Relaxation Training For Anxiety – Could It Help You Ease Your Anxiety?
Like most weeks, this week I have been hugely busy helping many people to manage, reduce and overcome their anxiety. As part of that treatment, I always encourage people to find ways they can mentally, emotionally and physically calm things down a bit. After all, if you are more relaxed and calm for a while then your anxiety has to reduce a few levels doesn’t it?
Perhaps one of the best aspects about learning to feel calmer and more relaxed is that it is something anyone can do. Sure, with all those anxious thoughts and feelings it may take a bit of time and application, yet we are all biologically and naturally able to do so. We just need to learn methods that work for us and that we can incorporate into our daily lives.
And given that when we feel more relaxed we tend to feel better in ourselves and be able to think more clearly and rationally, it seems a little strange that relaxation training is often dismissed as ‘just relaxation’.
Earlier this week my regular bootcamp was cancelled twice in a row; once due to unsafe icy conditions and the other due to the illness of the instructor. Like many others who use exercise for their mental health and physical health I noticed a difference in how I felt without this usual release and focus. And certainly there is nothing I find more relaxing than lying in bed at night with a good book and getting absorbed in the story line (I love those classic crime novels!). I’ve also been using my Alexa a lot with the kids to play thinking games (like ‘fact or fib’ or ‘escape room’) so we all get some time away from the screen and have to use our brains a bit (even if my seven year old seems able to randomly guess the right answer in any true/false quiz and beat me time and time again!).
Finding time to relax certainly does pay dividends in reducing anxiety and helping mental health, yet could actual relaxation training also provide you with feeling better benefits?
Relaxation Training For Anxiety – The Evidence
With relaxation training being a possible treatment for anxiety problems, either stand alone or with other aspects of treatment, it really is important to know whether it actually delivers any benefits or not. Luckily we have the answer to this.
A research article published in 2008 (reference below) shows the results after a team of researchers carried out a ten year systematic review to enhance understanding and the clinical significance of anxiety reduction outcomes after relaxation treatments.
And their conclusion after analysing the results of twenty seven studies?
“The present meta-analytical study show consistent and significant efficacy of relaxation training in reducing anxiety…post-treatment anxiety is lower than baseline level and relaxation training outperforms control conditions on anxiety-specific measures.”
And as well as relaxation training reducing anxiety, the researchers found that applying relaxation techniques at home, alongside those with a therapist, increases the effect size of the treatment. Which is another good reason why any therapist who knows their stuff will always give their clients things to do outside of the sessions; because doing so tends to increase results (and more than that, research shows that agreeing tasks forms part of an effective therapeutic relationship, which in turn tends to lead to more beneficial outcomes from the therapy).
Although not part of the study, I believe that hypnotherapy can add an even more efficacious element to relaxation training to reduce anxiety. Using hypnosis can help you learn how to harness that ability to become mentally calm and more physically relaxed. And this makes it much easier for you to learn how to take control over your thoughts and feelings by being able to draw upon the full range of your psychological processes such as your imagination, focus, beliefs, motivation and other experiences and resources. In fact, we already have the evidence that hypnosis can enhance the outcomes of cognitive behavioural therapy (have a look at Should all Cognitive Behavioural Therapy include Hypnosis for better results?) and it makes sense that it would positively aid relaxation training for anxiety too.
Where to start with Relaxation Training for Anxiety?
One way to start with relaxation training is to use a form of progressive muscle relaxation (one of the methods included in the above study that showed relaxation training can help you to reduce anxiety).
To do this, you learn how to relax your muscles and so reduce tension by firstly, deliberately tensing the muscles in an area of your body, and then releasing the tension and feeling the muscles relax. The more you practice this, the easier it will get and the more you can call upon it whenever you need it.
In a quiet, comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed, start by closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. Then, working through each muscle group of your body in turn, tense the muscles in that part of your body and hold that squeeze for about five seconds or so. Really be aware of the tension in those muscles in that part of your body. Obviously if you have any injuries or physical issues then you may want to check with your doctor first. Aim to only tense the muscles in that part of your body that you have chosen to focus on, with the rest of you as relaxed as possible.
Having tensed the muscles for five or so seconds, you then let all of that tension and tightness go so that the muscles feel loose and limp. Really notice the difference between the sensations of tension and relaxation in the muscles. You are learning to pay attention to it, and get better at it, with practice and focus. After about ten seconds or so move onto the next part of your body and the muscles in that area.
Many people find it works best to start with the muscles in your face (e.g. tense your forehead muscles by raising your eyebrows) and then working down your body until you tense your toes (curl your toes downwards or upwards).
And so from the forehead you can move down to your eyelids (clench your eyes shut tight), to your jaw (hold it wide open), your neck and shoulders (raise your shoulders right up) and on to our chest, stomach and buttocks. Then go down each arm in turn and onto the hand (clench a fist). the move onto each leg in turn down to the toes.
Remember this is relaxation ‘training’ to help with your anxiety management so expect to benefit from regular practice and know that you can and will find it easier over time and through repetition.
Do go and practice this and you may also like to get yourself a copy of my free hypnosis download designed to help you become more mentally calm and physically relaxed (and do listen regularly and consistently to it to get the full benefits of this form of relaxation training).
To your success,
Anxiety Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
You can read more articles about anxiety help by clicking on this link: Anxiety Help
If you need effective help to manage and overcome your anxiety then book your Complimentary Hypnotherapy Strategy Session with Dan right now over on this link: Appointments
Find out what other people have said after their hypnotherapy sessions with Dan here: What People Say
And check out these powerful hypnosis downloads that can start helping you right away: Hypnosis Downloads
Reference: Manzoni, G.M., Pagnini, F., Castelnuovo, G. and Molinari, E., 2008. Relaxation training for anxiety: a ten-years systematic review with meta-analysis. BMC psychiatry, 8(1), p.41.