These powerful relaxation techniques for anxiety and stress can dramatically change your mood. By regularly practicing these exercises, you can be more calm, grounded, and a lot happier!
I used to worry about everything. I would stress about work, relationships, money – you name it! The constant worry became anxiety and of course, I began to stress about the fact that I struggled with anxiety too!
I never knew that you could practice regular relaxation to help eliminate stress and anxiety until I began going to therapy. My therapist recommended several relaxation techniques and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they worked!
Over the years I’ve done quite a bit of research, testing out other relaxation techniques and I have found a lot of great additions to my mental health toolbox. I don’t practice all of these every day, but alternate them as I see fit.
In times of high stress, I like to increase these relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety and help keep me calm.
How Do Relaxation Techniques Reduce Anxiety and Stress?
Magic! Just kidding. It feels like magic sometimes!
When you are experiencing stress or anxiety, your nervous system revs up. It starts getting prepared for action. Even when there are no real threats coming!
Relaxation exercises help to calm the nervous system. It essentially tells your brain “it’s ok, we are safe to relax now”. This is really helpful! If you tend to operate from stress or anxiety, this can feel extremely different than what your brain is used to.
Easy Relaxation Techniques For Anxiety and Stress
Start reducing worry, stress, and anxiety instantly with these powerful exercises.
1. Emotional Freedom Technique
This is also known as EFT or Tapping. EFT is a very interesting and helpful practice. The theory is that by tapping on meridian points in the body (the same ones used for acupuncture), you can release stored emotions. There is usually some words spoken as you tap through the points.
The points are very specific and have a specific sequence to tap through.
Often the words spoken say something like “Even though I’m feeling stressed and worried, I deeply love and accept myself” or “Even though I’m frustrated and upset, I deeply love and accept myself”. At the beginning of the tapping session, you’ll choose a specific phrase and repeat it several times.
What I love is that the unpleasant feelings described begin to lose their power. Additionally, while you repeat that you love and accept yourself, that begins to feel true and pretty powerful!
Here are a few resources for tapping:
Tap with Brad – Brad Yates’ YouTube channel has tons of free tapping videos you can use to practice
Tapping Solution App – This app has a lot of resources that can help walk you through free tapping sessions. They also have some paid options as well, but I think the free resources do just fine!
This may be the ultimate relaxation practice! I love regular meditation because it has life-changing benefits that I have personally experienced.
It’s absolutely free to practice and you really don’t need anything to do it.
You can practice sitting or laying down, in silence or through a guided practice, even outside or indoors.
If you struggle with meditation, try using a guided recording. You can find my favorites here.
This is another free and easily accessible option. Also known as earthing, grounding is a practice that involves putting your bare feet on the earth.
Yes, that’s it! It may sound weird at first, but it’s actually very soothing (especially if you are on a nice soft patch of grass or a sandy beach!) Think about when you’ve gone to the lake or ocean and put your feet in the water. It’s pretty calming, right?
There are articles that talk about scientific reasons for it, but honestly, I think it just feels good! It reminds me of being a kid and playing outside with no worries. That’s why I like it.
Yoga is a great practice that you can do daily or a few times a week. It’s excellent for flexibility, building strength, or practicing mindfulness.
If you are out of shape or diving back into a movement practice, yoga can also be a great place to start.
There are many gentle, yin, or relaxing yoga videos on YouTube that I love. You can find them at the bottom of this article.
5. Float Therapy
If you find yourself getting overstimulated by noise or lights, you may really enjoy float therapy! This is essentially a sensory deprivation tank full of saltwater.
It may sound strange, but people have reported great benefits from going to float therapy!
You can read more about how it works and see a video of one person’s experience here.
I love journaling to work through emotional stuff. Sometimes we can have a lot of feelings that don’t make sense, but when you start journaling (without censoring yourself), you can uncover a lot of helpful information!
Sometimes I feel like I will uncover a solution that I may have intuitively known but consciously didn’t realize.
It’s also helpful to just get your feelings out on paper so you can stop (over) thinking about them!
7. Creative Expression
Creativity is an excellent way to express yourself and to take your mind off the busy day-to-day. Whether you love singing, painting, drawing, knitting, or dancing – these fun activities are incredibly therapeutic!
Swimming can be so relaxing. Something about being in the water and floating is so soothing!
9. Slowed Down Breathing
This is by far my favorite breathing technique. After a few minutes of this, I feel like a completely new person!
Here’s how 60 seconds of slowed down breathing works:
Sit comfortably upright or stand so that you can comfortably take deep belly breaths. The goal is to comfortably and gradually slow down with each exhale.
Begin by breathing in through your nose (letting your stomach expand as you inhale) and then slowly exhale through pursed lips, like you are blowing the seeds off a dandelion. ⠀
- inhale 4 counts, exhale 6 counts
- inhale 4 counts, exhale 7 counts
- inhale 4 counts, exhale 8 count
- inhale 4 counts, exhale 9 counts
- inhale 4 counts, exhale 10 counts
As you do this, visualize any anxious or stressful thoughts blowing away with each exhale.
You can start off slowly and gradually until you feel comfortable. If you feel light-headed, STOP. Everyone has a different pace of breathing and it’s important to honor your body.
Mindfulness is a great practice that helps you to focus on the current moment. By savoring the smells of the outdoors, the colors of the sky, or the taste of the water, the brain can’t help but let go of worries and stress. Instead, it is able to focus on the now.
Here are some great resources for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR):
11. Get Social
Phone a friend! When things get tough, take a look at your social life. Are you sacrificing time with your friends and family to work more? Or are you more consumed with the busy-ness of life that you accidentally put them on the back burner?
I’m guilty of this too! But when I focus on spending time with my friends and family, it melts away stress in a way that nothing else does.
I think it’s because humans are hardwired for connection and relationship. And that social time feeds us in a way that nothing else can.
If distance or other factors make getting together difficult, try calling or doing a video chat to fuel that connection.
12. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is a practice that helped me immensely when I started tackling anxiety.
It’s really easy to do and incredibly effective!
Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a practice where you methodically tighten and relax the muscles in your body gradually, from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head.
You can read more about it and learn out to do it here.
ASMR (or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is a pleasant feeling that can create a tingling sensation down the back of the neck and the scalp. It can also cause a very relaxed response instead of tingling.
The pleasant feeling can be triggered by soft noises like talking very soft or tactile sounds like running fingertips along a surface, book pages turning, or objects (like sponges) rubbing together.
If you want a laugh, check out this ASMR video from Eva Longoria.
How Often Should I Practice These Relaxation Techniques for Stress and Anxiety?
As often as you like! Some of these exercises can be practiced daily or even twice per day. Use your best judgment and consult with a professional if you have any questions.
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