Dropping Anchor: A Relaxation Technique to Reduce Anxiety
by Julie Coker, MS, EdS, LPC
We’re all worried about certain areas of our lives during this pandemic and wonder what’s next. And the triggers for our anxiety can be many and varied. These include seeing the updated number of cases on the news, concerns about finances, and stress in relationships, as we’re largely more stuck around each other in our shelter in place circumstances.
Today we are going to go through a short breathing exercise. This exercise can really help when you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
I call it “Dropping Anchor.” When our anxiety spikes, we can become so caught up in the physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions that we lose contact with the present moment – even to the point of feeling disoriented and unable to find solid ground.
At that time, we need something that reconnects us to our current experience: both where we are in space and to our bodies.
Below is a step by step guide to shifting the focus to your breathing, calming those anxiety levels, and feeling just more grounded in general:
- Sit comfortably, back straight, with feet firmly planted on the floor just slightly in front of your knees, hands resting palms down on the lap, eyes closed.
- Inhale for five (5) seconds; hold for five (5) seconds; and exhale for five (5) seconds. Repeat the procedure seven times for a total of eight rounds. As the breathing slows, you may choose to extend the length of time you hold the breath and the length of time you exhale.
- At the end of the eighth cycle, exhale explosively and sit quietly for a moment, allowing the breath to return to normal but remaining focused on the in breath and the out breath. If you get distracted by thoughts or your surroundings, this is totally normal. You can gently return the focus back to your breathing.
- Now begin to pay attention to where your feet are touching the floor. Notice the feeling of your feet in their shoes or socks, or your bare feet touching carpet. Particularly notice all points of contact and the solidness of the ground below you.
- As you take your next in breath, imagine that air traveling from the lungs down to the bottom of the feet. This then extends below the surface, going deeper down, further connecting you to the earth. Sometimes it can helpful to visualize this like strong, thick roots spreading out through the soil.
- Take as much time as you need in this exercise. If you notice the anxiety returning, you can go back to the 5-5-5 breathing pattern to relax the body and mind.
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