To manage anxiety, it’s important to activate the body’s natural relaxation response. Deep relaxation is a powerful way to help bring your whole nervous system into balance.
But relaxation doesn’t mean you slouch on a couch and zone out watching TV. True relaxation requires a conscious effort to refresh your body and mind. It calls for focus and regular practice.
Mindfulness meditation is one of the best techniques to achieve deep relaxation. To reap the most benefits, it’s vital that you use mindfulness exercises and practices daily. As few as ten minutes a day can actually help you successfully manage your anxiety.
So, what kind of mindfulness exercises are the most beneficial?
A Full Range of Mindfulness Exercises and Practices
Mindfulness means to actively focus on being in the present moment. It means being aware of both internal and external sensations, yet letting your thoughts pass without getting caught up in the emotions they produce. It requires maintaining a focused and observant attitude while performing an exercise.
Consider including the following nine mindfulness exercises and practices into your daily routine. Each can be combined with others to achieve a full range of mindfulness.
1. Deep Breathing
More oxygen means less tension and less anxiety. Breathe deeply and slowly from the abdomen, inhaling as much fresh air as possible. If you have trouble taking deep breaths while sitting up, try lying down.
2. Guided Imagery/Visualization
You can practice alone and in quiet or with soothing music. You can also employ the help of a therapist or a recording to guide you through the imagery. Using all of your senses during this exercise will change the level of your brain chemicals and help you regain control.
3. Repeating a Mantra
Repeating a soothing or uplifting word or phrase in a rhythmic fashion enhances relaxation. This type of focused repetition is a simple but powerful way to keep your mind from wandering and worrying.
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Start at your feet and work up through your calves, thighs, hips and buttocks, stomach, chest, back, hands and arms, neck and shoulders, and finally to your face. Tighten each muscle group to a count of ten, then relax them. Focus on how the tension and relaxation feel in each section.
5. Massage Therapy
Massage affects your nervous system and stimulates the release of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals. Self-massage or trading massages with a loved one are viable options you can practice at home or work. Massage any body parts you can easily reach with your hands. Try gentle chops using the edge of your hand, putting pressure on muscle knots with your fingertips, deeply kneading across muscles, tapping with your fingers or cupped palms, or light gliding strokes.
6. Essential Oils/Aromatherapy
Inhale the fragrance of essential oils during a soothing bath, through a diffuser, or directly from the bottle. Essential oils can also be incorporated into your massage therapy. Make sure, though, that you dilute them with carrier oils – like almond, olive, coconut, or avocado oils – before applying them to your skin.
7. Cold Pack
Just like deep breathing, cooling increases the amount of oxygen in your body. Use a cold pack that has been refrigerated, not frozen! Place the cold pack on the back of your neck, covering the base of your spine and skull. Leave it in place for at least 15 minutes. This is a powerful method to not only help manage anxiety but also prevent future anxiety attacks.
Yoga can help you feel calmer, sharper, and more content. The combination of slow and steady movements, gentle stretches, and deep breathing influences neurotransmitters and boosts serotonin.
9. Rhythmic Movements
Exercises like walking, running, dancing, or swimming become more effective when performed mindfully. Focus on your steps, your breathing, or the elements against your skin.
Practicing these mindfulness exercises is a great step towards managing your anxiety. If, despite your best efforts, you find anxiety is interfering with your life, contact a therapist who can help you overcome your anxiety and live the rich, relaxed life you deserve.