6 Exercises to Get Anxiety Under Control
While anxiety is a very normal and typical human reaction to stressful stimuli, suffering from too much anxiety can become an obstacle that gets in the way of your mental health and your capacity to live a normal, healthy, happy life. If you find that you’re becoming caught up in your feelings and symptoms of anxiety, there are more than a few things that you can do to help yourself.
In this article, we explain a few of the best simple relaxation techniques for anxiety that you can perform anytime you feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety, and anywhere you feel comfortable. The goal of these exercises is so you can perform them easily with fast-acting results that can help you relax.
Effective Relaxation Techniques for Anxiety
These simple relaxation techniques for anxiety aim to help address your body’s responses to stress, such as the signs of an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and tense muscles and help to replace these feelings with sensations of relaxation.
Relax by Breathing
During periods of heightened feelings of anxiety, you may notice that you have an increased heart rate, or heart palpitations, and faster breathing. You may also begin to sweat and feel lightheaded or dizzy during these periods. When this happens, having the ability to get your breathing under control can both relax your body, and relax your mind.
As one of the quick relaxation techniques for anxiety, here are a few tips that should help you to get your breathing under control if you’re suffering from an anxiety attack:
- Sit in a quiet and comfortable place. First, place one of your hands on your chest, and the other on your stomach. Take note of how your stomach should move more than your chest when you take in deep breaths.
- Take a slow, and regular, breathe through your nose. Focus on watching and sensing your hands as you breathe in. Again, the hand on your chest should remain still while the hand on your stomach will move slightly.
- Breathe out through your mouth slowly.
- Repeat this process at least 10 times, or at least until you start to feel the anxiety attack subside.
Relax by Visualising
You’ve probably heard, at least once, the term “find your happy place.” It’s a pretty cheesy one at that, but it turns out that it does actually have some merit. Painting a mental picture of a place that makes you feel at ease and relaxed can actually provide sensations of calm to your brain and body. This can be a tranquil white sand beach, views of rolling hills, or even the top of a mountain.
When you start to have these anxious feelings, deep relaxation techniques for anxiety are always a good idea. Sit in a quiet place and imagine your ideal place to relax. It should be an image that provides you with sensations of calm, happiness, peace, and safety. Make sure that it is easy enough to think about so that you can return to it easily in situations where you feel anxious in the future.
In situations where you need to imagine your “happy place”, imagine all of the small details you’d find if you were physically there. How would the place smell? How would it feel? Envision the sand in your toes, the wind in your hair, the spray of the ocean, or the snow crunching underfoot, and enjoy it comfortably.
Once you have a good mental image, make sure your eyes are closed and take slow, regular, breaths in through your nose and out of your mouth. Try to be aware of your breathing and the place in your mind until you feel your feelings of anxiety lifting.
Muscle Relaxation Techniques for Anxiety
After suffering from anxiety attacks for a while, you may begin to notice a strain on the muscles in your body. This muscle stress and strain can further make your anxiety difficult to manage in the event you have an anxiety attack or panic attack.
By relieving the stress within your muscles with effective muscle relaxation techniques for anxiety, you can begin reducing stress and your anxiety levels.
An exercise to relieve the stress in your body and muscle tension during moments of anxiety involves the following:
- Sit in a quiet and comfortable place and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing, making sure to breathe slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- With either hand, make a fist and squeeze it tightly.
- Hold this squeezed fist for a few seconds and focus on the tension you feel within your hand.
- Begin to slowly open your fingers and make yourself aware of how you feel. You may notice the feeling of tension leaving your hand, resulting in your hand feeling lighter and more relaxed.
- Continue this process of tensing and relaxing with multiple muscle groups in your body, from your legs, shoulders, or feet. Make sure you avoid tensing muscles in areas of your body that have sustained an injury, pain, areas that may be aggravated due to tensing, or over tensing and causing cramps. This will result in these areas feeling lighter, and more relaxed.
Relax by Counting
Do you remember the theory that counting sheep can help you sleep? The same principle also applies here, as one of our relaxation techniques for anxiety.
When you feel a wave of anxiety rolling over you, get yourself into a quiet and comfortable place. Close your eyes, and slowly count to 10. Repeat this as many times as necessary, adding 10 to each round. From 10, to 20, to 30, keep counting until you begin to feel your sensations of anxiety melting away.
Using this method, people sometimes feel relief come quickly. Other times, it may take a little while longer. No matter what the situation, make sure to stay calm and patient; not letting frustration get in the way.
Counting is one of the more effective relaxation techniques for anxiety as it gives you something else to focus on that aren’t overbearing feelings of anxiety. It is a good tool for when you’re in a crowded or busy space, like a supermarket or public transport, as it is a more discreet method of anxiety calming.
Relax by Staying Present
Mindfulness is known as one of the relaxation techniques for anxiety that involved being more present in your current mental state and physical surroundings. This is a gentle process without judgement, and this exercise can help to create a calm state of mind when you feel your levels of anxiety rising.
This exercise involves the following:
- Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit and close your eyes.
- Notice how your breathing and body feel.
- Then, shift your awareness to the sensations you observe in your surrounding. Ask yourself “what’s happening outside of my body?” making sure to pay notice to what you hear, smell, and feel in your environment.
- Change your awareness several times from your body to your environment and back again until your feelings of anxiety begin to fade.
Relax by Interrupting your Anxious Thinking
It may seem like an impossible task to think clearly when you start to feel anxious. Feelings and thoughts of anxiety can cloud our thinking and make us believe harmful thoughts that are untrue, or even make us do things that can make our symptoms of anxiety even worse.
It can be helpful for you to know some relaxation techniques for anxiety that you can use that can break or interrupt these anxious thoughts in order to get you thinking clearly again, and readily able to react appropriately to your thoughts.
Try asking yourself whether or not endless thoughts of worry are becoming a problem for you. If the answer is yes, realise it's a good step to be aware of this.
Once you become aware of your thought process, try some different ways of interrupting your anxious thought process. This can include:
- Singing a silly song about your anxiety
- Choosing a nice thought to focus on that isn’t your anxiety
- Listen to some upbeat music or read a book
- Take notice of how your mood shifts when you change your attention to a different task
What to Know Going into the Future
While anxiety can intrude on your thoughts and daily life, sometimes making it difficult to make the anxiety go away, just know that it is possible to find relief. Even if you find yourself caught up in your thoughts, regular practice with one or more of the relaxation techniques for anxiety above may help more than you think.