Relaxation techniques are an important component of many behavioral treatments for anxiety disorders and specifically for Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, part of your treatment may involve the practice of deep breathing and muscle relaxation while imagining giving a speech.
There are four techniques, in particular, that may be used as a part of treatment, and you can also try them out on your own to help cope with your anxiety.
Diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing, is the practice of expanding your diaphragm as you breathe, so that your stomach rises and falls, instead of your chest. During an anxiety attack, you are more likely to take shallow breaths, which contributes to symptoms of anxiety. By practicing how to breathe slowly and deeply while in a relaxed setting, you will be better able to call upon this method of relaxation during times of stress.
Deep breathing also forms the foundation upon which other relaxation techniques are built, so it is an important concept to master.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Have you ever noticed the feeling you have after a really intense workout? Your muscles have been fatigued to the point that your body is totally relaxed. This is the objective of Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). Alternating between tense and relaxed muscles helps to induce full-body relaxation.
Autogenic training is a fancy term to describe a technique similar to meditation, where you repeat a series of statements to yourself about different parts of your body. The repetition of these statements is believed to influence the functioning of your autonomic nervous system, which includes your heart rate.
Have you ever wished you could escape to a tropical island or hole up in a log cabin? If you don't have the time or means to actually live out your fantasy, give guided imagery a try. This technique involves using all of your senses to imagine yourself in a relaxed setting. Your body, in turn, enters a relaxed state. Be careful, though, you may become so relaxed that you fall asleep! It is best not to practice this technique when you have to be somewhere soon. Try it out at night before you plan to fall asleep.
McMaster University. Guided Relaxation CD. Accessed June 18, 2008.