Using these Relaxation Techniques for Anxiety will help slow your heart-rate quicker, regulate your breathing, and come back to the present moment much faster than ever before. They are simple anxiety tools that you can keep in your back pocket to use any time you’re feeling uneasy or anxious in any way.
There are so many things going on in our world today, that it is no surprise that many of us are looking for relaxation techniques for anxiety.
I want to start by saying, I’m sorry that you are experiencing anxiety. It is one of the worst feelings in the world, and I don’t wish it on anybody. We’ll talk a little bit about what anxiety feels like in a minute.
Also, I want you to know that you are not alone. At all. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental illnesses in the United States, affecting over 40 million adults! I know that it may feel like a lonely and isolated disorder that no one could ever understand what you’re going through, I have been happy to find that others often feel the exact same way. It’s just a matter of people not always talking about their fears and anxiousness, so we aren’t aware of how others feel.
And with illnesses, political mumbo-jumbo, and natural disasters in the world right now, it is completely normal to feel some sort of unease or anxiety.
Just to share a brief bit of my background with anxiety, and how I came to write this post:
I have always been a bit of a control-freak, getting annoyed when things don’t quite go as planned. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to feel a bit more than just annoyance. A loss of control. A feeling of tightness and overwhelm.
And then last year my son started Jr High School. The week leading up to the first day of school, I began to feel a quickening in my breathing any time I thought about sending him off. My heart would race a bit. And I was so nauseous all the time. Over time, that did calm down once I got comfortable with the new normal, but of course, that took some getting used to.
At that point, I really had a hold on my anxious thoughts and feelings for the most part. So I never really considered myself to be a person that suffers anxiety. That is, until my physical body was tested in a way it never had before. It was forced to fight, flight, or flee.
Utah Earthquake 2020. 5.7 Magnitude. The scariest day of my entire life. I was alone with just me and my dog. And I continued to replay the earthquake over and over the entire day through each and every aftershock. I couldn’t sleep. I was scared to do the simplest of tasks. Shower. Use the bathroom. Move from the couch. Take even one step. Everything was terrifying, and I was experiencing a type of anxiety and trauma I had never felt before.
One day I hope to talk about the actual experience of the earthquake and how it felt without experiencing anxiety. But until then, I’m just learning to manage the fear of the PTSD I’ve been dealing with as a result of going through a natural disaster.
There are few things I want to mention about Anxiety and PTSD
All of your feelings are valid, NO MATTER WHAT.
I’ve seen one or more comments regarding the earthquake that made me feel like a crazy person and that I wasn’t handling the situation like a normal healthy human being.
“It was only a 5.7. That’s nothing compared to the quakes of California.”
And there are so many variations of this that may make you feel like you’re over-reacting or that you shouldn’t feel so upset. For example:
“Oh, he only smacked you on the ass? At least you didn’t get raped!”
“Yeah – sucks that you lost your dad, but at least you didn’t have to watch him beat your mom like mine did.”
“Oh poor baby. Try spending a year in Iraq.”
There are so many things that people could say that make your feeling of anxiety feel invalid, and I want you to know that they are not. What you feel is real! What you feel is justified. By nobody but yourself. And that is the only justification that you need to validate your feelings.
And let’s talk about what it is you’re feeling.
What Anxiety Feels Like
This may be different for everyone. And the feelings will be in varying degrees from person to person.
- Elevated Heart Rate – your heart may feel like its pounding and that it’s going to jump out of your chest. Plus it may feel much faster than your normal resting heart rate (which of course, you don’t normally notice on a regular basis).
- Quicker Breathing Pattern – You may find it hard to take a complete, full, and deep breath when you’re suffering from anxiety. Your breaths may be shallow. They may be quick.
- Nauseousness – You may feel a sense of knots in your stomach. Decreased appetite. Just a feeling of unease in your gut.
- Sweaty Palms and Feet – This is a common physical reaction to anxiety you may experience (I know I have been the last few days).
- Headache – it’s very common to experience a headache as you’re feeling anxiety.
- Restlessness, Fatigue, Difficulty Concentrating – all very common symptoms of anxiety
You can have some or all of these feelings. And like I said before, they can come in varying degrees in each person and in each situation.
Now that you know how to identify anxiety, you want to know if there’s any way you can treat it yourself. So many are quick to just pop a pill, and I’m not gonna lie – it was super tempting for me to call my dr and ask for some Xanax to get me through this.
But I do feel strongly in healing the mind and emotions and doing the hard work for the best long-term healing.
How Can I Reduce Anxiety Naturally?
I will go more in depth on each of these relaxation techniques for anxiety in the printable handout below, but just to introduce you to the ideas:
- Grounding technique
- Using all of your senses
- Spelling backward and forward
- Tactile soothing
- Relaxation body scan
These anxiety tools are meant to be taken with you everywhere you go. They are meant to distract and calm your mind, your heart rate, and your breathing.
When talking to my therapist and telling her my heart had been racing for at least 30 minutes after each after-shock, her goal was to give me these tools in order to reduce that time down drastically.
Here’s the thing. It is your body’s natural reaction to react to fear. Even if it’s an unrealistic fear that you have made up in your head. It’s still a fear that you have created. That is normal, and our bodies are made to react. It’s how we survive.
These techniques are going to help reduce the time your body is spent trying to survive against the fear.
I’m sure you’ve also heard that exercise is best for anxiety, and that is true. Let’s talk about that.
What type of exercise is best for anxiety?
Exercise and other physical activities release endorphins. Endorphins are great because they are natural pain-killers, improve the ability to sleep, and reduce stress. These three things together could drastically reduce the anxiety you’re feeling.
Even just 5 minutes of aerobic activity can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
There are so many ways you can exercise for anxiety-reduction:
- Aerobic Classes
- Really any way you can get your heart-rate up!
We’ve talked about what Anxiety feels like.
We’ve talked about how NORMAL anxiety is.
We’ve talked briefly about how to calm your anxiety naturally.
Now I’d like to dive deep into those anxiety tools for you and help you start practicing them.
Suggestions for using the relaxation techniques for anxiety
- Practice these techniques often and under normal circumstances. You want to be really good at these techniques when the time comes that you’ll need to use them. When the anxiety hits, you want to feel confident that you know exactly what each of these tools looks and feels like.
- Choose the tool you’re going to attempt to use when you have your next anxiety attack. Some of these tools may not resonate with you. Try them out. See how they work out and jive with you. And then decide which one feels the best. That way you’re not scrambling through the list to figure out how to get through an attack.
- Print out the Relaxation Techniques and take them with you everywhere. I mean that. Right now, as I’m dealing with heightened anxiety that can literally hit me anywhere at any time. Damn right I’m not getting caught without my list of tools to turn to. So I have my notebook where they’re written down, and as of right now, it goes everywhere with me. You could also jot notes in your phone if that would be easier than taking a notebook or piece of paper with you.
Now that you know how to manage your anxiety by using these 5 Relaxation Techniques, please feel free to share on social media, tagging me so I can hear about your progress.
IG & Pinterest: happyfoodholly
Hang in there, my friend. So much love your way, and again, you are not alone.
Reach out with any questions or let me know if this has helped you down in the comments.
This is going to be all about feeling security under your feet. As soon as you begin to feel anxiety, stop exactly where you are, whether you're sitting in a chair or standing.
Then you will place your feet below you. Carpet. Hardwood. Cement. Grass. Yoga Mat. Slippers. Sandals. Shoes. Barefeet. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you place your feet and "ground" them in a way that supports your body.
And then you will think about what you feel. All the things.
* How does it feel underneath your feet? Wiggle your toes to really get a feel for the surface below you.
* What is the temperature of your feet? Are they cold? Hot? Clammy? (a normal reaction to stress and anxiety)
* Do you feel anything over the top of your feet? A cool breeze if you're outside? Warm fuzziness from your slippers?
In your mind (or outloud), describe all of these things you feel. Remind yourself that you are fully supported by your feet and your body. You are grounded. You are safe.
Use All Your Senses
This is my absolute favorite relaxation technique for anxiety. It utilizes your entire body and all of your senses. As soon as you feel the effects of anxiousness, you will go through all 5 senses in a descending manner:
* 5 things I can see. Look around yourself right where you are and identify 5 items that you can see. Name them in your head or outloud.
* 4 things I can feel. Again, right from where you are, reach out and touch 4 different things. Identify them. Acknowledge them. Feel them.
* 3 things I can hear. The birds chirping? Your kids laughing? Your favorite song? This can be a little tricky because you may not be hearing anything pleasant. You can totally imagine the sounds in your head. Maybe you have a special ring tone for your partner or best friend. Imagine it in your head. Maybe imagine birds chirping. "Hear" 3 things in your head that are positive sounds for you.
* 2 things I can smell. This is another one that may take imagination if you aren't smelling anything nice or soothing. Smells can definitely be imagined. I can smell a fresh pot of coffee just thinking about it. Or the soothing smell of lavender oil. If you don't have any nearby, imagine that smell.
* 1 thing I can taste. Again. Imagination can be so powerful here. Imagine the taste of something you love. For me, it's dark chocolate or coffee. Those are comforting and soothing tastes for me.
By the time you have gone through all of your senses, chances are high that your body has regulated itself and you're starting to feel back to normal.
Backward & Forward
I love the simplicity of this anxiety technique. Think of a word. Any word.
Spell it. And then spell it backward.
Start simple. Cat. C-A-T. T-A-C.
And then move on to maybe your name. Or find an object around you that you could spell forward. And then backward again.
For one, this distracts you from whatever is causing anxiety.
Secondly, it's using a different part of the brain from where your anxiety lives (or something like that... NOT a dr here!)
Feel it Out
There are a couple of ways you can approach this tactile anxiety reduction technique.
Soothing Material - Can you think of any things you enjoy touching that just make you feel secure? Maybe it's your dog or cat's soft fur. Calmly pet your furry friend. (They'll appreciate it too!) Or maybe you have a blanket (yes a comfort blanket... ain't no shame!) that you just love the feel of. Calmly rub the material between your fingers.
Object Dissection - this one is so great because you can take it with you anywhere you go and you'll never be left without an anxiety tool.
Think of a small object that can fit in a pocket, around your neck, on your wrist. Somewhere on your person at all times. Bonus points if it has special meaning. Maybe a necklace. A charm of some sort. Your wedding ring.
As soon as you begin to feel anxious, begin to touch the object. Not just hold it in your hand and look for relaxation powers. But you are going to begin feeling all the surfaces of this object and recognize how they feel in your head (or out loud).
For example, let's say I'm feeling my wedding ring. I notice that there are four bumps or ridges around the outside. It's smooth and flat on the top, but then as I go around the sides, they are more slanted downward. Two sides are longer than the other two shorter sides. And then the band around my finger is smooth. Except for the part right around the stone. There is a small feeling of an indentation where a small stone lies.
Make sense? Totally dissect the object to distract your anxious feelings. This object will be your security and will always be with you.
This is a great relaxation technique for anxiety as you are able to truly relax each and every part of your body. I like to use this anxiety tool if I'm having a hard time falling asleep.
I tend to do this laying down, but you could certainly do a body scan sitting in a chair.
Start at the top of your head and slowly, very slowly, acknowledge each and every part of your body. Eye brows. You can raise or scrunch them up, but then completely relax them. Eyes. Completely relaxed. Nose. Scrunch it up, and then relax. Jaw. Lips. Tongue (you'd be surprised how much tension you hold in your tongue!). Shoulders. Arms. Hands. Fingers.
All the way down to your tip toes. Relax every muscle in your body. I like to imagine my body being absorbed in the surface I'm laying on. Like my bed is absorbing the stress or anxiety I had been holding in my body, and now I can relax.
If you get to your toes and you're not yet asleep or relaxed enough to doze off, you will make your way back up to the top of your head.
If you feel your mind wander, that's ok. That's normal. Just bring your mind back to the last place you relaxed and keep moving forward. This takes practice, but it is so worth it to feel completely relaxed in your muscles.