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Relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety


Our bodies respond to anxiety provoking thoughts and feared situations with muscle tension. When an anxious person interprets a situation as threatening the fight or flight response is triggered , hormones are released and the involuntary nervous system gets the muscles tense ready to help the individual to respond to danger (Andrews, Crino, Hunt, Lampe & Page,1994).

Constant muscle tension can make people feel cranky, fatigued & apprehensive and develop muscle pain and soreness as well as headaches (Andrews et al, 1994)

People are more likely to have panic attacks when they are in a constant state of tension as they are already highly stressed so a minor  event could cause further tension which results in hyperventilation and panic (Andrews et al,1994).

Relaxation is the voluntary release of muscle tension or psychological tension (Andrews et al, 1994)

The benefits of relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety include:

  • feeling calm
  • reduced muscle tension
  • lowered blood pressure
  • lowered heart rate
  • decreased output of hormones that increase the flight or fight response
  • reduced perspiration
  • breathing more slowly
  • sleeping better (Davis, Eshelman, & McKay, 1995)

There are a number of different relaxation techniques to choose from: e.g.

  • Slow breathing
  • progressive muscle relaxation
  • isometric relaxation
  • meditation
  • visualization
  • self hypnosis (Davis, Eshelman & Mc Kay, 1995)

Please note this list is not exhaustive and you may need to try a few different types of relaxation techniques until you find one that you feel is suitable for you.

Relaxation is a skill, and like other skills such as playing the piano or tennis, your ability to relax will improve with regular, repeated practice.

Stress management techniques,  such as those mentioned above, are most beneficial when practiced regularly or when  implemented as soon as you detect any increase in your tension or anxiety levels. We conduct stress management workshops in Melbourne, which include relaxation techniques.

Andrews, G., Crino, R., Hunt, C., Lampe, L. & Page, A. The Treatment of Anxiety Disorders. Cambridge University Press. Melbourne. Australia.

Davis, M., Robbins Ehselman, E. & Mc Kay, M. (1995) Fourth Edition. The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook. New Harbinger Publications, Inc. California, USA.

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