It's hard to just "relax". That's why it's annoying when someone tells you, "Just relax!" when you are stressed out or worried. Um, duh, obviously you would if you could!
Here's the real deal. There is nothing you can do that will instantly get rid of all your anxiety. Wouldn't that be nice if there was? Just press a little button on the back of your neck and presto! No more anxiety.
But the good news is that there are powerful tools you can use to significantly dial down the volume of your anxiety. You don't have to let anxiety totally take over your body and mind. You can get in the driver's seat and take charge of it.
Famous athletes and performers know these tools. Have you ever seen an Olympic track runner before an event? She's pacing, stretching, shaking anxious energy out of her muscles, and visualizing herself winning the race. Actors and singers will take slow breaths to calm down and centre themselves before they go out on stage.
Why relax? In some ways your brain is like a muscle. You can’t continually stress it and strain it and expect it to work well. You have to let it relax once in a while to recharge. Relaxing releases endorphins, which are hormones that help you feel good. Relaxing also helps you focus more clearly when you need to (like for a test!).
Life is a journey, not a race. Slow down once in a while to enjoy the view.
So maybe you aren't famous (yet!) but these tools can still help you now. Wouldn't it be awesome to be able to calm yourself down and feel steadier before a big game? A test? A dance? A summer job interview? Talking to someone you really like?
Below are some tools you can use every day to calm down. These won't make your anxiety totally disappear, because some anxiety is normal and even helpful. But, if you practice these tricks regularly, they can dial down your anxiety enough so you can think more clearly, focus better, and feel stronger and steadier.
These are “on the go” tools – you can do them at home, at school, in the car, on the bus, in a restroom or change room – almost anywhere! These tools are private too – often others don’t even know what you are doing.
Sam uses calm breathing before a soccer game to help him relax his body so that he can focus on the game. He likes this tool because no one can really tell he's doing it.
Jasmine's teacher taught the whole class a mindfulness exercise and she has started using it on her own when she is feeling overwhelmed with worries about the future.
Avery gets really anxious when she is around people she doesn't know. She sometimes does a mental vacation or a confidence builder exercise to feel more relaxed. After the exercise she feels less nervous and self-conscious, and is able to enjoy herself more.
Andrew finds a quiet place in the school library or in the counsellor's office to do a quick tense and release exercise before a big test. He listens to a track on his MP3 player. It helps him feel less agitated and his muscles feel loose and relaxed.