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Fear is defined as the operant and respondent behaviors which occur at certain stimuli. Anxiety is the label for the respondent behaviors, such as an increased heart rate, sweating, or nervous habits. Anxiety is the most widely described symptom which people wish to get rid of. There are four common procedures which allow people to reduce their anxiety: muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, behavioral relaxation, and attention-focusing.

Muscle relaxation involves identifying each muscle, then forcing yourself to contract it and hold it contracted. Then after the muscle is contracted, slowly relax it as far as possible, follow this procedure with each muscle several times. The theory behind muscle relaxation is that by teaching yourself to control your own muscles, you will better be able to relax on command. Behavioral relaxation involves relaxing each muscle without tensing it. It is much like muscle relaxation except the individual imagines a frightening situation while they engage in the procedure.

When you are nervous, or engaging in anxiety producing behavior, your breathing rate speeds up, and the new fast breathes don’t bring in enough oxygen. Breathing exercises force you to rhythmically take in deep systematic breathes, increasing the oxygen flow to the brain and the rest of the body. After you learn how to control your own breathing in clinical surroundings, you are better prepared to slow down your breathing in anxiety producing situations.

Attention-focusing involves focusing in on a pleasant stimulus while engaging in anxiety producing situation. This could be imagining yourself on the beach, or skiing down slopes on a mountain range. Attention focusing forces you to keep your mind off of the frightening situations and onto something more pleasant. It is very successful in situations where the anxiety is all mentally produced and not physical in nature.

Systematic and in vivo desensitization are also both methods to reduce anxiety, specifically when it involves a phobia. Systematic desensitization involves approaching the feared object mentally while practicing the relaxation methods which were outlined above. In vivo desensitization involves actually approaching the feared object while using the relaxation methods.

Using the above strategies and relaxation techniques anyone can overcome their greatest fears. If you can not successfully implement the strategies on your own, visit a health-care professional who is trained in the different methods. Good luck.