Unlike stress, which disappears once the stressor is eliminated, anxiety is a constant state of mind whereby an individual experiences anxious feelings (worry, fear, nervousness, unease, etc.) that do not subside or go away over a long period.
The upside to chronic anxiety, however, is that the condition is usually not life threatening if you know how to manage it. Still, it can negatively impact your mental and physical well-being, causing you to lead a less than ideal life. For instance, anxiety has the ability to instigate excessively worrying over situations that are out of your control, anticipating danger where there is none, suffering from periods of shortness of breath, experiencing panic attacks, and more. Fortunately, anxiety can be managed with relaxation techniques. Putting the mind and body at ease relaxes muscles, induces a feeling of calm, lowers heart rate, and delivers several other benefits that help to reduce anxiety. Here is a look at some of the best relaxation techniques that have been proven to combat anxiety.
- Slow Breathing
While slow breathing may seem like a futile attempt when it comes to reducing anxiety, it is actually a very effective relaxation technique that’s often recommended for the control of psychophysiological states. In the case of anxiety, slow and deep measured breaths offer two crucial benefits that help to bring about calmness.
Firstly, slow breathing helps provide a quick reprieve from one of the most common of anxiety symptoms – quick breathing. Feelings of anxiety turn on the sympathetic part of the nervous system which is responsible for the fight or flight response. This in turn causes rapid, shallow breathing. Slow breathing balances the nervous system and also enables you to gain control over your breathing and return it to a normal rate.
Secondly, slow breathing calms down the body by lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol thereby reducing anxiety. And the best part is that the cortisol reduction power of slow breathing is as effective and fast acting as antidepressant medication.
Meditation is popular since it’s so effective. Practiced by over 20 million Americans, meditation has been known to offer all manner of benefits including regulation of blood pressure, improved performance, rejuvenation of the mind and body, better clarity, elimination of insomnia, plus so much more. The best of meditation benefits however are reduced stress and relief of anxiety. Meditation teaches you to completely clear your mind of all thoughts (including negative ones), deeply relax, and take your subconscious to a place of inner peace and bliss. So, for someone who suffers from a constant state of anxiety, meditation can be a powerful tool for getting rid of any anxious feelings.
- Mind Distractions
Another good way of reducing anxiety is distracting your mind whenever you feel heightened anxiety-related feelings. Just like meditation, positive mind distractions have the power to control negative thinking and induce a sense of serenity. Repetition of positive phrases (such as “I feel calm and serene” or “I love my life”), aromatherapy, and creative outlets such as painting and playing the piano are just some of the mind distraction options that have the ability to help you relax.
- Muscle Relaxation
Whenever you are anxious, your body automatically goes into the fight or flight response mode whereby muscles tense up in readiness to respond to danger. So, when suffering from chronic anxiety, your muscles remain in a constant tense state which in turn can lead to a number of effects including fatigue, muscle pain and soreness, headaches among others. Muscle relaxation techniques can help deal with this side of anxiety.
Muscle relaxation in this case does not mean sitting back and putting your feet up or scheduling a deep tissue massage session. Rather, it entails actively relaxing all body muscles one muscle group at a time. Referred to as Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) this relaxation technique includes a 2-step process of alternatively tensing and then relaxing specific groups of muscles at a time. This process of clenching and unclenching your muscles enables them to enter a deep state of relaxation.
Regardless of how severe your anxiety is, relaxation techniques mentioned above can help you manage your anxiety. For best results, practice these techniques regularly and whenever you feel an increase in your anxiety levels.