How to Relieve Physical Symptoms of Anxiety: Top Techniques

Written by Rosa Park
Last updated on: Mar 25, 2024

Anxiety is not just a mental health issue – it can also have a significant impact on our physical well-being. It is a very common, shared experience, touching the lives of countless individuals worldwide. Feelings of worry, fear, and unease, often revealing itself through various physical sensations.

Understanding the Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety can affect different individuals in different ways, and not everyone will experience the same symptoms.

The Connection Between Anxiety and Physical Health

When we are anxious, our body goes into "fight or flight" mode, releasing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can have various physical effects, including an increased heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension.

Chronic anxiety can weaken our immune system and make us more susceptible to other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and digestive disorders.

Common Physical Symptoms Associated with Anxiety

Rapid heartbeat: A rapid heartbeat is a common symptom of anxiety. It can be quite uncomfortable and can even feel like your heart is racing.

Shortness of breath: Anxiety can cause a feeling of not being able to breathe properly, resulting in shortness of breath or even hyperventilation.

Excessive sweating: If you find yourself sweating excessively, even in cool environments, it could be a symptom of anxiety. Anxiety triggers the body's natural stress response, which can lead to increased sweating.

Feeling lightheaded or dizzy: Many people with anxiety report feeling lightheaded or dizzy, especially during panic attacks.

Headaches: Tension headaches are a common symptom of anxiety. They are often described as a constant, dull ache that can be felt on both sides of the head.

Tense muscles: Anxiety can cause muscle tension, which can create discomfort or even pain in various parts of the body.

Upset stomach or digestion issues: Many people experience digestive problems when they are anxious, such as stomachaches, nausea, or changes in bowel movements.

If you feel that these symptoms are overwhelming or persistent, it might be time to seek professional help. Online therapist directories can be helpful for finding a therapist and booking your First Session.

The Role of Mind-Body Techniques in Anxiety Relief

Mind-body techniques have been found to be highly effective in reducing the physical symptoms of anxiety. These techniques involve using the mind to influence the body, promoting relaxation and reducing stress. Let's take a closer look at the science behind these techniques.

The Science Behind Mind-Body Techniques

Research has shown that mind-body techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can activate the body's relaxation response. This response counteracts the stress response triggered by anxiety, promoting a state of calm and reducing the physical symptoms associated with anxiety.

These techniques work by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for promoting relaxation and restoring balance in the body. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, heart rate and blood pressure decrease, breathing slows down, and muscle tension is reduced.

Key Mind-Body Techniques for Anxiety Relief

Now that we understand the science behind mind-body techniques, let's explore some of the key techniques that can help alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety:

Deep breathing: Deep breathing exercises can help slow down your heart rate and activate the relaxation response. Try inhaling deeply through your nose, counting to four, holding your breath for a moment, and then exhaling slowly through your mouth.

Meditation: Regular meditation practice has been shown to reduce anxiety and promote a sense of calm. Find a quiet space, sit comfortably, and focus on your breath or a specific meditation technique.

Progressive muscle relaxation: This technique involves tensing and then releasing different muscle groups in your body, promoting relaxation and reducing muscle tension.

These mind-body techniques can be practiced anywhere, anytime, and can provide immediate relief for physical symptoms of anxiety.

Working with a therapist can also provide you with coping techniques and help assist you in finding the right therapist for your journey.

The Importance of Breathing in Anxiety Management

When we are anxious, our breathing tends to become shallow and rapid. This type of breathing can actually exacerbate anxiety symptoms, as it signals to the body that we are in a state of stress. However, by focusing on deep, slow, and controlled breathing, we can activate the relaxation response and reduce anxiety.

By consciously slowing down our breathing and taking deep breaths, we signal to the body that we are safe and in control. This triggers the relaxation response and helps alleviate physical symptoms of anxiety.

Step-by-Step Guide to Anxiety-Relieving Breathing Exercises

Here are two simple breathing exercises that can help relieve anxiety.

Disclaimer: These breathing exercises are for informational purposes only. Consult a healthcare professional before starting, especially if you have any medical conditions or concerns. Stop immediately if you feel dizzy or uncomfortable.

4-7-8 Breathing: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven, and then exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of eight. Repeat this cycle four times.

Belly Breathing: Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. Take a deep breath in through your nose, focusing on expanding your belly. Exhale slowly through your mouth, allowing your belly to naturally deflate. Repeat this deep belly breathing for several minutes.

By practicing these breathing exercises regularly, you can train your body to respond to stress in a more relaxed and controlled manner.

Physical Exercise and Anxiety Management

Physical exercise is not only important for maintaining our physical health, but it can also have a significant impact on our mental well-being. Engaging in regular exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety, boost mood, and promote overall feelings of well-being.

The Impact of Physical Exercise on Anxiety

Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, also known as "feel-good" hormones, in the brain. These hormones act as natural painkillers and mood elevators, promoting a sense of well-being and reducing feelings of anxiety.

In addition, physical exercise can help distract us from worries and negative thoughts by redirecting our focus to the present moment. It also provides an outlet for pent-up energy and tension, helping to reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation.

Best Types of Exercise for Anxiety Relief

Any form of exercise can be beneficial for anxiety relief, but some types may be especially effective. 

Aerobic exercise: Activities such as running, swimming, dancing, or cycling can increase heart rate and release endorphins, promoting a sense of calm and well-being.

Yoga: This mind-body practice combines physical movement, mindfulness, and deep breathing, making it an excellent choice for anxiety relief.

Walking: Going for a walk in nature can have a calming effect on the mind and reduce anxiety levels.

Remember, the key is to find an exercise that you enjoy and can commit to on a regular basis. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week for optimal anxiety relief.

Nutrition and Hydration: Their Impact on Anxiety

While diet and hydration may not directly cause or cure anxiety, they can have a significant impact on our overall mental well-being. Making healthy food choices and staying hydrated can help support our body's stress response system and reduce the severity of anxiety symptoms.

How Diet Affects Anxiety Levels

Research suggests that certain nutrients and dietary patterns may play a role in anxiety. For example, consuming adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds has been associated with a reduced risk of anxiety.

In addition, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can provide essential vitamins and minerals that support brain health and regulate mood. On the other hand, consuming excessive amounts of caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods has been linked to increased anxiety levels.


Dehydration can significantly impact our mood and cognitive function, leading to increased feelings of anxiety and stress. It's important to stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking plenty of water.

Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day and more if you engage in intense physical activity or are in a hot environment. Even mild dehydration can affect your mental well-being, so make hydration a priority.

From practicing mind-body techniques to incorporating breathing exercises, physical exercise, and maintaining a healthy diet and hydration, these techniques can have a positive impact on your overall well-being. Experiment with different techniques and find what works best for you. 

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About the Author

Rosa Park

Rosa Park is a versatile content creator, videographer, and photographer with a rich history of producing engaging narratives. Rosa's expertise spans journalism, documentaries, and social media content creation. Her work has included collaborations with renowned brands and organizations, showcasing her creativity and adaptability in the media industry. Rosa studied Journalism at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University).