5 Life-Changing Effects Relaxation Has on Anxiety
Relaxation counteracts the fight-or-flight response
DIALING DOWN THE ANXIETY REACTION
There’s no shortage of great relaxation techniques. Everything from breathing exercises and yoga to the lesser known progressive muscle relaxation and tai chi. But they have one important thing in common, their deeply calming effects.
The anxious brain is very jumpy. It can have a hard time telling the difference between a threatening and a safe situation. This means we feel on edge all the time, as our brain wants to be ready to run away or fight.
Relaxation techniques have the exact opposite effect. We can target the mind by using techniques like visualization and meditation. We can also target the body by using breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, yoga, and many other techniques. Both approaches have the same effect, the anxiety reaction is dialed down.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Here are five life-changing effects from using relaxation to treat anxiety.
LEADING OUR ANXIETY TO THE DOOR
Imagine waking up to take your morning shower only to find that the drain is clogged and the water can’t be turned back off.
This is sort of how I imagine anxiety. As something that slowly builds up until it hits an uncomfortable plateau, or until it explodes in a burst of panic and water all over your bathroom floor.
By that logic there’s two ways to reduce anxiety levels.
- We find a way to stop or reduce the constant flow of incoming anxiety.
- We find a way to unclog the drain, so more anxiety can flow out.
Relaxation excels at the second part. It allows us to quickly and effectively reduce our anxiety levels. But it can also keep anxiety from building up to uncomfortable levels.
When we practice relaxation we are directly counteracting the fight-or-flight response. We are teaching our anxious brain to calm down and to be less jumpy in the future.
This combination of reducing dormant anxiety and reducing the incoming anxiety ensures that our day-to-day anxiety levels remain lower.
THE CONFIDENCE BOOST WILL BRING YOU TO NEW HEIGHTS
“The first step is always the hardest” isn’t just a popular saying. It’s also surprisingly accurate and relevant for mental health recovery.
When relaxation techniques are used effectively, anxiety levels start decreasing. This initial decrease is an amazing source of motivation to not only keep practicing, but to take many other first steps.
Seeing positive results from relaxation might be the small push we need to start experimenting with other recovery tools. Before we can notice, all of our small steps have taken us a very far distance.
This is not the only thing a decrease in anxiety levels can give us, however. When we’re feeling on edge with anxiety, our minds are being clogged up.
Cleaning out some of our anxiety frees up space to focus on different things. We also shouldn’t be surprised if our thoughts start seeming clearer and more concise.
Equipped with a boost in motivation and with our newfound clarity we are ready to conquer our anxieties!
YOU LEARN TO CALM YOURSELF DOWN
Most people are familiar with having good and bad days, but anxiety takes this to a whole other level. It has a surprising acceleration speed!
When anxiety decides to interfere, sometimes out of the blue, a good day can become a bad day in a matter of seconds.
Therefore it’s a godsend that relaxation techniques can be used to calm us down whenever we start feeling anxious.
Here are a few things to try:
- Make sure you’re taking deep and relaxed breaths, all the way into your abdomen. Hyperventilation is both a consequence and cause of anxiety.
- Focus on positive imagery and words/statements.
- Try mindfulness, it can be a great way to cancel anxiety.
Anyone trying to recover from spontaneous panic attacks should also pay close attentionhere.
Ultimately panic attacks are caused by severe spikes in anxiety. So when we learn to control our anxiety levels we can effectively treat panic attacks too.
A small disclaimer: Trying to rely solely on relaxation techniques to recover from anxiety will almost definitely fail. It works best when applied on top of effective cognitive tools, like for example these 5 CBT techniques.
YOU BECOME A MASTER AT SLEEPING
A common consequence of anxiety is a reduction in sleep quality. A body on edge with anxiety is not able to relax properly, and this usually means never being fully rested.
Sometimes our declining sleep quality is very noticeable. Anxiety and depression can both cause insomnia for example. Insomnia is characterized by having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, and is therefore difficult to miss.
But most times the decline goes unnoticed, because our minds adapt very quickly to a not-so-rested state. We might feel sluggish and find ourselves yawning more, but other than that we feel fine.
As an example, people who regularly sleep five or less hours per night will claim to feel perfectly fine, because they’re used to being sleep deprived. But at the same time, sleep deprived people perform horrible in mental tasks when compared to their seven-hours-or-more-a-night peers.
The extensive list of positive effects
When we start practicing relaxation our sleep hygiene rapidly increases. It’s a reasonable and direct result of being able to rest more efficiently.
The positive effects will vary from person to person, but we can at least expect:
- Increased emotional stability, including a decrease in depressive symptoms
- A good boost to our energy levels
- Less muscle aches, tension, and cramps
- Better stress management
- Increased mental abilities, improved memory, easier time problem-solving
How big of an impact this will have overall is difficult to quantify, but it’s a solid push toward an easier life and a full recovery.
YOU’LL BE YOUR OLD COURAGEOUS SELF
It should come as no surprise that anxiety can strip us of our willingness to explore the world and seek out new experiences.
I’m willing to bet anxiety is holding you back right now! How many times has anxiety stopped you from following your dreams because it’s too risky, embarrassing, or impossible… Those are all lies!
Nothing is impossible, taking risks is what makes life worth living, and embarrassment doesn’t exist outside of your mind.
But I don’t hope to change your mind by having you read this. I’m just putting it out there as an example of what your mindset will be when not under the bleak influence of anxiety.
It won’t change overnight, it’s a gradual process for sure. But everyday we chip away at anxiety is a day we become stronger. Everyday we push ourselves to make the choices anxiety tries to keep us from making, we become stronger!