Visualization exercises for anxiety are often used to help manage stress through mental imagery. It is a powerful technique, similar to daydreaming, and is accomplished through the use of your own imagination. Just as your imaginative thoughts can contribute to your feelings of anxiety, your thoughts can also contribute to feelings of peace and calm, and can even help to induce relaxation in the body.
Visualization exercises are also one of the most helpful exercises you can do to prepare yourself for participating in a stressful event. Many times our stress and anxiety has us caught up with the anticipation of stressful events and because of our own uncertainty, it is easy to imagine worse case scenarios which only make us feel worse. Anticipatory anxiety, often described as the worst kind of anxiety, because it can affect you for days, weeks, months ahead of a dreaded situation. Anticipatory anxiety adds to negative thinking and even unwanted, distressing body symptoms. Visualization exercises not only help us relax during a stressful moment but can help to prepare us emotionally for the stressful challenges that lie ahead.
Visualizations should always be positive and at best, optimistic at the same time. In other words, it's okay to prepare for the worst but also to expect the best. Visualization exercises should be something you do that keeps things emotionally balanced. For those that do not really understand visualization or the benefit of visualization, here are some facts that you need to know:
Two Common Types of Visualization
There are two common types of visualization exercises for anxiety most often practiced with great results. One is called Guided Imagery and the other is called Positive Forecasting. While both help bring you into a place of mental and physical relaxation, Positive Forecasting is typically done to help us manage our expectations, to help us look forward to good things happening, and to help us move past the "negative forecasting", that "worst case scenario" that people typically do when they are experiencing anticipation. It is an act of imagemy that includes real situations and visualization of a more positive, realistic outcome.
Preparing Yourself for Visualization Exercises for Anxiety
There are some things you can do to prepare yourself for these exercises. You'll want to find a quiet place to practice, one without disruptions. Make sure you like your environment and you are comfortable. You don't want to be distracted by an uncomfortable piece of clothing, bad smells, or things that make you feel confined or too hot or cold. You want all your focus to be put on your visualizations. If you are find you are particularly stressed or anxious, consider practicing some relaxation breathing, or even progressive muscle relaxation for a few minutes prior to engaging in visualizations. Sometimes, a nice cleansing breath, or the releasing of tense muscles beforehand will help improve your overall experience. Plan to practice visualizations for stress and anxiety for about 15 minutes. If you cannot spend that much time practicing, it's okay, try for 10.
Practice Guided Imagery
To practice Guided Imagery you will choose what you want to visualize. You can use your own creativity, your own favorite scenery - you are the author of your own imagination and can decide for yourself what brings you feelings of peace and calm. Maybe you like to relax at the beach or have a favorite memory of some vacation you once had, or maybe you love to visualize walking barefoot on fresh cut grass on a warm sunny day. Whatever it is, this is your practice opportunity and you can visualize whatever you want, as long as it makes you feel relaxed, positive, and encourged. You can also enhance your experience with the use of Essential oils, textures (such as a soft blanket), or something else if you choose. The more you practice these exercises the easier they will become and the better and more detailed you will get.
Practice Positive Forecasting
When you are anticipating a stressful event, positive forecasting is helpful for re-imagining things for a positive outcome. In other words, you'll be visualizing for success instead of devistation and doom (which is typically what comes natural with those suffering from anxiety). Using your own imagination through guided imagery, you'll practice visualizing the steps you'll take ahead of time so you'll be prepared for a more positive experience even if things don't actually go as you'd like. You'll need to be positive, and most definely realistic with this imagery. No fantasy dreaming is used during this type of imaging, as you'll be using this technique for helping you experience less stress and anxiety for a real life, anticipated event. To prepare for this visualization exercise for anxiety, you'll want to ask yourself these questions truthfully:
For many of us the answer to these questions can be anxiety producing because the answers are often based on our current imagination. We have most likely entertained "What If" scenarios numerous times in our minds and have already come to the conclusion that there is a high risk that something devistating will happen. We automatically overestimate the probability that something bad or misfortunate would happen. But even during positive forecasting or any guided imagery exercise, if at any point your visualization takes a negative turn, then you simply catch yourself and imagine yourself responding in a way that's healthy and realistic.
A little trick you can do to help alleviate anxiety when entering into a negative event situation is this: When you practice your positive forecasting, you can use a specific smell to associate with this positive relaxation practice, or even hold a specific small item in your hands, and as you practice, you can associate these things with relaxation. So when you visit the real anticipated event, you can bring along those smells, or items you had with you during your relaxation imagery. If practice is done enough, eventually your brain will be triggered by these things you used, as a trigger, so you'll remember your positive visualizations and bring them with you in a real anticapatory event.
These positive visualization exercises may not remove all your anticipatory anxiety but it will help reduce the amount of stress you feel, especially if you are going into a situation with a good attitude and a successful vision. What do you think will bring the best results? Will it be someone who imagines failure or someone who imagines success? The truth is that each one will determine what kind of experience you will have in your reality. Visualizations exercises for anxiety take time, and although they may not be easy to do at first. It does take practice and patience when learning this exercise. The more you do it, the better you will become. So hang in there and do not give up.
Benefits of Visualization Exercises for Anxiety
The benefits of frequent visualization practice will be felt not only in the mind, but also the body. Visualization is linked to many potential health benefits. It is associated with:
Helpful Things to Improve your Visualization Experience
Additional Resources on Visualization
Want to recover without using medication? There are many different kinds of supplements that are available and very effective in helping people combat the physical symptoms of anxiety.