Explore what anxiety is, how it can be connected to your appearance and what you can do to control and manage feelings of worry.
If your body is frequently on “high alert” or you feel anxious in certain situations because of your visible difference, you can use relaxation techniques to help you control the symptoms.
Everyday situations can cause anxiety if you live with a visible difference – and this can make day-to-day life hard. Learning how to relax will help you gain control of your feelings and lessen those unpleasant, distracting sensations.
On this page, we introduce some relaxation techniques for anxiety which you can practise on your own, and share a series of audio relaxations especially recorded for Changing Faces.
If you live with a visible difference, you may find yourself on edge a lot of the time – often because of anxiety about the judgements or scrutiny of others around you.
Relaxation helps tackle the physical symptoms of anxiety by slowing your heart rate, calming your breathing and lowering your blood pressure. It also helps relieve your mind of stress and worry, diverting you away from your anxieties by focusing your mind on something else for a while.
Relaxation can help you sleep better and improve your overall wellbeing.
Relaxation is a skill – and like any other skill it takes practice. It might feel unnatural at first and you may feel a bit unsure or silly but stick with it and see if you notice any changes.
You can use relaxation techniques whenever you feel nervous or on edge. However, it can also help to build relaxation into your daily life to improve your general wellbeing and manage anxiety before it takes over. Over time, your body and mind will get more used to being relaxed – and less used to being anxious.
To choose the right relaxation techniques, start by identifying what helps you relax. This will be individual to you, so as you go about your day, take notice of what you find relaxing. For example, some people find that reading, watching TV or taking a bath helps them relax.
Physical exercise is another way to relax. Exercise puts the adrenaline in your body to good use! It also tends to focus your mind on the task in hand, diverting you away from your worries. Some people find yoga helpful for both body and mind. Others prefer more aerobic sports, such as dancing or running.
There are many types of relaxation techniques for anxiety to try on for size. Here are some well-known examples:
- Breathing exercises: A short breathing exercise can help you to feel calm in a short space of time – as well as being a useful, regular relaxation technique. See below for an example.
- Mindfulness: A type of meditation which encourages you to focus on the present, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
- Visualisation: A type of meditation that involves bringing your mind to a place where you feel calm and relaxed – such as somewhere you visited on holiday or a favourite place of calm, like a park or your garden.
- Progressive muscle relaxation: Involves tensing and relaxing muscles to release tension. See an example of this below.
If you live with a visible difference, you may experience discomfort, restriction or pain in parts of your body. You might wish to avoid relaxation techniques which focus on these parts of the body, or you could adapt the exercise so that it does not cause problems. If you’re worried, always seek advice from your doctor before starting a new exercise.
Here are some ways you can adapt relaxation techniques:
- If you have difficulty breathing in through your nose, breathe through your mouth instead.
- If you feel anxious about breathing exercises, try a visualisation exercise instead.
- If you struggle to sit, try standing or lying down in a more comfortable position.
- If you experience discomfort in a part of your body, focus on other areas and leave that area out.