Relaxation Techniques for Anxiety

Everyone gets anxious every so often, whether the reason be down to public speaking, a job interview, social interactions, a visit to the dentist and so on.

However, for about one in six of us, anxiety crosses over into what psychologists classify as a disorder. This is when a person faces anxiety on a daily basis making them become restless and irritable, making it hard to concentrate, as well as difficult to sleep.

Medication, which alters the chemical imbalance in our brains, is often prescribed to treat anxiety. In the short term, these medications can be effective, but they can also cause adverse side-effects. Therefore, a more natural approach is preferred by many people such as relaxation techniques.

Relaxation techniques for anxiety have the benefit of getting to the root of the problem and ensuring that no negative side effects are experienced.

 Relaxtion Techniques for Anxiety

 1.Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation, developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson in the 1920s, is one of the most popular and effective relaxation techniques for anxiety. It works on the basic principle that muscle tension accompanies anxiety, so by reducing muscle tension, anxiety can be reduced.

How to Do It:  Mentally focus on the muscle groups in your body, and one by one, systematically attempt to relax each one. That is all there is to it. With practice, you will be able to spot the muscles which feel most tense.

Time taken: 5-10 minutes is all that is required. At first, do it once a day, whether you are feeling anxious or not, and then continue to do it every time anxiety rears its ugly head.

2. Autogenic Training

Autogenic training, developed by German psychiatrist Johannes Schultz, is considered to be one of the more comprehensive relaxation techniques for anxiety – although the underlying mechanisms are similar to other relxation techniques.

How to Do It: First, repeat a particular autogenic phrase (similar to a mantra). An example may be:

-“My arms and legs are heavy”

-“My arms and legs are heavy.”

-“My breathing is calm and regular.”

When repeating these phrases, imagine feeling the warmth, heaviness and relaxation in your body. Once your body is relaxed, visualise an image you find relaxing. After doing this, you should feel much more relaxed.

Time Taken: Autogenic training takes around 5-10 minutes to complete. It should be repeated several times a day. While some may benefit from the help of a trained therapist as he/she delivers instructions, many find taped instructions to be sufficient.

3. Applied Relaxation

Applied relaxation can be thought of as a combination of stress management techniques that puts emphasis on indentifying signs of anxiety and learning ways to overcome it.

How to Do It: First, by using imagery, you focus on relaxing each muscle group. Next, you associate a certain cue with a relaxed state which will enable you to relax quickly; the cue might be “calmness now” or “I feel at peace.” Finally, you practice in real world situations whenever you feel anxious.

Time Taken: This relaxation technique for anxiety requires detailed instructions from a therapist (although many have had success with audio recordings). The process may take 12 sessions and can span several months.

4.  Meditation

Meditation is widely considered to be the best relaxation technique for anxiety. The focus of meditation is on going beyond the conditioned, everyday practice of thinking, to arrive at a deeper state of awareness and relaxation.

How to Do It: Sit down on the floor in a cross legged position, cup your hands together in your lap, close your eyes, and become aware of your breathing. This is of course just an outline of what meditation involves. For a more in-depth look,  have a look at this video

Time Taken: There is no set time limit. Some people meditate for five minutes, and others meditate for an hour or more. For people who have never practiced meditation before, it may be difficult to sit for a long period of time. Therefore, when starting out, 15-20 minutes is recommended.