10 Stretches That Relieve Anxiety and Stop Overthinking

Anxiety is a common issue for many people all over the world, and when USA is concerned, 39% of people admitted to being more anxious this year than last year. The findings of a 2018 poll published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) revealed that 40% of respondents felt more anxious than a year ago. So, this condition rises each year and because of that we need to learn everything there is about it so that we can successfully prevent it and treat it.

It is a fact that the hectic lifestyle brings great stress into our lives and thus contributes to the development of many serious physical, emotional, and mental health issues. It is normal to experience stress from time to time, but when it disrupts our functioning in everyday life, then it becomes an issue.

Anxiety is related to all five tested areas, health, safety, finances, relationships, and politics. It seems that the Millennials suffer more from anxiety than Gen X or baby boomers.

These are the reports of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA):

  • Anxiety related disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. About 18.1% of the population in America starting from the age of 18 and more suffers from some type of anxiety every year.

  • The reason for developing anxiety disorders lies in a complex combination of factors, including genetics, personality, brain chemistry, and life events.

  • The good thing is that is easily treatable, however just 36.9% of patients ask and receive treatment.

  • Anxious people are 3 to 5 times more likely to visit a doctor and 6 times more likely to be hospitalized for a psychiatric condition from people who do not have this issue.

6 Types of Anxiety

  1. Panic Disorder (PD)

By PD are being affected around 6 million American adults and the diagnosis is given to the people who often experience spontaneous panic attacks, and these people live in fear of an upcoming attack. PD commonly appears after the age of 20, yet they can be experienced by children as well. The female gender is more prone to this anxiety disorder which can impede the daily life of a person. If the person also deals with agoraphobia, then the symptoms are getting worse. However, people who suffer from panic attacks do not feel open about them and usually try to hide them by isolating themselves. They are simply ashamed or afraid to talk about them.

  1. Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder

About 15 million American adults deal with this disorder that is being manifested by immense anxiety in social events or situations, fear of judgment and rejection, and hyperawareness of oneself. They are reflected physically by panic attacks, sweating, nausea, and elevated heart rate, and as well as accompanied with stuttering, blushing, stumbling over words, or freezing during a conversation. People suffering from this type of anxiety tend to worry about their appearance, mannerisms, and ability to converse with others. It usually develops in the teenage period and can greatly influence the social life. These people are not socially active and in extreme cases avoid any interaction with people. The most severe cases of this anxiety make people not to go to school, work, job interviews, shopping, and gatherings with their friends which make them excessively depressive and thus prone to substance abuse.

  1. General Anxiety Disorder( GAD)

GAD makes around 6.8 million Americans excessively worried about different things in life. They experience difficulties in controlling their persistent worries always thinking of the worst scenario. They believe that by worrying they are mentally preparing themselves if the worst scenario occurs. The diagnosis of GAD is given to a person that cannot control these worries for over 6 months. The main reasons for its occurrence are genetics, stress, or family background. The physical symptoms of this anxiety disorder are stomachaches and headaches. Ladies have a tendency to have it occurring at any age, but most commonly between childhood and midlife.

  1. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

About 2.2 people in the states suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This disorder is manifested by obsessions (intrusive thoughts or images that cause extreme anxiety) and compulsions (behaviors done by the person so that to cope with the anxiety).  These obsessions are commonly related to hygiene, contamination, the need for symmetry, and impulses.

  1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder and 3.5% of the American population suffers from this type. This anxiety disorder occurs after a traumatic event that triggers intrusive memories, flashbacks, and nightmares. The traumatic events include sexual assault, death of a family member, combat, terrorist attack, a natural disaster, motor vehicle accident or other event. This form of anxiety is debilitating and can last for months and years after the event. The chances for developing this disease are double in the case of ladies. It comes in combination with other anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse.

  1. Specific Phobias

Specific phobias refer to having phobia against various things, such as flying, heights, spiders, elevators, driving, and so on. Around 19 million adults fight these phobias every day and in every way avoid the triggers of their irrational fears. This type of anxiety can affect their productivity, and self-esteem. Phobias can occur early in life, but most of them happen out of the blue during teenage period or young adulthood.

Yoga – The Natural Treatment of Anxiety

This physical activity has been proven to be very effective in the treatment of anxiety. Its practice stimulates the release of feel-good hormones thereby creating a state of harmony between the body and mind. Its follow-up will reduce stress, tension, relieve the muscles, and relax the whole body.

Katharina Star, Ph.D., states the following:

Despite the challenges of panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms, there are many self-help strategies that can assist you in coping with anxiety. Numerous self-care activities and relaxation techniques are available to help you feel more calm, peaceful, and in control. Some of the most common relaxation strategies include breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization.

These techniques have been found to reduce anxiety and may even help you manage your panic symptoms. Yoga is an activity that actually encompasses all three of these common relaxation techniques.

Additionally, yoga has been known to help ease stress, reduce feelings of nervousness, and enhance mindfulness. For these reasons, yoga has been considered to be potentially beneficial for people with anxiety disorders, including panic disorder.”

She continues:

Yoga is believed to have originated in India over 5,000 years ago. Derived from the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, the term yoga means “to yoke” or “unite.”

Yoga practice involves a joining of the body, mind, and spirit. Through breath work, meditation, movements, and relaxation, yoga can help restore a sense of personal balance.

Yoga has become a popular way to renew the body by increasing strength, improving balance, and enhancing flexibility. Many people are devoted to the yoga lifestyle that includes a practice beyond physical exercise.

Numerous non-exercise aspects of yoga, such as breathing exercises and meditation, can help calm a busy mind and assist in letting go of stress. Given the many stress reductions benefits of yoga, it is not surprising that yoga can also be helpful in managing fears, panic, and anxiety.”

In addition to this, Timothy Burgin, a Kripalu & Pranakriya trained yoga instructor, maintains the following benefits of yoga positions:

Besides the calming effects of a general yoga practice, restorative poses, inversions and forward bends are especially calming to the body and mind, helping to reduce and prevent excessive anxiety.

The following poses are known to be especially calming: child, shavasana, crocodile, supine bound angle pose, seated forward bend, and seated head to knee. Simple inversions such as downward dog, standing forward fold, standing yoga mudra, shoulderstand, plow and supine staff pose create a temporary rise in blood pressure in the head which triggers the body’s natural calming mechanisms, dilating the blood vessels and lowering heart and breathing rates.

If symptoms of fatigue, depression, and heart palpitations are present, the qi or energy of the heart center may be weak, and heart opening poses such as Cobra, Pigeon, Fish, Boat, Bow, and Bridge would both strengthen and calm the heart chakra.

Emotions play a large role in anxiety disorders. An excessive feeling of fear, worry, irritability, anger, and depression can all add and exasperate our level of anxiety.

Twists, hip opening poses, and sidebends will all help to balance the emotions, and thus help reduce feelings of anxiety. Twisting and hip opening poses harmonize the nervous and endocrine systems, the two primary systems that regulate our emotional health, and side bending poses activate the Liver meridian, the energy channel known in Chinese medicine to regulate the emotions.”

If you are not practicing yoga, then the following beginners’ positions will be of great help in soothing anxiety:

1. The Butterfly Pose – Baddha konasana

Take up a sitting position with your back straight, then extend your legs, bend the knees meanwhile bringing the heels toward the pelvic area. In this position press the soles of the feet together and slowly drop the knees to the sides. Put the thumbs on the arches of the feet, and make sure to keep your shoulders back and chest up. Remain in this position for 5 minutes.

2. The Seated Forward Bend – Paschimottanasana

For this pose you should again take up a sitting position with your back straight, and then extend your legs in front of you. Next, flex the toes and bring the hands over your head. Stretch, breathe in, and start pulling your arms slowly forward. The breathing technique is very important, so breathe in, elongate the spine, and then lean forward a little bit. Breathe out, move the navel toward the knees and slightly elevate your head. Perform a few repetitions, and after that position your head on the legs, and remain in that pose. Inhale and go back to your initial position. In the end, exhale and lower the arms. 

3. The Staff Pose – Dandasana

Remain in the sitting position like the previous poses; align by sitting straight up with the legs stretched out in front of you, and with your feet pointed upwards. Then, press your buttocks to the ground, stretch the spine, and put your palms next to the hips. Now, start pressing the whole lower half of the body to the ground, meanwhile breathing deeply. Keep it for 30 seconds.

4. The Triangle Pose – Utthita trikonasana

For this pose you need to stand with positioning your legs about four feet apart. The right foot needs to be positioned outside at 90 degrees and the left foot in at 15 degrees. Next, align the center of the right heel with the center of the arch of the left foot. Start breathing in, and while breathing out, bend the body to the right side but from below the hips. Keep the waist straight and then elevate your left hand, while touching the ground with the right hand. Start bending the body sideways, breathe deeply, and stay like this as long as you can. Go back to your initial position and then exhale. Change sides and repeat the same movement.

5. The Cow & Cat Pose – Marjariasana

The cow pose – just like a cow begin on all fours looking straight ahead. Breathe in, and then elevate the tailbone. Bring the navel down and keep the position for a few breaths. The cat pose – it is the opposite one, exhale, drop the chin down to the chest, arch the back, and relax the buttocks. Keep it for a few breaths.

6. The Child’s Pose – Balasana

For this pose you need to kneel down on the ground ensuring that your big toes are touching each other. Then, extend your arms in front of you and then lean forward, meanwhile spreading the knees at hip-width apart. Position your torso between the thighs and make an effort for the crown of the head to rest on the ground. Keep it like that as long as you can.

7. The Camel Pose – Ustrasana

Kneel on the mat, with your hands placed on the hips. Make certain that your knees and shoulders are aligned, and the soles of the feet pointing to the ceiling. Breathe in, bring the hips and tailbone out, and arch the back. In the end slide the palms over the feet and straighten the arms. Keep it like this for 60 seconds.

This yoga position will speed up the blood flow in the body, improve flexibility and regulate the heart rate and blood pressure, meanwhile alleviating stress.

8. The Bridge Pose – Setu bandhasana

For this pose you need to take a lying position on the back, with your knees bent and positioning the feet at hip-width apart on the ground. Inhale, and then start raising your back off the floor, roll the shoulders in, and hold the chin resting on the chest. After that, tighten the buttocks, and with the thighs keep them at parallel line with the ground, thus elevate the torso off the ground, and stay like that for 60 seconds.

9. The Bow Pose – Dhanurasana

The previous poses could have been done by beginners but this one is for more advanced stage in yoga. Take a flat lying position on the stomach with your legs at hip-width apart, and then fold the knees and reach the hands toward the ankles. After that, elevate the chest and legs and push the legs back. Keep it like that for 20 seconds.

10. The Corpse Pose – Shavasana

This is the final yoga pose as it is actually a meditation. You have earned this one so breathe deeply, close the eyes, and with the palms facing up, relax the body and mind. Perform this for 10 to 12 minutes.

If you feel anxious, then do not hesitate to try these yoga poses and thus help with the relief of this condition that sometimes can be overwhelming.