Modern life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and demands. For many people, stress is so commonplace that it has become a way of life. Stress isn’t always bad. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best. But, when you’re constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price. Alpha waves are the brain waves you feel when you're alert yet relaxed. Decreased alpha wave activity is shown in a variety of psychological disorders and even during stress or anxiety. The brain produces five main types of brain waves as shown below:

1. Delta Waves: 0 - 4 Hz Delta waves are the slowest range of brain waves. They are seen in deep sleep typically during stage 3 and 4 sleep.
2. Theta Waves: 4 - 8 Hz The sleepy brain waves. We see these brain waves when we are falling asleep or just waking up and during the early stages of sleep.
3. Alpha Waves: 8 - 12 Hz. Alpha waves are seen when we are both alert and relaxed. These waves decrease with concentrated or busy activity.
4. Beta Waves: 12 - 26 Hz. Beta waves are associated with high stress, high concentration, busy or anxious thinking.
5. Gamma Waves: 26 - 80 Hz. These waves are thought to be associated with higher level thinking, problem solving, and consciousness.

    Your brain can produce a variety of these types of waveforms at any given time. High beta wave/low alpha wave activity has been shown in people with depression, stress, anxiety, epilepsy, and even schizophrenia.

    Increased alpha-wave activity, while not a cure-all, has shown to help with a variety of stress related issues. Zen Buddhists, biofeedback therapists, and even NASA scientists have all sought ways to increase beneficial alpha wave activity over the years. As psychotherapy research progresses, alpha wave enhancement may also become an important tool in fighting mental illness.

    Different kinds of relaxation techniques exist that you can use to reduce anxiety, stress or panic attacks by decreasing Beta and increasing Alpha wave acticvity. Some of the well-known and effective relaxation techniques for anxiety include regular exercises, meditation, massage, deep breathing, and music and so on. While one or two of these will work for you, the others may not. What might work for a friend, may not work for you. Hence, it is highly recommended that you read this entire article in order to know the relaxation techniques that will work for your anxiety.

    Meditation is one of the best and effective relaxation techniques for anxiety and stress. Meditation involves the conscious effort of channelling your thinking away from what is causing anxiety to positive ones. In order for this form of technique to work effectively against anxiety, stress or panic attack, it is recommended that you do it in a quit place and ensure you’re alone.

Relaxation Techniques for Anxiety and Stress

The Here and Now
    The simplest meditation is to find a relatively quiet place, close your eyes and focus on the sounds of the environment around you. Do this without processing them or putting them in context. When thoughts arise, push them aside and refocus on the sounds, smells and temperature of your environment. This will be difficult at first, especially if you are very aroused by stress or anger. These feelings will dissipate over time. Allow yourself at least 10-15 minutes to reconnect with the here and now. By doing this when you are stressed or upset (within reason, not a good idea to do this in the middle of a meeting) you will retrain yourself to decrease Beta waves and slow them into the Alpha range.

    It is very difficult to breathe calmly when you are highly stressed or anxious. This is why it is advisable to breathe in deeply through your nose and try and fill your lungs with fresh air and release it through your mouth. Do this in a quiet place with your eyes closed. After a few initial deep breaths, begin to breath normally and focusing on your inhalation and exhalation separately. This will act as a type of mantra and will result in intrusive thoughts popping into your awareness. When this occurs push them aside and refocus on your breathing. 10-15 minutes and you will feel more relaxed and less anxious.

    Listening to music is another well-known technique for relaxation. Most people have favourite music they like to play at certain times. As music helps to induce moods, a good technique is to make play lists of all the music you find relaxing. Take that music to a quiet place where you can sit for 15-20 minutes and focus on the music. Again, when stressful images or thoughts occur, push these to the side and refocus back on the music. There are many relaxation CD’s on the market that claim to aid relaxation. The rule of thumb here is, if YOU find them relaxing, they will work, there are no miracles here. Music you already find relaxing will work just as well if not better the tailor-made relaxation music.

    Studies show that exercise can help improve mood temporarily in individuals who are stressed, anxious or depressed. In fact, for people with mild or moderate depression, 30 minutes of intense exercise can be as effective as medication for improving mood. People who do not respond to medications may also show improvement in mood when they exercise. Exercise can be cathartic, meaning that pent up energy or feelings can be released by physical exertion. During exercise, we activate our sympathetic nervous system. Blood levels of beta-endorphins have been found to increase to as much as five times their resting levels during prolonged aerobic exercise (over 30mins). This measurement varies from person to person and is affected by how regularly one exercises. However, the benefits are clear; exercise can reduce the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety. AND its great for your waistline too!!!

    To help aid stress relief you can add in visual imagery while exercising. Imagine that with each foot-fall (while jogging for example) pent up aggression, energy and frustration is leaving your body through your legs and into the ground. I find it helpful to imagine that pent up stress is like mud on my trainers and I leave a little of it behind with every step or that it is like electricity flowing through my legs and into the ground. This might sound silly, but if the imagery is relevant to you, it is more likely to be effective and it does work.

Keeping a Journal
Writing down your anxious or stressed thoughts is one of the best ways to deal with the problem of anxiety and stress, especially if it is a reoccurring one. When you write them down, you are letting it all out and this is very good for your mind and body. It also helps you to think constructively and perhaps see the situation/issue from a different perspective. This is especially helpful when you have just finished the breathing technique as you will have a clearer mind as a result. By doing this you will be able to put a more rational/logical perspective to the situation/issue and will be better able to find solutions.

Final Word
    The above list of relaxation techniques for anxiety is not exhaustive. Many other techniques may be effective in reducing stress and anxiety. Consult your doctor for further advice. Meditation is a good technique to try. This can be learned in groups, or individually, but there is certainly benefit in sharing the experience with others. Some schools of meditation concentrate on breathing and others teach traditional methods which are often linked with yoga. Yoga has become very popular in its own right and there are many different schools. Find a yoga, or meditation school to suit your needs and you will see how relaxation techniques for anxiety or stress can help.The list of techniques for treating anxiety goes on and the more you research them the harder the choice may become. The correct treatment for you depends on your own needs and requirements and what suits one person may not suit you. Learning meditation and yoga are generally effective techniques if you enjoy the experience.

    Relaxation techniques for anxiety range from simple lifestyle adjustments, to brand new regimes including learning a new skill. The easiest place to start is with the easy things like hot baths and deep breathing and then progress from there. You may find that something very simple can make a big change in your life and at the same time, make you feel like a different person.

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