Toolkit: Mini Relaxation Techniques

Dealing effectively with an anxiety disorder requires a two-pronged approach.

First, we must develop a personalized daily routine for general anxiety reduction.  This should probably include enjoyable physical exercise (with stretches – yoga is a good option), good sleep hygiene, and a daily habit of meditation/mindfulness/relaxation.

But in addition, we all need a few brief techniques for dealing with escalating anxiety throughout the day.  These should take only 30 seconds to 5 minutes, and be fairly unobtrusive so that you’re not embarrassed to do them in a public setting.  Here are some of my favorites and suggestions from others.

  • A full-body stretch.  Take your time at it, breathe deeply, and relax.
  • Slow neck-rolls and/or shoulder shrugs.  May be a little harder to do in public, but OK for sitting at a desk.
  • The 3 deep breath technique.  Take deep, diaphramatic breaths and release them slowly, imagining the tension leaving your body with each exhalation. You could probably expand this to the 10 deep breath technique but do it slowly or you’ll end up hyperventilating.
  • The brief version of the Jacobsonian relaxation exercise.  Take a deep breath, tighten your right fist, and slowly relax your fist as you exhale.  Repeat with the left fist.  Shake out your hands. If you have a little more time, do the same while flexing or extending your feet.
  • Spend some time during your daily relaxation routine to create a clear and detailed image of your favorite relaxing place.  When you are stressed, shut your eyes and go there briefly.
  • Do a soft-touch massage of your own face. Close your eyes and use the fingers of both hands to very lightly smooth the tension from your own forehead, temples, etc.
  • Again, during your daily relaxation, experiment with and develop your own one-word mantra.  I like the words peace, serene, calm, green, blue, serenity, luminous. Find your own word. Use it in conjunction with the 3 deep breath technique.
  • If you have a favorite passage from poetry, scripture, or wherever, memorize it and use it as a trigger for relaxation.  For instance, I like these words from the Sermon on the Mount:

    …be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

I’ll add more ideas as I run across them.


As a side-note, here is a fun relaxation exercise to do with a partner.

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