How to turn stress into a tool.
First things first. Stress is natural, stress is normal. We all feel stress from time to time. We cannot and we should not avoid stress.
Used correctly, stress is a healthy motivational tool - we get things done, we can make decisions, we can see a clear end goal and can work out how to get there.
Stressful situations create psychological and physiological reactions in our bodies and our minds - we can use these in a positive manner, but all too often we allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by the situation and stress becomes a negative that holds us back.
An upcoming stressful event, be it work or social, can create a downward spiral of thoughts and feelings......
......and these negative emotions grow and feed on themselves, perpetuating the downward spiral......
.....they override our ability to see and feel clearly.
The solution starts to feel out of reach, the situation feels as though it is slipping out of our control, our <<vision>> blurs.
A simple visualisation technique to help to break the downward cycle.
Visualisation involves using your imagination to transport you to a calm, peaceful place in your mind, free from stress.
This helps put your mind and body in a more relaxed state and allows you to think more clearly about stressful situations.
Visualisation is relatively straightforward technique that anyone can use to reduce stress levels in both physical and psychological states.
What is visualisation?
The practice of creating and holding a detailed mental image of a peaceful setting that provokes sensations of calm and relaxation in our physiological state.
Does it work?
Visualisation and imagery techniques have been used since the time of the ancient Greeks to help bring balance to our minds and bodies. These techniques have been proven again and again to reduce physiological and psychological tensions related to stress, to enhance our well-being, and to lower anxiety.
Why a breathing technique?
Adding in some mindful breathing reinforces the effect of the visualisation technique in lowering stress levels.
Start by finding a suitable place to sit or lie down, then get into a position where your body feels relaxed and comfortable. Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Think about a place where you feel relaxed, peaceful, and happy. Picture yourself in the most relaxing environment you can imagine - something that feels peaceful to you, a garden, the beach, lying in a meadow, a forest. Keep taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Start to use your senses to really experience your environment. Sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, smell the rich dark forest earth, hear the bees buzzing around the flowers, taste the salt spray on your lips. Whatever your setting, allow all of your senses to explore it. Allow the sensation of peace to enter your body, let your mind float around the setting, spend some time appreciating it, enjoy the scene and allow your breathing to become slower and deeper still, you might notice that your heart rate slows as the feeling of relaxation grows in your body. As you take deep slow breaths, visualise the stress leaving your body in waves each time you breath out. Tell yourself that you will continue to feel calm, that you will feel relaxed, that you will feel peaceful when you open your eyes. When you are ready, count back from ten. Open your eyes and gently bring yourself out of the scene and back to the present moment.
HINTS AND TIPS - It can feel unnatural to immerse yourself in an imaginary setting, try using somewhere that you know or have visited already. - If you find it difficult to include sensory information from all five senses, start with the one you feel most comfortable with. - Visualisation techniques can be difficult initially but will become easier the more often that you do them. - If you worry that you may lose track of time, set a timer on your phone or watch.
It can be useful to reflect back on the exercise to assess which aspects helped you the most and to gauge your stress levels before and after.
On a scale of 1-10 (1 = not stressed at all, 10 = extremely stressed), how would you rate the stress you felt before this exercise? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Not stressed at all Extremely stressed On a scale of 1-10 (1 = not stressed at all, 10 = extremely stressed), how would you rate the stress you feel after completing this visualisation exercise? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Not stressed at all Extremely stressed
What details of your visualisation created the greatest feeling of calm for you?
Remember, this is a simple self-help visualisation technique to help you deal with
some aspects of a stressful situation, if however you feel that you need more help you
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