be done sitting up in a straight posture and taking deep, cleansing breaths. You will want to breathe in 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.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a straightforward relaxation technique that can help you control and manage anxiety. Of the relaxation techniques for anxiety discussed, this is one that can be used in the midst of an anxiety attack or when you are feeling very anxious in nearly any situation. You only need a few minutes without interruption.

Starting with your feet, you want to tense and relax each muscle. 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. Focus your attention on tensing and releasing those muscles and try not to think of anything else.

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 that you are listening to while you exercise or dance. 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

Visualization is one of the best relaxation techniques for anxiety 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. 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.

Tai Chi

Tai chi is all about slow, flowing body movements. It is exercise, but one that is low impact, not stressful, and most anyone can do. 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.

Self-Massage

Most people recognize that massage helps them relax. But what you may not realize is that you can get many of the same benefits of a professional massage by simply massaging yourself. Self-massage is not difficult and can be a great way to relax. This relaxation technique for anxiety is great, especially at the end of a long day or when you are trying to release your anxiety to sleep at night.

You should 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.

Getting Help

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 overcoming your anxiety for good.

Research shows that online therapy can play a significant role in reducing depression and anxiety symptoms. For example, one study found that online therapy was even more effective than traditional in-person sessions, with 100 percent of participants in the online group showing continued symptom reduction three months after treatment. On the other hand, individuals in the face-to-face group showed “significantly worsened depressive symptoms” over the same period. This study explores how internet-based treatment compares to regular face-to-face therapy.

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