A couple of years ago I wrote a blog titled How to Deal with Anxiety and it contained a relaxation exercise called 7/11. The 7/11 breathing technique is great at helping you relax because it stimulates the body’s own relaxation mechanism and it’s a technique you can do pretty much anywhere because it’s so discreet. A lot of people find focusing on their breathing helps them relax but if you find focusing on your breathing makes you more anxious, or if you hold a lot of tension in your body, here’s another technique to help you relax.
Why Is it Important to Relax?
If you suffer from anxiety and have done for some time, your body can get use to being anxious and tense. Tension in the body can give the signal of fear, that something bad is about to happen, which in turn alerts our nervous system that a threat or imminent danger is approaching. When we are anxious, we also have a tendency to over breathe or even hyperventilate (where we breath out more than we breath in) which can result in expelling too much carbon dioxide, when levels of carbon dioxide get too low our nervous system goes on red alert and our body’s get ready to start the ‘fight and flight’ response.
Our negative thoughts can also send a message to the brain that something to fear is approaching and set off our internal alarm system, again resulting in the ‘fight and flight’ response being activated. This is because when we are anxious, we can often misinterpret scenario’s as a threat or by seeing danger in perfectly safe situations.
Relaxing Is More Than Just Putting Your Feet Up.
If you suffer from anxiety, relaxing should be more than just ‘putting your feet up’ for a few hours. It is important to use a technique which releases the tension in your muscles and then using it on a daily basis rather than just when you feel anxious or stressed.
Having the ability to relax yourself helps reduce anxiety because it helps release tension in the body so preventing the nervous system from being alerted. Using a relaxing technique also helps regulate our breathing so we don’t over breath and it also helps us to keep thinking straight; being in a high state of arousal, keep us in ‘black and white’ thinking, relaxing helps us keep access to the full power of our rational brain.
The Clenched Fist Method
The clenched fist method of relaxation, derived from yoga, works on the basis that muscles are always more relaxed after you have tensed them and then allowed them to relax. If you have any problems with your hands, like arthritis, then I would recommend focusing on the full body method which will be published next month.
- Sit yourself somewhere comfortable, and when you’re ready, make your hands into the tightest fist possible. If you have long finger nails, or if you just prefer, clasp your hands tightly together so you are interlocking your fingers.
- Keep squeezing so you are tensing your muscles, harder and harder and count, at a steady pace to 10. As you count to 10, concentrate on the physical sensations you can feel no matter how small or big; notice the whiteness of your knuckles, the feel of your finger nails against your palm or if you have your hands clasped, the feel of the fingers on the back of your hand. Notice the pressure you feel as you keep squeezing, the rigidity in your wrists and the pressure of your thumb against your forefinger. Be aware of the tension moving up your arms.
- Then, when you reach the count of 10, allow your hands to slowly unwind and relax, noticing the difference between the tension and relaxation of the hands and arms.
- Feel the sensation of relaxation spread through your fingers and hands and up through your arms, enjoying the sensation as it spreads. Noticing whatever it is that lets you know the tension is leaving your body. We are all different and each of us feels this in our own way, some might feel warmth others cool, when I do it I notice a wave of relaxation in the form of a weight being lifted. What do you notice?
- However you notice that feeling of relaxation, let it spread through your body. Some people like to use a visual image, they see the stress draining away, being replaced by a calming feeling, others just like to focus on the sensation of relaxation, find what works for you but keep your focus on the positive sensation spreading through your body in whatever shape or form your body does this. It may help to close your eyes as you do the exercise.
- You can repeat the squeezing and unwinding as many times as you like, some people like to do it once others a few times, regardless of how many times you do it, notice how your body relaxes, so does your mind.
This exercise is a skill and it can take a few goes to feel the type of relaxation you are looking for. Remember to keep breathing, don’t hold your breath whilst you are counting, and if you can, make your outward breath a little longer, breathing in and out through the nose.
If you suffer from anxiety, in any shape or form and it’s getting in the way of your everyday life, anxiety hypnotherapy could help. I’ve had many clients seeking help with anxiety, and together, not only do we look to resolve the cause of what’s making you anxious but I will also teach you a variety of simple tools and techniques for you to use as and when you need them, that many people incorporate into their everyday lives after our sessions because they found them so useful.
I’m always happy to chat about how I can help you let go of your anxiety, leaving you to live your life the way you want to live it.