Relaxation Techniques

Learning to Relax

Woman meditating on rooftop
Philip Lee Harvey / Getty Images

By learning and practicing relaxation techniques, you will be able to reduce the level of your anxiety and panic attacks. You may even be able to defuse an attack in the making. Some techniques that may be helpful include:

Deep Breathing Exercises 

When people are anxious, they tend to take rapid, shallow breaths that come directly from the chest. This type of breathing is called thoracic or chest breathing.

When you’re feeling anxious, you may not even be aware that you’re breathing this way.

Chest breathing disturbs the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body resulting in increased heart rate, dizziness, muscle tension and other physical sensations. This may signal your body to produce a stress response that contributes to anxiety and panic attacks.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

If you have panic disorder, agoraphobia or another type of anxiety disorder, you may experience frequent muscle tension. In fact, chronic muscle tension may be so automatic that it seems normal, and you may have forgotten what it feels like when your muscles are completely relaxed. By employing the progressive muscle relaxation technique, you will be able to quickly rediscover the distinctions between relaxation and tension of various muscle groups.


By imagining yourself in a peaceful, stress-free setting, you can reach a state of mental and physical relaxation.

For example, imagine yourself sitting by a beautiful, peaceful lake. Focus on the scene for a period of time. Feel the soft sand on the bottom of your feet. As a gentle breeze sweeps across the water, imagine the warm air on your face as you watch a magnificent sunset on the horizon.

Mindfulness Meditation

Many people find meditation calming and revitalizing.

You can perform a meditation exercise sitting or lying down. Make sure your surroundings are quiet and dress comfortably.

Give it a try by following these steps:

  1. Close your eyes and do some deep breathing for several minutes.
  2. Concentrate on a single word or object. For example, slowly repeat the word “relax.”
  3. If you find your mind wandering during the exercise, just take deep breaths and refocus.
  4. Continue the process until you feel calm and refreshed.


Breaking Free From Anxiety Disorders – Self-Care Handbook. (1998). Deerfield, MA: Channing L. Bete Co.

Davis, M., Echelman, E. and McKay, M. "The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook, 5th Edition" 2000 Raincoast Books.

Edited by Katharina Star, Ph.D. 

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