Relaxation Tips for Anxiety
Anxiety is a normal part of human life. However, it becomes a problem when it interferes with your day-to-day functioning. Anxiety disorders are characterised by excessive worrying, sleep disturbances, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Moreover, anxiety causes significant psychological distress and impairments in important areas of daily functioning (such as in social, academic, and occupational environments).
However, not all is lost. It is possible to self-treat anxiety symptoms. Here is a comprehensive list of self-help relaxation tips to help soothe your anxiety:
- Practise Mindfulness
The use of Mindfulness to treat anxiety symptoms has sprung into popularity in the clinical world over the last two decades. Recent studies have shown that mindfulness can effectively reduce symptoms in patients with anxiety.
Mindfulness is designed to bring about awareness and acceptance of the present moment. Awareness can include your internal experiences, such as your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. It can also include being aware of your external surroundings, like sounds, colours, and other people around you. The idea is that you become aware of the present moment without suppressing your anxious thoughts. Being mindful will help you to recognise and understand the patterns in your anxiety. Plus, the great thing about mindfulness is that it can be practised anywhere at any time!
You may want to experiment a little until you find a mindfulness technique which best suits you. It can sometimes help to give a name to the inner critical voice. Doing so can help you to disconnect from your anxious thoughts so that you – in effect – become the observer. For example, when you notice an anxious thought, try saying ‘I hear you Fred, but what you’re telling me isn’t helpful’. Of course, you don’t have to call these thoughts Fred, I just used that name as an example.
Putting a label on your anxious thoughts is a great way to practise awareness. It can give you some space to decide how you can react to the thought, instead of being swept away by waves of anxiety.
Mindfulness can also be effectively practised through meditative techniques. A simple mediation practice can be achieved by setting some time aside in your day to focus on the present moment. Sit comfortably – on a cushion or chair – straighten your back and bring your attention to your breath. Feel the air moving through your nose and out of your mouth. It’s natural for your mind to wander during meditation. Give no judgement to these thoughts and carefully bring your focus back to your breathing. If you find that you’re struggling to maintain a peaceful mind as you meditate, try searching ‘guided meditations’ on YouTube. There is a plethora of videos out there to help you! Alternatively, you could give yoga a try.
- Just Breathe. Ground Yourself.
Rapid breathing is a common sign of an anxiety attack. Hyperventilating (or ‘over-breathing’) causes the carbon dioxide levels in your blood to drop, which leads to further uncomfortable symptoms such as a rapid heart rate, light-headedness, tingling and numbness, and a loss of reality. Hyperventilating can be a scary cycle to break out of, so it’s useful to know some breathing exercises to help you alleviate these symptoms.
Draw a square with your imagination (or in the air with your finger if it helps!). As you draw the first side of the square, breathe in for four seconds. Hold your breath for another four seconds as you draw the second side of the square. Continue this pattern to finish drawing your square and repeat as many times as necessary.
You could also try belly breathing. Place one hand on your stomach as you take a deep breath in. Move your focus onto your belly rising as you breathe. Engage your diaphragm as you breathe out. This technique can be tiring, but it’s a great way to shift your focus onto the present moment.
Another breathing exercise to try is alternate nostril breathing. Using your thumb and index finger, pinch one nostril and breathe slowly through the open nostril. Hold for a few seconds. Then, close the open nostril and exhale through the other. Repeat this cycle until you’re able to breathe comfortably on your own again.
- Distract Yourself.
Easier said than done, right? But there is no harm in finding yourself a therapeutic hobby, embarking on a new project, or learning a useful skill to help shift your focus from what’s worrying you.
Some research has shown that leisure activities are correlated with lower levels of stress and depression. A new hobby can bring you a few hours of peace from daily stressors. Try taking up something creative, like painting (I recommend watching a few Bob Ross tutorials). Or how about developing a new exercise routine. You could even take up baking. As long as it’s something you enjoy, the possibilities are endless!
- Have a Cup of (Herbal) Tea
Your diet plays a significant role in your mental health and wellbeing, so it’s important to watch what you’re eating and drinking. For example, drinking too much caffeine has shown to induce anxiety symptoms, which is bad news for those who suffer from anxiety disorders. If drinking too much caffeine is something you relate to, maybe it’s time to reconsider your choice of beverage. Herbal teas are a wonderful alternative. Brew yourself some camomile or lavender tea and enjoy whilst you’re listening to your favourite podcast. Remember to bring your mind back to the present with each sip. However, if herbs aren’t your ‘cup of tea’, then try reaching for caffeine-free alternatives on your next shop and see if that makes a difference.
Just remember: your physical and mental health are interrelated. Supply your body with good fuel, but don’t forget to treat yourself once in a while if you need a pick-me-up.
- Self-care Strategies
Self-care strategies consist of attending to your holistic needs to promote your wellbeing. Treat yourself like you are your own best friend. It’s time to show yourself some love and kindness!
Develop a self-care plan that encompasses your emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual aspects of your life. Make time to talk with supportive friends. Maintain a reflective journal where you can write all your thoughts down. Aim for a regular sleeping pattern (anxiety symptoms are connected to sleeping problems so this one’s important!). Visit your local place of worship or engage in meditative practices. When you’ve developed your personal self-care plan, commit to it. Take some time every few weeks to reflect on your wellbeing and make adjustments to your self-care routine if you need to.
If you believe you are suffering from anxiety, please seek help. Here at Breathe Therapies, we offer anxiety management sessions for anyone struggling due to COVID-19, led by a fully qualified & experienced Mental Health nurse.
These sessions are able to be done via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom or Telephone. For mor information please click here.
Also make sure to check our Breathe Therapies on social media. We suggest different mindfulness activities and wellbeing tips for you to try to help ease your anxiety every Monday and Wednesday!