Madissyn Fredericks, Licensed Professional Counselor, Symmetry Counseling
Where do you feel your anxiety? Do you experience your heart begin to race, muscles tense, shortness of breath, stomach aches, or excessive and intrusive negative thoughts? If you have ever experienced or struggled with symptoms of anxiety, you may have been instructed by others to “calm down” or “just relax”. You also probably know that calming down and relaxing is not as simple as it sounds when you are feeling overwhelmed, worried, or afraid. It is during times like these when you need something on hand to aid in reducing your symptoms of anxiety. Below are a few relaxation techniques you can try to make your anxiety feel more manageable and help you better cope with your symptoms. Try to commit to integrating one or all of these exercises into your routine, gradually making it part of your lifestyle.
Begin with your breath. Your breath is one of the first things that can feel out of control but is also one of the first things you can control. A breathing exercise I recommend is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Close your eyes and breath in your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale out your mouth through pursed lips for eight seconds. This technique should help reduce your heart rate and regulate your breathing relatively quickly, therefore continue until you feel relief. It is important to get comfortable with your breathing as you should continue this technique while you engage in others. Remember: 4-7-8.
2. Muscle Relaxation
When you are feeling anxious your muscles can begin to feel very tense. Muscle relaxation techniques are a two-part sequence that includes flexing different parts of your body and then relaxing them. Begin by sitting comfortably in a chair and practice your breathing. When you are ready, start your focus on your left foot. Slowly flex the muscle in your foot as tight as you can for ten seconds and then slowly let it go. Continue this process to your other foot, up your legs, and up to your face. Doing this helps your muscles relax and focuses your attention on your body rather than your anxiety.
3. Staying in the Present
Unrealistic and excessive thoughts can come from anywhere or anything in your past, present, or future. Most of these worries, however, tend to be more past and future-oriented. Therefore, it is important to remain in the present moment when these thoughts and symptoms become overwhelming. Use your senses to focus on what is around you: the things you hear, see, feel, taste, and smell. Whether you focus on feeling your chest rise and fall as you take a breath or listening closely to the birds chirping as you walk, you are focusing on the here and now. Using this technique helps tune out the anxious thoughts and channel the present instead.
If you are currently overwhelmed with your anxiety symptoms and would like some support, it may be useful to connect with a therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!