Relaxation techniques are strategies used to reduce stress and anxiety. These techniques can also be used to manage symptoms of panic disorder and help a person get through a panic attack. Relaxation techniques work to manage the fight-or-flight response, or stress reaction, that is frequently triggered among people with anxiety disorders.
Relaxation Techniques for Anxiety
Deep Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises are the foundation of many other relaxation techniques and are very easy to learn. These exercises work to help you breathe slowly and deeply, which can allow you to feel more relaxed. Breathing exercises have been known to make you feel energized and refreshed.
Deep breathing also brings your focus and attention to the breathing process, therefore clearing your mind and helping you to control the rhythm of your breath.
These exercises can assist with reducing muscle tension, along with improving other common symptoms of panic, such as decreasing rapid heart rate and managing shortness of breath.
Visualization is a powerful way to let go of stress and anxiety. Through visualization, you use your imagination to picture yourself in a more calming and serene environment, such as at a beach or in a flower-covered meadow. Visualization works to relax your body and soothe your thoughts. By simply seeing yourself in a more rejuvenating setting, you can allow your mind and body to feel as though you are there.
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Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is an effective anxiety-reducing technique that involves decreasing the tension throughout your body while calming any anxious thoughts. PMR involves tightening and releasing various muscle groups to lessen bodily tension.
By focusing your attention on letting go of stress throughout the body, you are also able to quiet and calm your mind. When practiced over time, PMR can help you recognize when your muscles are constricted and more easily release physical discomfort that is contributing to your anxiety.
Yoga and Meditation
Many people find yoga and meditation to be useful ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Yoga can help you to let go of tension throughout the body, improve concentration, and relax. Meditation can be used alone or as part of yoga practice and is also a great way to assist you in feeling more balanced, calm, and focused.
These relaxation techniques can be practiced upon waking to relieve and reduce morning anxiety and start the day feeling refreshed. They can also be used at the end of the day to let go of any built-up stress and tension.
Suggested: Health Benefits of Meditation
Relaxation Techniques and Self-Care Strategies
Relaxation techniques can be even more effective when included with your overall wellness and self-care practices. Self-care strategies consist of activities that enhance your health, including the emotional, physical, spiritual, and relational aspects of your wellness. If you have been diagnosed with panic disorder, it can be helpful to attend to your overall self-care practices. These strategies include practicing your relaxation techniques, finding social support, getting enough rest, and taking care of your physical fitness needs.
Relaxation Techniques for Stress
In this simple, powerful technique, you take long, slow, deep breaths (also known as abdominal or belly breathing). As you breathe, you gently disengage your mind from distracting thoughts and sensations. Breath focus can be especially helpful for people with eating disorders to help them focus on their bodies more positively. However, this technique may not be appropriate for those with health problems that make breathing difficult, such as respiratory ailments or heart failure.
This technique blends breath focus with progressive muscle relaxation. After a few minutes of deep breathing, you focus on one part of the body or group of muscles at a time and mentally release any physical tension you feel there. A body scan can help boost your awareness of the mind-body connection. If you have had a recent surgery that affects your body image or other difficulties with body image, this technique may be less helpful for you.
For this technique, you conjure up soothing scenes, places, or experiences in your mind to help you relax and focus. You can find free apps and online recordings of calming scenes—just make sure to choose imagery you find soothing and that has personal significance. Guided imagery may help you reinforce a positive vision of yourself, but it can be difficult for those who have intrusive thoughts or find it hard to conjure up mental images.
This practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing, and bringing your mind’s attention to the present moment without drifting into concerns about the past or the future. This form of meditation has enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years. Research suggests it may be helpful for people with anxiety, depression, and pain.
Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong
These three ancient arts combine rhythmic breathing with a series of postures or flowing movements. The physical aspects of these practices offer a mental focus that can help distract you from racing thoughts. They can also enhance your flexibility and balance. But if you are not normally active, have health problems, or have a painful or disabling condition, these relaxation techniques might be too challenging. Check with your doctor before starting them.
For this technique, you silently repeat a short prayer or phrase from a prayer while practicing breath focus. This method may be especially appealing if religion or spirituality is meaningful to you.
Rather than choosing just one technique, experts recommend sampling several to see which one works best for you. Try to practice for at least 20 minutes a day, although even just a few minutes can help. But the longer and the more often you practice these relaxation techniques, the greater the benefits and the more you can reduce stress.