These are some useful techniques for those suffering from stress, anxiety, and PTSD. If you know someone who could use these techniques please share.
These tips are useful to any relaxation, grounding, and anxiety-reducing technique as well as any meditation.
Breath with mouth open to eliminating tension in the jaw. Keep breathing rhythmic and calm. Some find it useful to occasionally take a deep breath filling lungs to the point of slight discomfort then releasing. This reduces tension in the chest and rushes oxygen to the brain. (Note: breathing is the foundation and can be used as a relaxation and anti-anxiety technique on its own.
Pick a location that is calm and quiet with the least distractions possible. This works better if you are able to close your eyes. However, this can be anxiety-inducing for some. If this is you feel free to keep eyes open but remember a calm environment is even more important. Some may want calm music or may prefer nature. This is fine as long as you are not distracted.
Pick a sitting position that feels stable. This can be on the floor in a chair even laying down. Arms should be in a resting position on knees, table or at side based on position.
These techniques use for sensory visualization.
This can be used for relaxation and reducing anxiety. This can also be helpful before bed to combat insomnia.
Identity positive representation
You will need to think of a substance that if moved across the skin would be relaxing and pleasant. It Should be liquid or at least flexible. Example: water, liquid silver, clouds (like heavy fog), silk, non-burning magma. There is no wrong answer and you are free to change it as mood wants. Make sure you can visualize it’s weight, consistently and temperature that pleases you.
First identify your stress, pain, restlessness or anxiety. Don’t focus on it, only identify.
Visualize your substance. Get it in your mind as detailed as you can. Usually, we want to use a top-down method, meaning starting at your head and moving to feet. However, it’s your body, your choice. You will want to visualize the substance of your choice moving over you starting in a location of your choice. For some it may be a drip, for others like a faucet or waterfall, others it may radiate from the area it’s self. Location examples can include Temple’s, bridge of the nose, top of the head, shoulders and neck at top of spine (my location).
Visualize the substance of your choice moving from that location and then let it continue down your body. Make sure to let it focus on the different areas you identified tension, pain, stress, and anxiety. How it moves and the speed is up to you. Some like to let it swirl in locations or move like a wave back and forth. The only important part here is to focus on it and allow it to remove the negative. You will want to visualize it until it is been able to go all the way through your body from head to toe. Some will want their substance of choice to remain on their body kind of like a cocoon forming a barrier from the negative. Others wanted to move out of their body stating that it is removing with it all of the negative. Completely your choice.
Specifically for reducing anxiety, fear, and stress
Identify negative representation
Identify your anxiety and tension. What does it feel like? Where do you feel it? Examples I have heard include book balanced on the head, swimming in the sand, pressure like a magic binding spell around the chest.
First identify your anxiety, stress, and tension. Visualize it and give it substance as in a physical representation.
Now, visualize a barrier between you and that negative substance. As you breath visualize that barrier expanding and lifting that weight off of you. Some have made this barrier a balloon that is filled with every breath, some will make it magical. Your barrier, your choice. Allow that barrier to carrying the burden. Feel your body as the weight is lifted. Continue to push that barrier out as far as you can. Note: this will not be easy at first. Many may only form a small space. But think of it as exercise. Soon you can lift further. Every time you do this practice to push it out a little further. Picture it moving out towards the walls and to the sky.
Combining techniques 1 & 2
Starting with creating a barrier and then using their substance and wash over them. Some have even used their substance to wash over the barrier and form a shell of protection they can use at any time. They just let the barrier in and suddenly surrounded by their positive feeling.
- Most find it useful to have a trigger they can use when there are not able to fully meditate. Examples: those with water may run their hands under the faucet for relaxation, someone who Identified clouds noted wind was a reminder, another kept a piece of fabric in her purse that felt like her substance she could touch.
- Time and location is always a factor. Once you have mastered it feel free to modify it. Some may combine it with yoga or morning shower or can do quick relaxations in a matter of minutes
Grounding is used to reduce anxiety by bringing you into contact with what is around you and making you aware of where you are in that world. This is very useful for panic attacks or when feeling disconnected from the world around you.
Technique 1: 5,4,3,2,1
This involves making a kind of list that allows you to focus on the here and now.
The categories can include: what you hear, see, feel (touch), think, know, want, smell, feel (emotions).
In use (Example)
5 things I know – I’m safe, I’m home, I like blue, I like cats, it’s Sunday night.
4 things I feel (touch) – the cat by me, the wind from the fan, the couch below me, my glasses.
3 things I hear – cars outside, fan, cat purr.
2 things I see – my phone, my keyboard.
1 thing I feel (emotional) happy because it’s all going to be OK.
- This is a good technique to teach to a partner you are with frequently. Allow them to prompt you through in the case of an anxiety attack. Example: “name 5 things you see” repeating down the list until one.
- The order doesn’t matter, the category doesn’t matter.
- You can think or say your list.
- If your list gets negative “I feel stupid, fat…” that is ok because it is real…BUT make sure you end on a positive. “1, I know that this will pass and I am loved”
Technique 2: Your space
This helps with a seance of safety as well as grounding.
With eyes closed visualize the room you are in starting with all of the corners, building the walls, ceiling and floor. Add in Windows and Doors and finally building within it the different objects. Place yourself in that space allowing yourself to feel present and safe.
Note: ground techniques are great for anxiety but can also be used to focus when you are feeling foggy.
Practice is key!
These can and should be done regularly even when not feeling stressed or anxious.
- These techniques are a form of self-care you can use daily to prevent anxiety and stress.
- When we have anxiety our brains shut down. We need this technique to be second nature or we won’t remember to use it.
- Doing a little is better than nothing at all. Try practicing your breathing in the shower or 5,4,3,2,1 on your morning commute.
- This is just a starting point. Make it your own.