Our vivid imaginations often have the power to alleviate or exacerbate stressful situations. On the one hand, we can come up with a lot of different solutions for the same problems; yet on the other, we also can create all manner of roadblocks for ourselves almost out of thin air.
The human mind is an incredible tool with the ability to envision all kinds of scenarios, and it is this capacity that can be your best ally or worst enemy as you’re trying to combat stress. After all, stress that’s caused by warranted things such as an emergency or an unexpectedly hard day at the office is troublesome enough, so why would we want to invent stress?
We’re going to discuss a few ways to turn our mind from an enemy into our friend. We’ve discussed the S.T.O.P. method in another article, and this technique builds on that tool. Once we’re in the habit of calling out our bad thoughts and pushing them out of the way, it’s time to put good thoughts and positive visualizations in their place. The mind will fill up emptiness with more thoughts, so why not use these techniques to make sure they’re thoughts that help, not hinder?
Visual Aid #1 – See the Goal
Remember that we’re not taking all these steps just to make our life more complicated or make ourselves feel bad! We each have a goal to reach, and these steps are part of the trip to that goal. So visualize yourself succeeding, and see yourself how you want to be. Imagine how good it will be to wake up not worrying about the rest of the day, and how great it will feel to go to bed knowing you have a handle on your problems.
As we know, stress has a major effect on our bodies. Too much of it can make us tense up, leading to bad posture and muscle aches or cramps. Imagine a good night’s sleep without those aches and pains, or without the headache that comes from worrying about a problem for hours and hours. See the goal, and keep it in mind.
Visual Aid #2 – See the Steps
There’s a trick that some runners use to keep themselves on track during a long course. Sometimes the goal does feel very far away, and it can be hard to see yourself getting from ‘here’ to ‘there’ at any one moment. Runners deal with this by picking out a landmark or feature a few minutes ahead of them, and choosing to reach it for the time being. The long journey then becomes a series of smaller stints that the runner can manage, and before long the finish line is in sight.
This is a powerful technique that works for visualizing efforts too. While you’re considering the goal, it might occur to you that all those nice results are a bit far away. Don’t panic, and instead start visualizing the steps toward that goal. Consider the important ones you’ve already made, and look to the next one. This will give you insights about how easy the course really is, and give you the courage to make each small step that will build up to those strong habits, a day or a week at a time.
Visual Aid #3 – See Your Friends and Family
A big part of why we don’t want to be stressed out is the effect it has on our friends and family. We miss out on fun activities because of stress headaches, we snap at someone when maybe we shouldn’t, or we are so distracted and irritated that we simply forget how much fun our loved ones can be.
As your next visual technique, spend a little time each day thinking about how your newfound outlook will help your family. Imagine being able to say ‘yes’ to more enjoyement because stress headaches are a thing of the past. Visualize how you want your evenings with your loved ones to be, instead of how they often end up because of stress. Remember that a small, conscious bit of time devoted to each step, each day will build up your habit into a rock-solid lifestyle.
Visual Aid #4 – See It Can Be Done
Some of us aren’t naturally visual people, or so we say. We’ve tried and tried to visualize things, but it just doesn’t work. However, don’t you find it easy to visualize how easily things can go wrong? Or even if it is true that you can’t really see, is it genuinely because it’s something you can’t do, or is it just something you can’t do–yet?
Any habit is hard to get into at first. Remember that it can take about sixty days for a habit to cement in your life sometimes. Try it, even if it seems to come hard. If you can’t visualize it in your mind, draw something on a fresh page of your stress log, even if it’s just a small smiley face with a note about something you found positive today. These little steps will add up, and will become much more natural as the days and weeks go on.
A Last Note
Sometimes, our visual mind doesn’t work on its own, but responds well to other people