Calming Techniques for Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are very common and writer has written about them in previous blog posts. Here, we will discuss the skills and techniques that can be used to reduce the frequency and intensity of symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety disorders can range from Generalized Anxiety , Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Social Anxiety, Panic Disorder with or without Agoraphobia to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and various types of Phobias. There are several causes of anxiety disorders. Some of the causes are long term predisposing, like heredity. However, there are some causes which are short term triggering causes like death, loss, accident, trauma such as rape, assault, exposure to combat and many more.

Sometimes anxiety disorders are caused by the conditioning process when the person begins to associate the discomfort with certain situations and begins to avoid going to those places. Such fears can become irrational and lead to phobias. Regardless of how the anxiety disorders originated, there are strategies that can be used to counter these symptoms. We will now discuss these tools and techniques.

  1. Visualization
    Visualization is referred to imagination of scenes that will facilitate a calming effect to the person. Since anxiety is caused by imagining the worst possible scenarios of the events, places and person, the same imagination can be used to produce the calming effect by visualizing that the person is calm. The power of imagery to influence our thoughts, feelings, and physiology is well known. You tend to conjure relaxing images in order to ease anxiety. You may also imagine your body’s healing system to go in action to ease a symptom or cure a disease. Staircase deepener is very frequently used in hypnosis to deepen the relaxation. The person imagines that there is a staircase in front of him or her and he or she is descending the steps one by one by counting backwards from ten to one. As you descend the steps, the relaxation in the body is multiplied and by the time the person reaches the last step, the effect of visualization takes into effect and the relaxation becomes multiplied.
    Similarly visualizing a peaceful scene like a beach or a park in full details using the five senses can make the person feel that it is real and it eventually helps in alleviating the symptoms of anxiety. This technique has been used in sports when the athletes visualize their best serve, best basket or hole in one.


2. Scheduling a Worry Time:
When the person spends lot of time worrying about the future, the quality of life is deteriorated so instead of worrying the whole day, it is advisable to schedule a worry time and worry all you want at that time. If the worries come back any other time, you tell your mind to attend to it at your scheduled worry time. This way you are not wasting your present moment in idle worries and spoiling your day. This is a very effective behavioral technique that works with people who have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.


3. Abdominal/Diaphramagtic breathing
People who have social anxiety tend to breathe very shallow, causing a lack of oxygen in the vital organs of the body, heart, lung, and brain. Lack of oxygen causes the person to hyperventilate and gives nervous symptoms. When the person begins to do abdominal breathing, the problem is remedied. Dizziness, heart palpitation, and hyperventilation can be addressed by simply doing some calming breath exercises and abdominal breathing. This is how it is done:
Take a deep, slow breath, letting the air come through your nose and move deeply into your lower belly. Observe how your lower abdomen expands as you take this deep breath. If you put your hand over the belly, your hand should rise as you inhale to the count of three. Then pause and exhale slowly to the count of six. Once you get better with 3-6 combination, you can make it 4-8,  5-10. Notice that the exhaling is always double the duration of inhaling because this way, the oxygen that you inhaled, is retained in the system for a longer period. Keep practicing deep belly breathing for ten minutes or so and imagine that the air traveling through your nose carries with it a sense of peace and calm. As you exhale, imagine that the air traveling out carries out your tension and anxiety.


4. Mindfulness Practice to Address Fears:
When you suffer from social phobias, you live in a continual state of worries about the future for example what could happen during a social event. Mind begins to imagine all kinds of worst possible scenarios about failure, humiliation, and you become engrossed in such thoughts in the present moment.
Mindfulness meditation helps you get out of that thinking pattern by grounding you in the present moment and gives a useful form of escape from fear. Instead of avoiding social interactions because you are so afraid of the “what coulds”, you begin to escape your fears by remaining in the present moment— what is. Moving out of your fearful mind set, you move into the real world, where you can experience the whole spectrum of human emotions- pleasure, joy, anger, sorrow and fear. This helps you gain a more real sense of others and a more grounded sense of yourself.
In mindful meditation, you teach yourself how to live in the present moment. This also facilitates the process of being in ‘here and now’ with other people.
It is good to practice mindfulness meditation for about fifteen to thirty minutes every day, preferably at the same time. This is how you do it.
Find a comfortable place to sit and pay attention to your breathing. You may be aware of thoughts or feelings rising into your consciousness, or images popping up in your mind’s eye. You may notice worries, fears, fantasies or other preoccupation related to past and future. All you need to do is simply witness these thoughts and feelings or images as they enter and exit your mental movie screen. Do not evaluate or judge them, just be conscious of them and be mindful. Notice how your thoughts change and dissolve in your field of awareness. Just be an observer and then gently return your awareness to your breath. Focus on your breathing and let your thoughts recede to the background. When they reappear, repeat the same process of witnessing and then letting go. Once you become aware of your breathing you will become anchored in the present.


5. Serenity Skills for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD affects mind and body. Relaxation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, guided imagery can calm your agitated nervous system. Victims of war and terrorism can be healed with healing modalities that include relaxation, meditation, guided imagery, art therapy, exercise, nutrition, and supportive family intervention in a group setting. It is very useful to integrate mind body methods into your healing program for PTSD, and into your life first. Abdominal breathing, mini relaxation, mindfulness exercises all can facilitate healing to the individual.
In summary, serenity skills described above can remedy your flight –or-flight stress response and when you are overwhelmed by anxious thoughts and feelings, your body needs to relax while you are awake. It is vital to release the tension. In order to overcome symptoms of anxiety, you need to think, feel, and breathe. When you practice these skills on a regular basis, you will begin to see the benefits.
Hypnosis can help reduce symptoms of Anxiety disorders.
Please visit our Blossom Hypnotherapy page to learn how hypnosis can help reduce symptoms of Anxiety disorders.

Reference: The Anxiety Book, Developing Strength in the Face of Fear by Jonathon Davidson, MD and Henry Dreher

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