10 Exercises to Cope with Anxiety

Anxiety can nearly paralyze you when it hits. You feel like you can barely breathe or move. When anxiety becomes strong enough, you can feel as though you are having a heart attack because your heart seems to be pounding so hard. You can head off a full-blown anxiety attack if you do some exercises as soon as you feel the start of anxiety.

Three things that will help you gain control over anxiety is learning to control your breathing, calming your mind and working out regularly so your heart’s resting rate becomes slower. Discussed here are nine exercises that cover these three things to help you cope with anxiety.

Controlled breathing using the roll breathing technique

  • For this exercise, lie on your back with your knees up.
  • Place your left hand on your belly and your right hand on your chest.
  • Throughout the exercise, your shoulders need to be relaxed and you should avoid shrugging. First, note your hands moving as you breathe in and out normally.
  • Then breathe in through your nose so you are filling the lower part of your lungs. When you do this, your left hand will rise.
  • Then exhale through your mouth so your left hand drops as the air leaves your lungs. During this, your right hand, which is on your chest, should remain still.
  •  Repeat this eight to ten times.
  • After you have completed this set, begin the “roll” breathing by first breathing into your lower lungs and then into your upper lungs in the same breath.
  • At the beginning of this set, your left hand will rise as it did in the first set but when you inhale into your upper chest, your right hand will rise as your left hand will drop.
  • Breath out slowly through your mouth, making a slight whooshing sound as you do. The rising and falling motion of your belly and chest makes it easy to see why this is called the roll breathing technique – the motion is similar to that of rolling waves.
  • Do this exercise for up to 5 minutes. You will notice how much more relaxed you feel afterward.


This is an ancient discipline, the most well-known of which is Hatha Yoga. It is best to take classes to learn it properly and then you can practice it at home once you know the basics.

Tai Chi

This exercise is quite old and comes from China. It is a system of stretching and exercise that is slow, gentle and graceful. Deep breathing is practiced during the course of doing this exercise. It can be learned from books and videos but taking a class is the best way to learn.

Qi Gong

Also from ancient China, this exercise has rhythmic, gentle movements that mirror nature’s movements, such as the wind blowing or water lapping up on shore. The primary three elements of this exercise are a meditative mind; fluid, slow movements that strengthen and stretch; and deep breathing.

Progressive muscle relaxation

  • This exercise will help reduce anxiety, relax tense muscles, lower your heart rate and blood pressure and even out your breathing. It can be done whether you are lying down or sitting up.
  • You can get an audio of this technique to listen and follow but you can do it without it.
  • The process by muscle group is here. Hands – clench your fists. Forearms and hands – extend your arms in front of you with locked elbows. Bend your wrist back toward you.
  • Upper arms – bend your arms at the elbow and flex your biceps. Forehead – wrinkle your forehead with eyebrows lowered as much as possible, release and rest for ten seconds. Then raise your eyebrows as high as possible, release and rest.
  • Eyes – squeeze your eyes closed as tight as possible. Mouth – press your lips as tight as possible.
  •  Jaw – open your mouth as wide as possible and stick out your tongue.
  • Buttocks – squeeze as tight as possible. Abdomen – tense as much as possible.
  • Chest – tense chest muscles as tight as you can. Back – arch your back
  • Neck and shoulders – tense as much as possible. Thighs – tense as tight as you can.
  • Lower legs and feet – tighten calf muscles and point your toes toward your shins. Feet – Point your toes and curl them down.

Home exercise regimens

There are several home exercise programs that have gained an enthusiastic following throughout the years. One of these is the P90X3 program, designed by Tony Horton, which consists of a 90-day training plan that uses cross-training and periodization, combined with a nutrition and dietary supplement plan. Put together for people who are busy and on the go, the P90X uses targeted training phases so your body keeps adapting and growing.


Movement through the water has a calming effect.

Brisk walking

Gets the blood flowing while it eases tension.


Low impact on the joints and is good exercise for overall well-being.


As well as being good exercise, it is enjoyable.

The first five exercises are good by themselves but can help you be better prepared for the last four exercises that are more physically demanding. The last four also get you out of the house, which can be beneficial on its own. Dancing is often more social and being with other people can ease feelings of anxiety.

All of these exercises can help you cope better with anxiety. They may also benefit your health over all.

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Latest update: October 27, 2017
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