Some of the best exercises for anxiety are the techniques of relaxation, meditation, diaphragmatic breathing, mindfulness, sport, stopping the thought and others that I will explain in detail in this article.
You may be a person who feels overwhelmed by anxiety, you notice that it dominates your life or that it makes you incapable of being yourself because it takes over you.
Although sometimes you notice that it is out of your control, you can use some techniques or exercises that will help you cope with it and that will allow you to find peace of mind.
Anxiety is an answer that the organism has before a stressful stimulus and that produces in the organism a reaction activating the nervous system, so that the person through the fight or the flight tries to face to survive.
Thus, we must distinguish between normal (and adaptive) anxiety and pathological anxiety. Anxiety is a reaction of the adaptive organism that helps us survive.
Exercises for Anxiety
What we generally call anxiety (when people say “I have anxiety”, “is a person who tends to anxiety”), refers to more chronic stress. We thus find anxiety disorders, where we can highlight the Generalized Anxiety, the Social Phobia or the specific Phobia, for example.
Normal anxiety is adaptive and allows us to deal optimally with dangerous stimuli. However, the pathological exceeds the ability of the body to adapt and a maladaptive response occurs.
Normal anxiety is characterized by appearing when the stimulus is real (it is not an imaginary stimulus) and also its reaction is qualitatively and quantitatively proportional.
10 exercises to reduce anxiety
Below I will show you 10 exercises or tips that you can put into practice to manage your anxiety, either in the short term or in the long term.
It is important that you know that managing anxiety requires energy, so if you see that you need help, it is advisable to go to a psychologist to face the problem in a professional manner.
1- Learn to perform diaphragmatic breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing can be a very useful exercise to cope with anxiety.
To practice diaphragmatic breathing you must be constant and do it several times a day. You must find a quiet moment, close your eyes and if possible, find a comfortable seat.
To do this, put one of your hands on the stomach and the other on the chest, so that you can realize that you are breathing deeply.
Many of us breathe superficially. To know that you are breathing deeply, you must make sure that the hand you have on your stomach is the one that swells. In this way, you will be breathing with your lungs.
When you have one hand on your chest and another on your stomach, close your eyes and begin to breathe deeply, so that you will notice how your stomach swells while your chest stays intact.
When you have inspired, hold the air for a few seconds and slowly release it, so that the chest continues without moving and the stomach gradually deflates.
When you have learned to breathe deeply, it is a matter of practice to perfect it. In addition, every time you do it more slowly and carefully, inspiring slowly and counting at the same time 5 seconds.
You put your hands, and you are inspiring by counting 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Once you have done the inspiration, hold the air for about three seconds and release it, slowly, counting again 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
It is a good technique because it will help you to provoke the state of relaxation, but it is important that you know that as a good technique, it requires practice. In addition, you should start doing it at times when you are calm.
It is better to take air through the nose (not the mouth), although if you feel more comfortable in the other way, do it as you prefer. You should practice several times a day, between 2 and 3 times and around 10 minutes in several sequences.
Once you feel that you master it, you can practice it at different times and situations and in different positions and you can stop counting from 1 to 5 because you will already master it.
You can make a record of your breathing where you indicate the time of day in which you do it, your level of previous anxiety, if it has been easy for you to breathe and the relaxation at the end.
2- Use relaxation techniques
To reduce anxiety you can also use relaxation techniques, which in the same way as diaphragmatic breathing, help you control it.
One of the most used relaxation techniques is muscle tension and relaxation, for example, Jacobson’s relaxation technique.
When a person is really anxious, he becomes tense. Possibly you have experienced it when you have gone through periods of intense stress. It is, in general, something automatic and that the person does not control.
However, you can learn to detect that tension to control it and relax the muscles.
The relaxation (and the tension of the muscles) correspond to the autonomic nervous system, but to two differentiated systems: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The one that activates when we are anxious is the sympathetic system.
When anxiety appears in our body, the sympathetic autonomic nervous system is activated and a series of physiological changes that belong to anxiety occur. The system that helps us survive is activated: the fight or flight.
In this way, in this anxious system the tension of the muscles helps us to fight or to flee, in any case, to survive before a danger.
However, when the person is relaxed and calm, the other system is activated, the parasympathetic system, which is incompatible with the previous one.
When you are relaxed, you will have noticed that your breathing is slower (this would have to do with the previous section to which we referred to diaphragmatic breathing) and that your muscles are more relaxed.
In this way, and not being compatible, if we train our body to relax in an “artificial” way, we will be teaching him to be calm and relaxed, so that we ourselves can activate that feeling of relaxation in our body.
The progressive relaxation of Jacobson favors the person to relax deeply and helps reach a state of mental fullness reducing anxiety, since it allows greater self-control.
The first phase consists of, by muscle groups, tense the different parts of the body for a few seconds (about 7 seconds) and then relaxes for about 21 seconds each muscle group.
In this way, the person begins to discern the tension sensations of relaxation and generalizes it. Little by little, you can group the muscle groups.
When the person already masters it, he has to do it mentally. You can end up imagining something relaxing (a scene or positive image) or a word that transmits tranquility as “calm”, for example.
It is important that you repeat it several times a day.
3- Practice Mindfulness
The Mindfulness or Mindfulness can help you manage anxiety and feel more relaxed and calm.
When we speak of being and being Mindfulness, we refer to the ability to live in the present. It’s about you perceiving and realizing what happens at the moment it happens.
For this, you can do several things. Start by choosing throughout the day several activities that you are going to do Mindfulness: for example, shower and breakfast.
So, what you should do while you shower is pay attention to that, to the shower. With all the senses you can, pay attention to the activity you are doing and do not let the mind go to something else.
Your mind will tend to think and think and you will go away from what you are doing in each moment. However, in a kind way, grab your mind and take it back to what you are doing in the moment.
In addition to choosing these activities, another thing you can do is choose several moments a day, short to start and put your mind in Mindfulness mode.
Grab a comfortable seat, sit and close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing. Note how the breath enters through your nose and how it comes out. Let it serve as an anchor. And if the mind goes away, focus it again on the breathing in a kind way.
It is about you finding these moments of relaxation several times a day. First, in situations where you feel calm, little by little, you can generalize to moments where you are anxious.
4- Make pleasant activities that make you enjoy
Sometimes, we feel very anxious because our schedule is full of obligations and we do not find time to distract and enjoy ourselves.
It is important that you try to structure the day, so that you dedicate an exclusive time to do some pleasant activity for you.
The more pleasant activities you introduce into your day to day, the mood will be strengthened. The state of mind depends on the quantity and quality of the pleasant activities you do.
Some examples of pleasant activities you can do can be: watch a television series, take a walk, eat a piece of chocolate, dine with your partner, walk, lie down in the country, take a bath …
5- Use the distraction
Distraction is a technique that you have surely resorted to on more than one occasion, and it is very likely that it is “the technique” that you have used to relieve it without realizing it.
Distraction is a method that can work in the short term, that is, at the moment it can relieve anxiety. However, we must bear in mind that this strategy does not serve to solve the basic problem.
Surely you have read many times that one of the strategies is “listening to music”, “talking to other people to stop thinking”, and so on, and yes it is true that in the short term it works, since it serves to get out of that anxious situation to short term. However, in the long term it does not serve to overcome the fear or the problem.
The most appropriate thing would be to consult with a psychologist specialized in emotional disorders to find the cause of the anxiety problem and solve the problem permanently.
For example, techniques that we would consider within the distraction would be to talk with other people, read or sing, listen to music to stop thinking about it, etc.
It is important, again, that you bear in mind that it is not a technique that will solve your problem. It is a technique that will alleviate anxiety in the short term but that will continue to maintain the problem in the long term.
Keeping this in mind, it will not solve your anxiety problem, you may find momentary relief while waiting to seek professional help in the long term.
6- Plan well and do not procrastinate
Today we have multiple activities and tasks to combine. Sometimes this excess of responsibilities causes high levels of stress.
Sometimes this high activation is caused because we can not organize ourselves properly. In fact, for some people, the lack of organization leads to procrastination.
One of the strategies that we can carry out is to try to plan the day in advance, trying to give time to everything we have to do.
You can use the calendar, mobile applications such as Google Calendar, etc., where your day will be structured and you will not have to be thinking about what to do next, leaving your mind to take care of other responsibilities.
7- Create a relaxing image
You can also use images that relax you. They can be images that you have lived and that transmit calm (for example, the memory of a beach that you found pleasant, a walk with your family …) or a neutral image that produces pleasure.
The first thing is that the image is drawn up in a situation where you feel calm. Try to bring to mind a situation that transmits calm and try to do so with all sensory modalities.
Try to see what it smells, what is the color of things … creating the highest level of detail in the scene will help you to live it more realistically.
Later, you can use this image in times of difficulty where you are anxious.
Do not worry if the image is not the same as you had created at the time of tranquility. Just let yourself be carried away at that moment by mental elaboration.
8- You can use the self-instructions
Self-instructions can also help you cope with anxiety. It is a technique that will not help you to solve the problem definitively, but it can help you cope with anxiety at specific moments.
You can choose a phrase that you often say to calm down. Some examples can be: “Calm. Everything happens. “,” Quiet, everything will be fine “,” Relax and breathe “.
The moment you feel bad and anxious, accompany him with deep breaths and see him telling you the self-instructions you have chosen for you.
It is important that you personalize them and choose those that transmit calm and tranquility to you. These phrases are different for each one of us.
It is important that when you are anxious, do not fight or face your negative thoughts. Just close your eyes and let them pass while you tell yourself the positive self-instructions.
9- Do physical exercise
Physical activity is a good ally against high levels of stress and also helps to cope with depression.
There are studies that show that the practice of physical exercise reduces levels of anxiety and depression.
Try to enroll in a sport that you like and introduce it into your routine. It is important that it be moderate exercise, preferably aerobic, such as swimming, running, walking at a rapid pace, etc.
In addition, it will be much better if you do it accompanied, since you will benefit from sharing the sport with other people and your motivation will be increased.
You should exercise at least 2-3 times a week, although ideally you should exercise 5 days a week for around 45-60 minutes.
Remember not to do it in hours close to sleep as active physical exercise, so it is better to do it in the morning or throughout the afternoon.
10- Stopping the thought
Another technique you can use to deal with when anxiety overcomes you is what we call thinking stopping.
It is a technique that focuses on controlling those thoughts that are making you suffer and are creating anxiety.
For this, when the thoughts that make you restless appear and you start to get upset and get nervous, what you should do is look at them and see which of them are negative.
Once you have identified them, you should say loud “ENOUGH!” Or “STOP!” Or “FOR!”. If you are alone at home, for example, you can say it out loud and you can even give yourself a slap.
If you are in public it is better to say it with all your strength but inside. Immediately replace it with another, more positive thought.
It is important that you learn before to identify the thoughts that are unpleasant and cause you anxiety. If you are not able to do it yet, you can use a self-record of thought before (a couple of weeks before).
To do this, take a folio and horizontally make columns: in one of them put the situation, in another column put “Thought”, in another place “Anxiety (0-10)”.
Thus, when you notice that you are feeling bad and that you have anxiety, write down on the sheet the level of anxiety, in what situation you are and what you have thought. Learn to identify the thoughts.
It takes practice to do so, so it is advisable that at least one or two weeks you are working on identifying the thoughts and then put into practice the thought stop.