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My Top 5 Relaxation Techniques to Help Cope With the Anxiety of My Chronic Illness

Living with a chronic illness can be a massive cause of anxiety for anyone. It definitely is for me. Not knowing daily (or even hourly) how I will feel has been having a big mental impact on me recently and has caused me to discover new relaxation techniques to help! It’s taken me a while to find ones that really work for me, but I find these ones super effective. I hope they are also of some help to you too.

Editor’s note: Please talk to an exercise professional or physician before starting or stopping an exercise regimen.

1. Rubbing circles on the palm of your hands. I love this one because you can do it anywhere. For me it helps me keep my anxiety under control when I can feel it escalating quickly, especially when I’m out and about! Some people find pressing this point helps better, but I personally don’t get such a comfy feeling from doing that.

2. Tensing and relaxing muscles. Someone taught me how to do this last week, and I’ve now started doing it before I go to bed and when I first get up. It’s taken me a couple of tries to get into it, but I’m really noticing a difference now! This one works by isolating muscle groups, tensing each one for the count of three and then releasing. Start by sitting quietly and just feeling the support of whatever you are sitting on. Then work your way through these muscle groups:

  • Forehead and top of head – this muscle runs from your forehead, over the top of your head and round the back
  • Face – either scrunch up your face or create a massive smile!
  • Tongue – drop your tongue to the base of your mouth
  • Neck – sticking your tongue out helps to feel where these muscles are
  • Shoulders – lift your shoulders up towards your ears
  • Arms — image you’re trying to lift something really heavy
  • Wrists – lift your hands up and lean them backwards towards your arms
  • Hands – clench your fists
  • Tummy –  tighten your tummy muscles
  • Bottom – when you clench these muscles you should feel your body lift slightly
  • Pelvic floor – imagine you really need to pee
  • Legs – imagine you’re about to stand up
  • Ankles – lift your feet so your toes are reaching towards the sky
  • Feet – scrunch your toes up

After you’ve worked your way through all the muscle groups, just takes a few moments to notice how your body feels.

3. Stretching! and balance. Stretching always seems to make me feel happier and freer. Balancing seems to have an amazing calming effect. My three favorite stretches/balancing poses are:

  • Twists – Just twist! I enjoy doing this in bed by lying on my back, lifting my knees to my chest and then moving them over to one side. You can then reach the opposite arm out and turn your head to look at your hand. I also enjoy just standing up and swinging my arms around my body. I remember doing it as a child, and it’s still really fun!
  • Reaching for the sky stretch – just stretch on your tip toes and try and reach your finger tips right up to the sky! I love doing this one in the morning.
  • Tree pose. Balance on one leg, lightly resting the other foot on your calf/knee/thigh. You can then have your hands wherever is best for you. I usually have mine in a prayer position, but you could also try reaching for the sky. Or if your balance is having a wobbly day (which mine often is!), you can lightly hold onto the wall or a chair. Make sure you keep your gaze on a fixed point to help.

4. Breathing. Just taking notice of your breathing can help. I find laying one hand on my tummy and one on my chest and noticing how these rise and fall when I breathe in and out really helps me feel calmer. Breathing to the count of three or five can also be very relaxing.

5. Imagination. Especially if it’s a not-so-good day and any sort of exercise is asking a bit much. Just getting lost in an imagery helps me take my mind off my own anxiety and feel more relaxed. For me this is imagining myself off in a land of magic and dragons, but it’s wherever you feel happy.

These are my favorite ones I’ve found so far! If you decide to give any a go please only do ones that feel right for you and your body.

Follow this journey on Dinosaurs, Donkeys and MS.

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