Relaxation and Anxiety

The question is "Does relaxation help anxiety?" or "Can relaxation techniques help my anxiety?" The answer is: "Yes, relaxation can help treat anxiety." However, the explanation is a bit longer and, as you will see, anxiety is a broad term and relaxation cannot help every anxiety disorder to the same extent. Moreover, not every form of relaxation treats anxiety in the same manner.

What is anxiety?

What Is Anxiety RelaxationAnxiety is categorized by feelings of worry, uneasiness, fear, and concern. It is a consequence of a stressor and is a part of our evolution, so it has a role in our lives. Stressors today are different than in the past and are present for longer periods of time (e.g. an 8-hour working day). This means anxiety as a state is present to an unnatural extent for people with higher stress demands.

Anxiety as a state is far from being an anxiety disorder, but if it is excessive, present for longer periods of time, or has a specific background it may be an anxiety disorder.

Relaxation helps relieve stress, which is the source of anxiety. Sometimes this is enough for anxiety to diminish and we feel relaxed and our worries fade. Here the term relaxation is equated with a relaxation technique or relaxation training, which can range from autogenic training, biofeedback, or meditation to zen yoga.

Which relaxation works?

Only deep relaxation elicited several times per day for at least two months has noticeable effects in the long run for severe cases of anxiety. Reading a book or watching TV, can be relaxing, but only relaxation that elicits a relaxation response can significantly help deal with stress and anxiety. Learning a relaxation technique takes time and patience, but the time invested is worth the effort.

Can a relaxation technique help an anxiety disorder?

Relaxation can help feelings of anxiety, which are caused by stress. Since anxiety is a consequence of every anxiety disorder, learning to relax deeply can lead to better sleep, a less anxious day, and a better overall quality of life.

Generalized anxiety disorder and relaxation

Here anxiety is generalized and is present throughout the day. Relaxation is a very useful tool to relieve stress and consequently feelings of anxiety. There is a good chance of treating generalized anxiety disorder with relaxation if the root of the problem is stress-related. In severe cases, medication therapy is advised, but without eliminating the source of stress the battle can be long-lasting. When trying to quit medication therapy while still maintaining a stressful lifestyle, having a relaxation technique is essential.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder and relaxation

The symptoms of the obsessive-compulsive disorder tend to increase when the sufferer is under excessive stress. Having a relaxation technique is a good choice along with other forms of therapy (medication, CBT). In severe cases of OCD medication is needed or even psychotherapy, but having relaxation therapy included can help maintain a less stressful life. Generally, one's quality of life improves with the help of a relaxation technique to relieve stress.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and relaxation

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder RelaxationThe trauma people go through can have severe anxiety as a consequence. Relaxing can be a great help to minimize anxiety, depression, insomnia, and improve the quality of life. Again medication may be necessary for this disorder, but alternative help is still welcomed and beneficial.
Panic disorder and relaxation
People with panic disorder can benefit from relaxation training. Severe cases can still try medication, but again when trying to come off of the treatment it is advisable to master a relaxation technique since stress is often the cause of this disorder. Having a relaxation technique is a very good consideration for those suffering from panic disorder.

Phobias and relaxation

Relaxation here can be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment. However, here there are fewer possibilities to get direct improvement from relaxation alone, and again anxiety as a state is a good choice during exposure to a situation or an object of distress in treating phobias.

Relaxation for anxiety?

As you can see, relaxation for anxiety is a very good choice, especially if the anxiety is not a disorder, but only a state of high stress. Nevertheless, even people with anxiety disorders may benefit from relaxation training greatly and it can become an essential part of life for some.

Further reading:

Relaxation and depression

Relaxation and insomnia

Why take an autogenic training course?

What are the six standard autogenic training exercises?