All anxiety disorders have physiological, emotional and cognitive elements to them. The physiological elements include tension, sleep problems, an inability to relax, and related factors.
The emotional element of anxiety includes factors such as anticipatory fear. The cognitive element includes factors such as poor concentration and negative thoughts.
The solution to overcoming anxiety is to leam how to relax. Most people who struggle with anxiety have a problem calming themselves down, whether mentally or physically. Leaming reliable and pleasant ways of relaxing is the ‘key’ to dealing with anxiety and taking back control of your mental equilibrium.
Relaxing is crucial because it calms a person’s emotion& making it possible to think straight. While some degree of anxiety is important to warn us of impending danger and motivate us to tackle challenges, anxiety is counterproductive when it surpasses certain levels.
However, anxiety can be controlled even by persons who are doubtful of ever being able to feel relaxed again. While there is no one-fits-all solution to overcoming anxiety. there are tested methods that have worked for many people.
Once a person who has struggled with anxiety experiences true relaxation, they are able to relax on their own quickly when the need to do so arises. There are ways of preventing anxiety, which escalates into compulsive activity or panic attacks. These ways give a person the ability to control their thinking brain to bring things into perspective and eliminate anxiety immediately.
5 Ways of overcoming anxiety quickly
Below are easy and effective ways of inducing relaxation. Individuals who suffer from anxiety can choose any one or more of the preferred methods below and practice each method for ten minutes twice daily. If one method fails, move on to another method or combine different methods before considering expert help.
1. Focus on your breathing with 7/11 or 3/5 breathing
One easy way to relax is to focus on your own breathing. The thought of focusing on your breathing results in more anxiety. Consider other methods below:
- Step 1: Wear comfortable clothes (preferably loose-fitting clothing)
- Step 2: Find a comfortable and quiet environment away from any disturbance
- Step 3: Lie or sit comfortably while paying attention to the position of your hands and legs. Your hands should be placed side-by-side on your lap and logo uncrossed
- Step 4: Close your eyes and focus on being aware of the position of your legs, and feet Your head should be resting against the cushion, chair back, or pillow
- Step 5: While keeping your shoulders down, take deep breaths. Since out-breaths stimulate natural relaxation, they should last longer than in-breaths. The breaths should be timed i.e., breath in and count to seven and then breath out more slowly and gently. Your out-breath should last to your eleventh count Some people may not be able to breathe in/out that long. Instead of 7/11 (in-breath/out-breath), you can try 3/5
Repeat this step 10-20 times, ensuring you concentrate on the counting and purpose to relax more with every breath. You should be less tense and relaxed after completing step 5.
This breathing technique will relax your breathing and block busy thoughts, but also stands out because it can be done privately without arousing attention. You can do it every time you feel tearful or when a panic attack is imminent
2. Go to a safe place/space
You can overcome anxiety more pleasantly by taking yourself to a pleasant place mentally or physically. Every person has a dream vacation destination or a place they love visiting.
A safe space can also be an activity such as visiting the beach, bird watching or sitting in your own garden. Examples of imaginary safe spaces include outer space or reigniting old treasured memories.
Some people also relax more when engaging themselves in physical activities such as dancing, walking, cycling, playing football and exercising. It can also be relaxing to go engage yourself in these activities mentally.
‘Going’ to a safe place/space should be as real as possible. Hear the birds as you would when going for an actual bird watching experience and smell the smells of your favourite garden flowers.
Some people are better at hearing than visualising, so it is important to consider what works for you. When going to your safe space or place, focus on what comes easy. However, remember to go into as much detail as possible to be able to relax quickly.
You should deliberately go to your safe space or place every time you begin to feel overwhelmed. This method of overcoming anxiety is effective since it forces the mind and body to get to a state which is contrary to what is felt when someone is anxious.
It is impossible to be anxious and relaxed at the same time the same way you can’t relax and contract a muscle instantaneously. A calm mind gets instant access to the rational brain, making it possible to recognize and question things more dearly.
3. Be mindful
Anxiety tends to affect most people who fail to live their lives fully engaged in the moment. Instead, they tend to be absentmindedly focused in the past or future. Worrying constantly about the past and future is a common source of anxiety among many people.
Being mindful is about °turning off busy thoughts. Mindfulness is derived from Buddhist meditative practices.
Many people find it hard to be mindful from the start since it is contrary to what many people are used to; however, with time, mindfulness is easier:
- Step 1: Choose a task and purpose to be 100% attentive to the task. Start with a task you can do comfortably. For instance, if you are writing a report, be aware of every movement you make, from the way you are sited to the thought patterns that try to disrupt you from your report Go into detail& including the time you take, the computer program you use and the sources you focus on. Your focus should be 100% on your report and related tasks. Think more about what you sense and see as opposed to thinking about your actions.
- Step 2: Thoughts are bound to intrude and interrupt your step one. The thoughts may be about whatever you are doing. Typical thoughts that intrude our minds when we are working on something important at the moment include thoughts of tiredness. thoughts of boredom, or concerns about past and present You may start thinking about how boring the report is, how tired you are and/or if it is really worth your time. When such thoughts intrude your mind, acknowledge them and gently let them go shifting focus back to your present task
- Step 3: Experience but don’t think, have opinions, or make judgements about intruding thoughts. Regardless of the activity you are doing currently, start by immersing yourself in the present taking in all actions, moments, colours, smells, textures, and everything else you are conscious about while working. If intruding thoughts emerge, acknowledge and let those thoughts go without making judgements. Practicing mindfulness will help you avoid intruding thoughts and worries known to fuel anxiety
There is a clear relationship between sleeping disorders and anxiety. Individuals who don’t sleep/rest enough are bound to be more anxious. Sleep disorders like insomnia are linked to common anxiety disorders.
People who worry too much take their worries to bed resulting in higher sleep reactivity that increases their likelihood of suffering from sleep issues when facing stress.
In fact, sleeping problems are common among individuals suffering from different types of anxiety ranging from OCD to PTSD.
Sleep is among the most effective ways to rest. Most importantly, you should get the right type of sleep to maintain good health and overcome anxiety.
The body needs adequate amounts of slow-wave sleep to be restored and renewed. Dream sleep is important for discharging unexpressed emotions experienced during the day.
The quantity of sleep is also important Worrying about sleeplessness or lads of enough sleep can actually cause insomnia. Some people can sleep four hours only, while others need 13-10 hours of sleep to feel rested.
According to sleep experts, most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. However, if you sleep slightly fewer hours than the recommended 7-9 hours and still wake up energised and refreshed, you are sleeping enough.
If you suffer anxiety-related sleep problems, understand that anxiety makes your problem worse.
Proceed by breathing calmly and try to find an escape. Repeat these steps and expect a favourable outcome instead of getting more anxious. Most importantly, be confident that the moment will pass and allow it to do so.
Being anxious about getting/falling asleep is complicated. Sleep anxiety reinforces dread and preoccupation. The anxiety about rest and falling asleep (anticipatory anxiety) has been proven to alter healthy sleeping schedules and routines.
5. PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation)
PMR is an exercise that anyone can do to alleviate anxiety. Like breathing exercises, PMR is a relaxation technique that is helpful in moments of high anxiety. PMR has been around for decades. The method was first introduced by Edmund Jacobson (an American Physician) in the 1920s.
Most of Jacobson patients suffered from muscle tension and pain. When he suggested relaxation, he noticed that most of his patients weren’t conscious of their own physical tension and ways of releasing it This realisation inspired Jacobson to develop sequences for tightening and relaxing muscles.
Jacobson’s technique has been modified several times with modem variations based on the initial idea of squeezing and releasing muscle groups.
Overcoming anxiety through PMR
PMR counteracts normal reactions to anxiety, such as flight-or-fight responses. Evolution is responsible for such responses. In fact, animals are able to survive in the wild because of flight-or-fight responses.
These responses can be activated in typical instances to deal with anxiety and stress. PMR elicits relaxation in the human body by calming the mind, lowering the heart rate, and reducing tension in the body.
To get rid of anxiety fast and easy using PMR, squeeze your fist hard for a few seconds and release. This action tightens your forearm and fingers before eliminating the tension.
The end result is a relaxing feeling incomparable to how you felt before clenching your fist.
PMR is meant to increase and release tension methodically in the body. Systematically contracting and releasing muscle groups relieves physical stress and quiets the mind.
Simple PMR steps to overcome anxiety
- Step 1: Find a comfortable space or place and sit quietly free of distractions
- Step 2: Close your eyes and breathe deeply, consciously feeling your abdomen rising Exhale through your mouth. Repeat this process 3-5 times
- Step 3: Tighten and release your fist or toes. You can start with other muscle groups. Squeeze the muscle group in question tightly for a few seconds and release
- Step 4: Repeat the process through different muscle groups in your body. You can work from the top or bottom. However, it’s important to be systematic i.e. work from down up or vice versa. Tighten each muscle group and release slowly with more focus to areas that are stiff. Repeating this process should leave you feeling less anxious than when you started
You should be able to relax using one of the five methods discussed above. If breathing, going to a safe place/space, being mindful, sleeping and PMR doesn’t work, it is advisable to seek professional help.
Seek expert help when you are unable to overcome anxiety on your own. However, you should attempt to try out each of the above steps while getting help from someone else. It may be challenging to read and follow the above relaxation steps concurrently.
If you still can’t relax, therapists are among the best-placed experts to guide individuals who have problems relaxing on their own. Therapists offer sessions where clients can replay and induce relaxed states.
If you require treatment for anxiety, then contact Rehab Recovery today on 0800 088 66 86. We work with a number of outpatient treatment providers across the UK. Many of these providers offer evidence-based treatments for anxiety, including motivational interviewing, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and the Human Givings approach.
Beck, A., Emery, G. and Greensberg, R. (1985) Anxiety Disorders and Phobias. Basic Books
Be the Life and Soul of the Party: socialising for success (2005). Clare Walker, Crown House Publishing
Keith stopped using drugs and drinking alcohol more than 10 years ago. He now spends a lot of time writing and editing content for this website. His mission is to assist people who are also looking to embrace addiction recovery. Keith believes a key way to accomplish this goal is through his writing.