The use of visualization to help anxious people calm down has been around for a really long time. I remember as a young, idealistic therapist walking people through the steps to do one and even taking it on a cassette tape for clients to use at home. It's really a simple technique though, and one that you can do yourself at home.
What Makes You Calm?
The first step that you need to do is to think of a place that makes you feel calm, comfortable, and relaxed. It can be a real place or an imaginary place. It can be someplace that you’ve been to multiple times, or maybe just someplace that you always wanted to visit. It can even be a place you’ve read about in a book or seen in a painting. What matters is the feelings it evokes in you.
Some examples might be:
1. The bedroom you had when you were young
2. Your grandmother’s kitchen
3. Your favorite vacation spot
4. A scene from your favorite movie
5. Your dream home
6. A mountaintop
7. A quiet forest
8. The beach
9. Your best friend’s living room
10. A local park
11. A dark and cool cave
How to Ready Yourself
Find a location that is quiet and where you won’t be interrupted. A public place will be too noisy and won’t allow you to fully relax, so a nice, quiet, and private place. You will also want to find a place where you can sit or lie down and be comfortable. Find a place where you can close your eyes without worrying that someone might disturb you. Wear loose, comfortable clothing and remove any eyeglasses or contacts. Choose a time when you will have a good chunk of undisturbed time without interruptions. Get yourself into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and begin.
Beginning the Visualization
Take a couple of deep breaths. Imagine that you are in your place. Think about that place and when you do, go through all your senses. What is it that you see when you look around yourself? What do you hear? Smell? Do you taste anything? Do you feel anything? Are you by yourself or are other people there with you? Try to get as clear a picture of the place as possible. This will help you to get a better calming effect out of the visualization.
For example, if your place is at the beach imagine that you are sitting on the sand looking out at the surf. You can feel the warmth of the sun on your face and arms, the warmth of the sand on your feet, and underneath where you are sitting, feel the wind and sea spray cooling your face. You look up and see the bright blue of the sky with a couple of white fluffy clouds slowly drifting across. Taste the cool fruity flavor of a tropical drink and feel the condensation drip onto your lap. The light bounces off the blue water, making you wish you had worn your sunglasses. As your feet dig into the sand, you feel the grittiness and coolness of the damp sand. You might hear seagulls flying overhead and hear the surf pounding on the shore. You feel a slight chill as the sun is momentarily covered by a cloud, causing a shadow to fall over you. Looking out, you notice some children playing in the water further down the beach and you hear their laughter. You smell the seaweed mixing with the coconut scent of your sunscreen. Off in the distance, a man is throwing a ball to his dog playing in the water. Occasionally the dog barks, but they’re pretty far down the way so it doesn’t disturb your peace at all. In the other direction, a woman slowly walks along the water line stopping every so often to collect a pretty stone or seashell.
As you read the above description, could you imagine the scene? If you close your eyes, can you see it? How does it make you feel? If you’re like me, just the minute or so reading that paragraph was very relaxing.
Ending the Visualization
When you are doing your visualization, try to stay in the scene for as long as possible. I would think 20-30 min would be ideal. When your time is up, slowly count backward from 10 and as you reach one, slowly open your eyes and come back into your body. How do you feel? Are you relaxed? Sleepy? Do you feel calmer? What about physically- are your muscles looser? Is your anxiety lessened?
Relaxation exercises like this visualization one can be very helpful when coping with various anxiety disorders and problems. Once you’ve practiced it several times, you might find that just closing your eyes for a moment and thinking about your place brings you a feeling of calmness. This can be very helpful in a stressful or anxiety-producing situation.
If you would like to talk with someone more on this topic, or about pursuing anxiety treatment, please follow the link!