Do you get anxious before a visit to the dentist, or afraid before undergoing surgery? If so, youre not alone. It is natural to feel some fear before an experience such as this. However, it isnt pleasant. Especially, not if the fear is verging on terror rather than mild anxiety. Fortunately, it is so common, there has been a plentitude of research to develop techniques to help people take control of their anxieties and learn to relax. You are not alone!

Here are some tips to help you face the dentist, or to use prior to an operation:

1. Learn to breathe deeply

When you are afraid, the most powerful relaxation techniques work with the body and the mind. Fear activates the sympathetic nervous system. This prepares your body for fight or flight. Your temperature changes, your digestion is affected, your muscles tense and your heart rate elevates. You want to outwit this. You can return your body to a resting, peaceful state by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This is your basic state; your state of safety. Breathe slowly right from your belly, right up into your chest. Take long, even, fluid breaths. Focus on the breath as you do so.

2. Practice progressive muscle relaxation

You want to signal to your body that there is no danger. Tense muscles are painful and uncomfortable and keep the cycle of fear activated. Ease the stressed muscles by clenching really, really tightly and then releasing. Progressive muscle relaxation suggests you start at your toes and work up through your body, muscle group by muscle group. Shaking at the end of the session (or actually at any time) will also loosen you up, releasing any trapped anxieties.

3. Talk to your doctor or dentist

This isnt for everyone (work with what feels right for you). Studies show that many people feel greater ease when they have discussed their fears with the professionals involved. An understanding surgeon, or dentist, can put fears at rest. Many people find that an agreement with the practitioner helps alleviate worry. Sometimes a hand signal is agreed upon. This indicates to the physician that you would like them to stop.

4. Listen to a relaxation or meditation recording

With modern technology, we can listen anywhere. Fabulous if you are sat in a waiting room, or hospital bed, unable to distract your mind. A relaxation or meditation recording will guide you to thinking calming, reassuring thoughts. You will breathe more deeply and feel increased serenity.

5. Exercise

Granted, your options here may be limited, especially if you are unwell. However, if possible, moving your body will limit anxiety by releasing endorphins and serotonin. If you can a run, or take a walk, dance, or swim, this will be stress releasing and happy-inducing.

6. Gentle yoga poses for calming

Some yoga positions induce feelings of serenity. They activate the parasympathetic nervous system and deactivate the fight or flight response. Positions where your legs are elevated, (such as legs up the wall), encourage blood flow back to your heart and full blood circulation, rather than your blood flow being restricted to your muscles. Spinal twists are gentle and good for re-regulating the nervous system.

7. Parent yourself

We terrify ourselves with the thoughts we allow ourselves to think. As a reassuring parent you talk to yourself as you would a child. Comfort yourself. Praise yourself for how well you are doing and how wonderfully you are looking after yourself. Become excited and encouraged about what this procedure means for your future. Give yourself lots of love, support, and assurance that all will be well.

8. Listen to music

Listening to music can be one of the most calming activities for people to do. Listening to music relaxes, evokes joyful feelings and distracts the mind. The choice of music is completely up to you. Where one person finds blissful release, another feels antagonized. Find the tunes that work for you.

9. Create a mantra

Create a positive affirmation, mantra, or ditty. Pull it out of your box of tricks every time you begin to feel anxious. Identify your fear. Flip it so that you make a positive statement. For example, Im afraid of it hurting becomes the procedure is painless and quick. All is well and I am safe. Use your imagination to create a little song, or ditty. This makes it fun and helps you to remember the words. Repeat it over and over. Repetition reinforces your faith in a positive outcome and distracts your mind from fear-based thinking.

10. Consider phobia behavioral treatment

Research shows that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or Hypnotherapy, can have life-changing results for those with phobias and anxieties. Consider alternative health practitioners to help with your fears. Massage, acupuncture, homeopathy and other complementary therapies may offer relief too. Check with your medical practitioner before taking any medicine suggested by complementary health therapists.