It’s been an isolating time for this introvert. Due to another lockdown & some other stressors, I’ve been completely overwhelmed with everything, and I can feel my anxiety palpitating.
I tend to distract myself with other projects during these times, but this is only considered a band-aid solution. It is highly suggested that relaxation is the way to help anxiety (or depression, insomnia, pain, etc.). Everyone is different in how they relax, but I did want to share two useful techniques that have helped me over the years.
This is the simplest one that I continuously use and have shared videos of throughout the years. Whenever I am stressed, I tend to breathe fast and shallow from my upper chest. It’s not hyperventilation, but it is considered close and could increase my anxiety if not fixed immediately.
Box breathing has four equal parts: inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds and pause for four seconds
Practising this breathing resets your respiratory system and promotes feelings of relaxation and calm. It’s helped me from various panic attacks, sleepless nights and painful procedures.
If you’ve never done this before, I highly recommend trying it in a seated position, feet flat against the floor, with one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. From where is your breathing coming? Shift your breathing so that the hand on your stomach is moving more than the hand on your chest. Meaning you’re breathing more from your diaphragm. Notice how your belly moves as you inhale deeply: does it feel jagged or smooth? Keep repeating the breathing exercise until your hand moves in a fluid motion
If you find yourself dizzy or short of breath, stop the exercise. Don’t get frustrated; you can restart in a minute. This does take time to achieve, but you can do this almost anywhere once you get the hang of it.
PMR: Progressive Muscle Relaxation
PMR is a series of exercises when you tense and relax specific muscles. This exercise will help you lower your overall tension and stress levels and help you relax when you feel anxious.
If you’ve never done this before, you’ll need a script to get started. Find a place where you won’t be disturbed, and set aside around 15-20 minutes to complete.
There are many scripts available online, but here’s a good start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihO02wUzgkc
You’ll initially start with a large group of muscles, but eventually, you can break it down into four sections. To find a full list on how to get started, you can visit Anxiety Canada
For each group, tense your muscle for five seconds while breathing in, and then release for five seconds while breathing out. Repeat this two to three times. It’s important to FEEL the tension and release as you do this. Notice the difference between tension and relaxation. If you feel an area cramping or hurting, don’t repeat and move on to the next.
This is a little harder to achieve, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do this immediately. You may tense other surrounding muscles, and that’s ok! It took me almost a month to get it down because I felt uncomfortable focusing on my body. Sometimes I still use a script if it feels like my head is too cloudy; there’s no shame!
I hope that these two techniques can help you as they’ve helped me over the years.
If you have any other techniques that you would like to share with others, please leave them in the comments below!