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Calming Practices for Anxiety and Depression

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

The Forging Place is a dynamic team of therapy specialists serving the River Valley area in Van Buren and Greenwood. We provide counseling in a variety of areas including: marriages, children and teens, mental health, sex, trauma, and more.


Deep breathing: During this exercise, you will breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Smell the flower and blow out the candle. Breathe deeply in from your stomach area. You should see this area rise as you breathe in. Do this for a slow count of four. Hold the breath for a count of four. Breathe out slowly for a count of four. Hold the breath for a count of four. If, in the middle of a panic/anxiety attack, forcefully breathe out all your air before beginning the deep breathing.

Acupressure Points: There are points on our bodies that can lower anxiety and refocus our thinking. The webbing between the thumb and finger, earlobes, and soft spot right above the collar bone are three places we can use. Gently massage these areas with slight pressure in a circular motion. While doing so, think of how it feels and how your muscles and body react to the massage. If your mind starts to wander, refocus on the circular motion and the feel of massage.

Muscle relaxation: Check with each of your muscle areas to relax them in a sequence. Start at your feet. Feel the tension and purposefully relax these muscles as you focus on them. Next, go to your legs. Focus and relax. Repeat this process for all of your muscles throughout your body.

Hug yourself: Wrap your arms around to opposite shoulder/forearm area. Use gentle pressure to massage/hug the arms. Move your arms up and down as you would massage these muscles.

Count out of sequence: Count numbers out of sequence in your mind. Ex: 1, 15, 340, 32, 98, etc.

Count your steps: Walk around a space either inside or outdoors and count your steps as you walk. If your mind starts to wander, refocus on your feet and start counting again.

Grounding: Notice your surroundings and focus on something. Look at it and describe it to yourself. What color is it? What size is it? How is it used? How does it feel? You can also ground yourself by looking for five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, one thing you can taste. While driving, look at the car in front of you and describe the vehicle. You can also look at the tag and make a funny name out of the numbers and letters on the license plate.

Aromatherapy: Pick a fragrance you like, and that helps you to feel calm. Find something that will have the smell to relax you like lotion, hand sanitizer, etc., and keep it with you. If you like to use oils, put some on a cloth and keep it with you or put it on you, such as pulse points on your wrist. You can put this in the car to help you stay calm or to increase mood while driving.

Scrunching: Scrunch up your toes on one foot then release. Scrunch toes on the other foot then release. Do this back and forth several times to help relieve stress. You can do use this process with your hands while driving. Scrunch up one hand, relax, and then follow with the other hand.

Tactile: Find material/object that will be smooth, rough, flexible, squeezable, etc. that helps you feel relaxed. Examples would be to squeeze ball, a round rock, a material with sequins on it, a bracelet, etc. Keep this with you and feel of it when you start to feel anxious or depressed.

Sounds: Find a music genre that is relaxing and has gentle sounds. Listen to an app that has relaxing sounds such as waves on a beach or rain. Notice your body and relax your muscles while listening.

Sunlight: Find a spot outdoors where you can sit for a few minutes every day in either direct or indirect sunlight. You can also find a place indoors that has adequate sunlight to sit and relax. Feel the warmth of the sun and relax your muscles. Notice something around you and use a grounding technique to continue the relaxation. Sun lamps are also available in stores that can be used inside while moving around the house.

Thought Stopping: Become aware of your negative or anxious thoughts. Consciously say "Stop" to yourself. Begin thinking of more positive things. Example: "I always mess up. I can't be trusted. I can't do this right". Stop that thought and replace with: "I did do something right today. I don't always mess things up. I can be trusted. I am a good person" or other thoughts that are positive for you

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