Find Your Zen: 10 Techniques for a Calmer You
Do you ever experience an excessive amount of worried thoughts, become quickly irritated, have difficulty with sleep, or become easily overwhelmed and unable to focus? If so, you’ve probably been experiencing some symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety and stress can be debilitating, and cause difficulty with accomplishing goals and tasks, making rational decisions, and engaging positivity in relationships. It can continually build over time, causing you to believe that living in this heightened state of agitation is normal. This is dangerous, because over time, unmanaged anxiety is not only unpleasant, but it can also lead to other issues such as depression, chronic physical pain, headaches, and distancing in relationships. However, there are things that can be done to help you get to a calmer, more rational place, and manage anxiety affectively.
One of my most favorite interventions that I use on a regular basis to help clients manage stress and anxiety is simple, yet effective. I encourage them to set a reminder in their calendar to pause for 2 minutes, 5 times per day, and engage in a relaxation exercise. This ensures that they are able to feel moments of “calm” throughout the day, which can keep their anxiety from continually climbing and becoming uncontrollable. This exercise also helps individuals to become more “in-tune” with their bodies and thoughts processes, giving them more awareness and control over their symptoms. Over time, as these relaxation techniques become more engrained, clients have better mental access to them during moments of extreme anxiety and stress, and can utilize them to calm down in the moment. The following is a list of some of my favorite relaxation techniques that I’ve compiled over time. Some are more physical while others are more visual. I encourage you to try all of them in order to build a large and versatile arsenal of relaxation tools, and add to the list if there are other things you find calming! Just keep in mind, things like watching T.V., scrolling through Instagram, or playing games on your tablet don’t count! They may be enjoyable and help you check out for a time, but they are mentally stimulating, and won’t help you to actually relax!
10 RELAXATION STRATEGIES
DEEP BREATHING Breath in as slowly & deeply as possible, pause, then breath out as slowly and controlled as possible. Continue repeating until you feel calm
MUSCLE TENSION Hold your limbs out in front of you. You can do two arms at a time, two legs at a time, one limb at a time, etc. Flex/tense your extended limb until you feel a burn, then let it drop abruptly. Continue repeating until your body feels relaxed
DESCRIBE AN OBJECT Pick any object around the room, and describe it to yourself, identifying as many details as possible. This will focus your brain & slow your thoughts
HAPPY PLACE Close your eyes, and visualize a place where you feel the most safe, peaceful, and relaxed. Experience this “happy place” by using all 5 of your senses:
What do you see? Colors, shapes, objects, etc.
What do you hear? Focus individually on the different sounds around you, or identify the quiet
What do you smell? Is there something there you’d like to smell?
What do you taste? Imagine a fresh, clean taste or try tasting something that is there
What do you feel? Warm sun? Cool breeze? Sand in between your toes? Is there something you want to reach out and touch?
WARMTH Take a warm bath or shower. If that’s not possible, soak your hands in a bowl of warm water, or let the warm water of a faucet run over your hands until you feel calm. You can also try a warm drink, a warm blanket, or go outside in the sun.
This is the reason the stress ball was invented! Sometimes tactile objects can help us feel calm and secure. Stroke a soft blanket, pop bubble wrap, run your fingers through some marbles or beads, squeeze a squishy ball, etc.
TAKE A WALK This can be quick or long, and anywhere that you can find some calm. Just get some fresh air, a change of scenery, and get your blood flowing.
MUSIC If you play music, you may like sitting down with your favorite instrument. Or, you may choose to listen to calming, soothing music in a quiet place. It’s helpful to create a playlist of your favorites.
CREATE Art of all types can have a soothing effect. Get creative and let the juices flow. If you don't consider yourself "artistic", coloring for adults can be a successful relaxation technique. You can find free printable coloring pages here, or purchase adult coloring books.
ORGANIZE Some people need to take action when they’re feeling stressed. You may find it
calming to organize something (a closet, toys, a drawer, art supplies, make-up, etc.). This can even include sorting things like buttons or legos by color or size.