Anxiety- 3 Ways to Calm the Body

Posted on October 9, 2013

Each day I work with people who have feelings of anxiety ranging from mild to severe.  Everyone feels anxious from time to time and unless the symptoms we experience are persistent and interfere with our normal functioning they are probably related to the ups and downs of everyday living.  I teach the strategies and techniques below, which can also help you.  While the ultimate goal is to learn to ride the waves of anxiety even when our body is not calm a good starting point is to calm your body.  Working with a good counselor you will learn additional approaches to help you feel more in control when anxiety visits you.  If you are a person who has a lot of racing thoughts you may find that doing the exercises described below in sequence, prior to bedtime, is quite beneficial as the sequence will help you quiet your body and then your mind.  Relaxing breath, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization aka guided imagery are 3 great ways to calm your body.  I have most of my clients download the free app “PTSD Coach” to their smart phone or IPAD.  You do not have to have PTSD to benefit from the app.  This app provides an amazing guided progressive muscle relaxation that will take you about 9 minutes.    This is an excellent exercise incorporating both the breathing and the muscle tensing- just don’t forget to breathe as you do this exercise. The app also includes a guided relaxing breath and 3 or 4 guided visualizations.   What a treat you can open that app anytime throughout the day and practice a relaxing breath or kick back for 10 minutes and do a guided imagery!

God bless-

Relaxing Breath

You always have your breath so if you learn to use it as a tool you will always have that tool with you.  Practicing relaxing breathing when you are not in an anxious state helps you internalize this tool as a resource and you are more likely to call on it when you need it.  If you have any type of problem with breathing, check with your MD prior to practicing any breathing technique.  

  • Relaxing breath is referred to with a variety of terms such as abdominal breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing.  An opera singer once said to me, “Visualize you are filling a barrel from the bottom up as you breath in,” what a wonderful visualization for diaphragmatic breathing.  
  • Start by practicing once a day.  Take a long deep breath in on the count of 1 and then a nice extended exhale saying to yourself the word “relax.”  Let your exhale be longer than your inhale to maximize relaxation.  
  • Find the length of a breath that works best for you.  Practice this process of in-breaths and out-breaths counting up from 1 to 8 and then another cycle counting down from 8 to 1.  Find your number- by noticing where on the scale from 1 to 8 or 8 to 1 the relaxation kicks in for you. 
  • I encourage people to do “minis” throughout the day tying 3 or 4 in and out breath cycles to different tasks they perform  such as picking up the telephone, going to a meeting, etc.  This will get you in the practice of using your breath throughout the day.  
  • Once you get the hang of it you can choose a word or a phrase that is relaxing to you, such as a short prayer or the name of Jesus.  Linking your spiritual beliefs into your breath can help make the experience even more meaningful for you.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  • Progressive muscle relaxation is a great way to zero in on where you are holding stress in your body and learn to release it. 
  • This technique involves tensing and holding a select muscle group, breathing in and then totally relaxing the select muscle group and exhaling as you relax helping your body notice and learn the difference between the tense and relaxed states.

Visualization

  • Visualization is a way to clear your mind and focus on something pleasant and relaxing.  
  • Find a time when you can have 10 minutes to yourself and will not be disturbed, you can be seated in a recliner or lying down.  
  • Close your eyes and visualize your favorite vacation spot or another pleasant memory, perhaps a mountain scene, a beach, or wherever is restful and relaxing to you.  
  • Using all of your senses bring that scene to your mind.  Image that special place.  Bring in the time of day, time of year, smells, colors, objects, temperature, sounds, people and visualize that place in your mind.  
  • Relax and enjoy that place for awhile and when you are ready wiggle your toes gently open your eyes and come back into the space of the room.

Written by:  Bobbye Crawford, LMHC, LCAC.

Bobbye holds a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.  She has a passion for working with both individuals and couples.  If you are interested in seeing a counselor for help, in this area, contact Bobbye.

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NzE6Imh0dHA6Ly9ncm9mZmFuZGFzc29jaWF0ZXMuY29tL3dwLWNvbnRlbnQvd29vX3VwbG9hZHMvMy1ncm9mZl9oZWFkZXIucG5nIjt9PC9saT48L3VsPg==