There are lots of techniques out there to control and manage our anxiety and worry. I’ll list three more that have been shown to help you to relax, and/or function effectively in spite of your anxiety.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Some of you have heard of this before. This is a technique developed by Dr. Edmund Jacobsen back in the 1920’s, and now has around 90 years of proven effectiveness. The long and the short of it is that relaxing the muscles can relax the mind as well. Broadly what this involves is tightening one muscle group while keeping the rest of the body relaxed, and then releasing the tension.
Research has shown a link between relaxation and lowering blood pressure, reducing likelihood of seizures, and and improving sleep. A full script of this technique is more than I’ll post on this blog, but I’ve included a link here to a script that I give to clients in session for them to use at home.
Imagery is something you can use anywhere. It’s often used to help you calm down before entering a situation that is likely to make you feel anxious. It’s also helpful in giving you courage to stay in situations long enough to experience the gradual reduction in anxiety that occurs over time.
Imagine a scene that is tranquil and relaxing, or safe, to you–doesn’t matter if it’s a real place or not. You can also recall inspirational ideas that increase your commitment to facing anxiety–these could include people, music or situations that increase your courage and confidence. The more senses you can incorporate into your image the better. This means conjuring up the smells, sounds, sights and physical sensations of the scene.
If you imagine yourself on a beach, focus not only on the waves but the warmth of the sun on your skin, any breezes, the cries of any birds, how the sand feels on your toes, the smells you like, etc. If you have an inspirational scene from a movie , you might imagine how the person looks, the music in the background, the feeling of courage in your chest.
Imagery doesn’t even need to be about a place or a person. It can be very helpful to recall times from your own history when you felt confident and capable, such as something you do well, or handling yourself confidently in another situation. Come up with a couple now, when you are feeling calm, so you can more easily call them to mind when you need them.
This is an exercise which can help you learn how to prepare for future situations you worry about. I am continually surprised at how many folks don’t do this. Imagine yourself in the situation and take yourself through what you will say, how you will react and what you will do. For example if you’re invited to a party imagine how you will greet people, including smiling and meeting their eyes, and how you make sure not to speak too quickly. Remind yourself of the reasons you are deciding to go, so you don’t bail too early. If you’re giving a presentation or a speech, practice going through it alone. Imagine what kinds of questions others might ask and prepare answers–this includes a response for a question you don’t have the answer to. If you’re worried about a potential confrontation or disagreement with someone else, remind yourself of what you want to say, what you want to make sure you don’t say, and at what point you can walk away if you need to. You can also prepare which other relaxation techniques you might you in the moment to calm down–breathing techniques and imagery can be used almost anywhere, for example.
All of these work best when you practice them. This means practicing them when you are not feeling anxiety. if you practice these every day you are more likely to be able to use them effectively when you need them. Try each of these relaxation methods once or twice to see which ones work best for you.
I hope this helps!