So many relaxation exercises rely on you being able to take time out, lie down or, in some way, take you away from what you are doing. This simple breathing exercise is one that you can do anywhere, even while holding a conversation and no one knows you are doing it! It helps to take the edge of your difficult feelings, reduces the negative effects of adrenalin and helps you maintain your calm.
All you need to do is breathe in through your nose for a count of 4 and then breathe out through your mouth for a count of 5 and, as you breathe out, relax your shoulders.
When we are anxious we breathe shallowly. Shallow breathing means your body gets less oxygen and many people are tempted to compensate by breathing faster. You do need to remember that there is no point in trying out this exercise once and then waiting till you need it before using it again as your feelings at the time will get in the way. Practise your breathing exercises throughout the day, get comfortable with them and you will find you incorporate them in your daily life – this is good stress management as much as anything else.
Use your imagination
Some people respond more readily to using their imagination and prefer to use what are called visualisation techniques. A number of studies have shown that visualising situations can lower blood pressure.
This is a good exercise to undertake on your way to or from work. It can take two minutes or half an hour depending on how much time you have – just remember to get off at your stop!
Imagine you are in a walled garden at the time of the year you like the most – spend some time looking at the flowers, shrubs, trees and so on.
You notice an old fashioned wooden door with a wrought iron handle in one of the garden walls and you make your way over and open the door. You then find yourself in your own, very special safe place, a place that no one knows about. It can be anywhere and you can choose to be on your own or have anyone you want with you. Enjoy being there. And then make your way back to the door when you are ready to leave. Shut the door firmly behind you in the knowledge that your special place is always there, whenever you choose to return there. Walk around the garden and, when you are ready, open your eyes.
‘Anchoring’ simply means associating positive, calming, confident feelings to an object you carry with you on a daily basis. Many people choose a piece of jewellery they wear regularly. However, if you don’t wear jewellery you could choose a finger or the back of your hand. In moments of strong negative emotions you touch your chosen object focusing on the feelings you have linked to it.
Choose an object and close your eyes and remember an activity, person or a memory that makes you feel happy and relaxed. Rub the ring as you think about your happy thought. Continue to do this for about five minutes. Wait for a few minutes and then repeat the process. Anchoring your positive feelings by merely touching that object should bring about a state of well-being. Like all the other exercises you need to practice so that you condition yourself into a relaxed response.
Use Coping Imagery
Research suggests that when you visualise a positive outcome you are more likely to get one. Coping imagery is used to prepare for difficult situations – for example, if you know you are meeting someone or doing something and just the thought of it makes you feel worried, angry or tense.
All you need to do is to close your eyes and imagine yourself handling the situation. Think about what you would say, what you would do and how you would look and rehearse the types of things you think will happen. What might the other person say and how would you respond? When you do this, you trick the brain into thinking you have dealt successfully with the situation and you also come up with a series of contingency plans for all the different outcomes you can think of.
Face Your Fear
The truth of the matter is the more you run away from situations the more powerful you make them by making yourself seem unable to deal with what is happening. The more you face the situations that frighten you the less fear you will experience as you teach yourself that there is very little to fear in life apart from fear itself. Break your situation down into stages and tackle each stage independently. For example, you may worry that you will have nothing to say at social events and so you tend to avoid them.
However, if you set about thinking of all the social situations you avoid you could then take the least worrying of these and devise yourself an action plan of how you will tackle the situation. Remember – you can do it if you think you can do it and feeling a little uncomfortable while you learn what to do is surely not too high a price to pay for a worry-free life?