Life-changing Exercise and Relaxation Techniques to Alleviate Anxiety
Have you noticed how your breathing turns shallow when you’re stressed? We take breathing for granted simply because it’s an automatic physiological function which requires no conscious effort. Unfortunately, most people breathe shallowly all day long and seldom stop to take a deep breath until they feel as if they’re suffocating, which usually happens when stress hits the roof.
Breathing and anxiety are inextricably linked: shallow (i.e. thoracic) breathing encourages stress buildup, and high stress levels in turn cut your breath short. That’s why you’ll often hear yoga instructors repeating the ‘Inhale… Exhale’ mantra over and over again during class: deep breathing promotes relaxation, and it’s also an integral component of physical exercises in and outside yoga studios.
Don’t fall prey to the vicious cycle of shallow breathing and anxiety bouts: instead, take a break and try one of the following techniques to calm the nervous system and restore inner peace.
Take a deep breath
Deep breathing is a powerful relaxation technique which you can practice anywhere to ward off anxiety and restore focus and balance. Conscious breathing involves controlled inhalations and exhalations from the abdomen to maximize intake of fresh air, and it’s simple enough to master.
- Lie down or sit with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest, the other hand resting on your belly.
- Inhale slowly through the nose, feeling the hand on your stomach rise.
- Exhale through the mouth, letting out as much air as possible. The abdominal muscles should contract, causing the hand on the belly to move inwards.
- Continue breathing from your belly to get your diaphragm moving, pushing out stale air and ushering in fresh stocks of oxygen.
Swap arrrghhh for ommm
Mindfulness meditation is a centuries’ old technique for achieving and preserving mind-body equilibrium. Studies show meditation can help relieve depression, anxiety disorders, addictions, and other psychological issues – and it doesn’t require any previous experience, preps, or props.
- Sit in a comfortable position, your hands resting on your knees.
- Close your eyes, and focus on your breathing and body sensations.
- Consciously relax your muscles, working from the top of your head, across the face and torso, and down your arms and legs.
- Breathe deeply, and don’t dwell on distracting thoughts. You can try repeating a word or phrase or visualizing a serene image (e.g. lapping waves or pasture) to stay in control of the mental flow.
Heed the body’s rhythms
Rhythmic exercises engaging leg and arm muscles are an extremely efficient relief for stress and negativity. On top of the mental detox properties, rhythmic movements will also tone your body and strengthen the muscles, thus promoting a proper sitting and standing posture.
Walking, running, dancing, swimming, or climbing are all relaxing rhythmic exercises which you can include in your everyday agenda to keep anxiety at bay. Select an activity suited to your shape, age, and health, and try to incorporate 30-45 minute workouts in your daily schedule at least three times a week.
Countdown to stress relief
If you prefer dynamic sports to meditation and leisurely strolls, put on that sexy bodybuilding apparel, grab your MP3 player, and hit the gym. Intense training is another efficient deterrent and remedy to stress and mood swings, and it also helps build strong bones and muscles, lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure, and reduce risk of late-life chronic diseases.
Just like endurance sports, resistance training promotes release of serotonin, dopamine, and endorphin (a.k.a. happiness hormones) while at the same time lowering adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones). If mental clutter is a problem, stop counting nerves lost to worry – and start counting reps or lifts instead.
Don’t let anxiety get the better of you: relief is just a breath away – and you can always make a run for it if you’re not a huge fan of sitting and waiting for Zen to come your way.
Sophia Smith is Australian based beauty, lifestyle and health blogger. She is very passionate about organic beauty products, yoga, healthy lifestyle and personal development. She is regular contributor at Ripped and High Style Life.