Social Anxiety Disorder Coping Anxiety Disorder Relaxation Techniques By Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." Learn about our editorial process Updated on March 28, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Akeem Marsh, MD Medically reviewed by Akeem Marsh, MD LinkedIn Twitter Akeem Marsh, MD, is a board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist who has dedicated his career to working with medically underserved communities. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Hero Images / Getty Images Anxiety disorder relaxation techniques are an important part 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 practicing deep breathing and muscle relaxation while imagining giving a speech. While relaxation techniques often form part of a more comprehensive treatment plan, these are strategies that you can also practice on your own at home. Four strategies in particular that have been used are diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training, and guided imagery. Diaphragmatic Breathing 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. Tips for Practicing Diaphragmatic Breathing 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. During this practice, you will be directed to tense and relax various muscles throughout your body. How to Use Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Anxiety PMR can also be paired with imaginal exposures in which you picture yourself facing feared situations and learning to relax as you do so. Autogenic Training Autogenic training describes a technique similar to meditation, in which 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. Guided Imagery 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. Research on Relaxation for Anxiety A 2017 meta-analysis of 50 studies (2801 patients) compared relaxation training with cognitive and behavioral treatments for anxiety. Results of that study showed that there was no significant difference between relaxation and cognitive and behavioral therapies for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias. In addition, a 2018 systematic review with meta-analyses exploring the effect of relaxation therapy with people with anxiety disorders showed that relaxation therapy was effective for this group to reduce negative emotions as well as symptoms of depression, phobia, and worry. Putting Relaxation Into Practice Once you've chosen a relaxation technique, be sure to set a time to follow through. Though you might feel like you "don't have time to relax," that is probably a sign that you need to make time for some relaxation. By incorporating a daily or weekly practice into your life, you might actually find that you start to look forward to the feeling of calm that it brings. A Word From Verywell If your social anxiety is severe and you have not already sought help from a mental health professional, this should be your first step. However, if you are just looking for some additional support, the use of these self-help strategies may be helpful to reduce your symptoms. Set aside a regular time of day to practice these relaxation techniques, so that it will become a habit. Over time, you should notice that it becomes easier to calm yourself when in stressful or anxiety-provoking situations. Coping With Social Anxiety Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Jorm AF, Christensen H, Griffiths KM, Parslow RA, Rodgers B, Blewitt KA. Effectiveness of complementary and self-help treatments for anxiety disorders. Med J Aust. 2004;181(7 Suppl):S29-46. Kim H-S, Kim EJ. Effects of relaxation therapy on anxiety disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 2018;32(2):278-284. McMaster University. Guided relaxation CD. Anxiety BC. Self-help strategies for social anxiety. Montero-Marin J, Garcia-Campayo J, López-Montoyo A, Zabaleta-Del-Olmo E, Cuijpers P. Is cognitive-behavioural therapy more effective than relaxation therapy in the treatment of anxiety disorders? A meta-analysis. Psychol Med. October 2017:1-12. By Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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