ANXIETY MANAGEMENT: VISUALIZATION AS A RELAXATION TECHNIQUE
The kind of relaxation that makes a significant difference in anxiety management is the regular, daily practice of some form of deep relaxation.
If you are in a state of deep relaxation then your body’s physiological state is the opposite of what it is when you are stressed, very anxious or having a panic attack. For example, in deep relaxation your heart rate decreases, there is a decrease in skeletal muscle tension and your breathing deepens.
Regular practice of deep relaxation for 20-30 minutes each day can lead to you feeling more relaxed, more of the time. Regularity and persistence are important. Deep relaxation can reduce generalized anxiety and the severity of panic attacks.
One technique that can be included in an anxiety management plan is visualizing yourself in a peaceful scene. The example used here is a seaside beach scene. Visualization is best done after a muscular relaxation session e.g “progressive muscular relaxation” or “passive muscular relaxation”.
Here is an example of being immersed in a peaceful scene:
You are walking alone along a beautiful beach. There is no-one else in sight. Ahead of you there is a long stretch of white sand and the sea is a beautiful turquoise. You are walking barefoot near the water’s edge and can feel the hard sand under your feet. You hear the sounds of seagulls and the sound of the waves as they break. The sun feels warm on your skin as you breathe in the fresh salty air. You walk to the water’s edge and feel the temperature of the water with your fingers; it feels icy cold. A wave washes over your feet and the you feel the cold water splash onto your legs. Out to sea there is a white-sailed yacht and you watch it for a moment. You walk away from the water and onto soft sand. As you sit, the sand feels warm. You pick up some sand and let it run between your fingers. You lay down on the sand and close your eyes. With the sound of the waves breaking, the ebb and flow lulls you into a very calm state.
You can design your own visualization. Notice that the language used involves reference to the senses: sight, hearing, touch and smell. You do not have to stay with what is realistic; your special place may be complete fantasy!
Forest Visualization Script: