Find Peace Instead of Panic: 5 Relaxation Techniques for Anxiety
Anxiety is stress dialed up to 100, and it is a condition that everyone faces — when it seems impossible to shake off that stress and anxiety, it may be time to consider reaching out to a professional for help, and finding practices that help soothe your mind. Coping with stress can be done with a few relaxation tips that will leave you feeling at peace instead of filled with panic.
There are various breathing exercises along with mindfulness meditation that are powerful relaxation techniques for anxiety relief. But first, we need to understand how the breathing process works and how it affects our bodies.
How the Quality of Your Breath Affects Your Central Nervous System
Breathing is vital for life, and it has a powerful influence over the functions in our body. Breathing in a specific way can be a calming technique for the body, but can also contribute to elevated stress levels, some of which may or may not be beneficial.
Our nervous system consists of two opposing systems, the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
Parasympathetic. This is the heart rate modifier and is the “brake” which slows down our system through the Vagus nerve. The PSNS is triggered when we exhale, especially when we breathe out through our mouths.
When you exhale, blood goes back to your body from the lungs. Your heart rate slows down as the PSNS “brake” kicks in and calms the system down. This is why sighing feels so good.
Sympathetic: This is the “gas” which revs up our system and is triggered with each inhale. Have you ever found when you do cardio exercise, that you tend to want to gasp in air through your mouth? When you inhale, blood is taken from your heart and put into your lungs which takes it away from the rest of your body. “Gasping” or inhaling rapidly through your mouth is your body’s stress response manifesting.
The heart compensates by increasing in rate to pump more blood to the rest of the body. This triggers a stress response in the body. While not always bad, the shortened breath encountered during an episode of anxiety is largely caused by this process.
At Miami Hypnosis & Therapy, we strive to offer you the tools to find balance between both of these natural states. Here are a few breathing and relaxation techniques for anxiety that can help achieve this calmer state of mind.
Technique #1: Easy Counted Breath
This exercise is a powerful calming technique for the body that allows the heart rate to slow because the emphasis is on the exhale instead of the inhale.
- Inhale from the nose for a count of four.
- Exhale from the nose for a count of six. See if you can relax your jaw and notice any tensing in your abdominal muscles. If there are, soften that effort.
- Repeat six times before returning to your normal, everyday breath.
After a week or two of practicing this breath, try to increase the increments, without strain.
Technique #2: The 3-Part Breath
This breath moves your breath from the belly, through the diaphragm, and into the upper chest, gently and incrementally, to help you find ease and increase your capacity for deeper breathing.
- Start by either lying on your back, or you can be seated in a comfortable cross-legged position.
- Relax your face and body. Notice the state of your thoughts, and see if you can focus a little more on the quality of your normal breath
- On the inhalation, fill the belly area like a balloon.
- On the exhalation, see if you can expel all of the air from your lungs slowly, noticing how your navel and core muscles draw inward in this process.
- Repeat five times.
- In this part, you will add a little more air by including the rib cage area as well as the belly area.
- On the inhalation, fill the belly and then include a little more air expanding into the rib cage area.
- On the exhalation, let the air leave the rib cage area followed by the belly area last.
- Repeat five times.
- In this part, you will add a little more air by including the upper chest area.
- On the inhalation, fill the belly, then the rib cage, and finally the upper chest to the collarbone which will cause the area around the heart to expand and rise.
- On the exhalation, let the air leave the upper chest, then the rib cage and finally the belly.
- Repeat ten times.
This type of breathing is a great relaxation technique for anxiety and can be done anywhere.
Technique #3: Mindfulness Meditation
When it comes to relaxation techniques for the body, mindfulness meditation is high on the list. This form of meditation encourages focused breathing while keeping your attention in the present moment.
- Find a comfortable position, either lying down or seated.
- Begin doing any breathing type exercise including those mentioned above.
- Staying mindful is merely observing the breath without trying to change it which will keep you aware of the present moment.
- If your attention starts to wander, bring it back to the breath itself.
- Different thoughts, including anxious and nervous ones, can occur. This is normal! Notice them for what they are, take a feel-good sigh, and see if you can refocus.
- This process helps you to learn how to notice what causes your anxiety to rise before it escalates and can help you get closer to finding balance.
These types of breathing exercises are other calming techniques for anxiety that can be done at home or work and will help ease daily stressors.
When practicing any breathing technique to soothe or manage your anxiety, it is always a good idea to work with a professional to guide you. Therapy that can be utilized to help navigate your anxiety, using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a modality based around that our thoughts create our behaviors, and if we change our thoughts, we can change the outcome of our actions. Each thought creates a feeling, and that feeling then creates our emotional response through our behavior. Working with our therapists in this way teaches you a personalized coping plan so you can understand and work with your individual stressors.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)
Neuro-Linguistic Programming works the actions of our mind that are previously learned behaviors and helps us build new patterns of thought that are healthier. These new behaviors can be learned to help the patient develop new patterns of thought and provide tools to work with negative thought patterns moving forward.
If you or a loved one needs help finding a little more ease in life, consider reaching out to our primary practitioner, Anna Marchenko (LMHC, M.A. Ed.M) to take the first step toward feeling better. For more information on relaxation techniques for anxiety, contact us today.