Helpful techniques to relax and reduce anxiety

by Ezra Hewing | 22 Mar 2023

How to reduce stress and relax

There are times in most people’s lives where they feel stressed and up against it.

But stress and anxiety, particularly over an extended period of time, can have serious implications for our mental health and can lead to depression or anxiety disorders.

Ultimately, the real answer to reducing stress and anxiety is by addressing the unmet emotional needs that give rise to it. To learn more about Emotional Needs & Resources

However, as Ezra Hewing explains, there are some techniques that can help ease stress and help us relax in the short term.

Breathing techniques

You may already have a relaxation technique that works for you – it could be soaking in the bath, doing yoga, going for a swim or sitting in a relaxing place in nature.

However, one technique we teach people is diaphragmatic breathing, or 7/11 breathing.

It ‘switches on’ the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms the fight-or-flight response down.

We hear a lot about ‘fight-or-flight’, when our sympathetic nervous system reacts to threats to our safety, or uncertainty about the future. But the “rest and digest” response involves our parasympathetic nervous system. To switch it on we make the outbreath longer.

We can start by breathing in slowly for a count of seven, holding it and breathing out for a count of 11 and repeating this, maybe five to ten minutes at a time, until we feel calm and relaxed.

That’s the most straight forward and simple skill to help.

Muscle tension

Another exercise is muscle tension relaxation.

That could be squeezing your hands into tight fists and then letting go and letting them relax.

Every time you let go of the tension, by definition you have to relax.

As you begin to work through your body, tensing and relaxing your muscles, that can help to relax you and reduce anxiety.


Another thing people can do, which is not necessarily for everybody, is getting moving for 20-30 minutes three or four times a week. This can really help to relax you.

As stress accumulates, the hormone cortisol builds up and can cause all sorts of issues in our bodies. Exercise helps reduce levels of this stress hormone and some studies show this is as effective as anti-depressant medication, but without the risk of side effects.

However, the ultimate cause of stress and anxiety is unmet emotional needs.

If these can be addressed, you can move further along the mental health continuum towards wellbeing, where you feel stretched, fulfilled and in control of your life.

What next?


Suffolk Mind have a range of wellbeing courses. Alongside signing up to be a Friend of Suffolk Mind.


Counselling can benefit anyone. Counselling provides you with the opportunity to talk about issues and any challenging emotions you have in a private, secure setting. Find out more about our Counselling service.

Further reading

To find out more about your Emotional Needs & Resources, visit our dedicated webpage here.

Check out our other blogs about stress.

Contact us

Email us or call us 0300 111 6000

by Ezra Hewing

Ezra Hewing is Head of Education at Suffolk Mind and a Human Givens Therapist. Since joining Suffolk Mind in 2009, he has grown our busy workplace wellbeing service, training frontline mental health workers, doctors, nurses, substance abuse workers, members of the emergency services and heads of organisations, amongst others, in how best to understand and support emotionally healthy workplaces. He holds an MSc in the psychology and neuroscience of mental health from the internationally renowned Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience, King’s College, London, where he researched REM sleep and mental ill health, with a focus on the symptoms of schizophrenia.

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