Stress Reducing Techniques: Guided Imagery

At a time when stress and anxiety run high for so many, I thought it would be helpful to share my top four relaxation techniques.  These techniques are not necessarily new or original but I have put my own spin on them based on feedback I have received from clients.  In my opinion, the order you learn these in may influence their efficacy.  My strong suggestion is to begin with the Deep Breathing Technique, it is the foundation for Progressive Relaxation and the type of breathing I refer to anytime I suggest to taking a “deep breath” (see our previous post to learn the Deep Breathing Technique!)

Guided Imagery

Guided Imagery is a great relaxation technique to use when you have at least three or four minutes. It’s even better when you have more time to relax.

It’s quite simple and requires the use of your imagination. Don’t be concerned if you don’t see yourself as very creative. You’ll do fine. Think of an activity you would like to do or a place you would like to visit either, real or imagined.

Position yourself in a comfortable way and start taking some nice slow and deep breaths. When you begin to settle in physically, start your journey. Be sure to include all the sights and sounds, smells and tastes and skin temperature you would experience if you were actually engaging in the activity or trip. If we did this technique together in my office, I would start out something like this…

Imagine when you leave the office, you grab a peppermint off the table in the waiting room, pop it into your mouth, get into your car and pull out of the parking lot. The sky is nearly cloudless and beautifully blue. You notice, oddly enough, yours is the only car on the road. You keep driving, seeing the houses, trees and bright green, freshly manicured lawns along the way. As you drive, the houses become more spread out, the yards larger. You approach the countryside, wide open spaces with large clusters of tall towering trees and sprawling fields of healthy lush fields of crops carefully sown by farmers living near by.

As you continue your drive you notice the paved road has narrowed and soon becomes a dirt road. You are far from where you started. Up ahead on the right there is a forest, complete with shrubs and wildflowers of every color in the rainbow. There is a path into the forest. You park your car and follow the path on foot. As you walk, you hear the songs of many birds who sing and fly through the air. There is an owl who adds her ‘hoot, hoot” to the choir of birds. The wind in the trees causes a gentle rustling sound in the leaves as you walk. The path winds along, giving you an up close look at yellow and white flowers that are hugging the ground. There are taller flowers too, of reds, oranges and pinks ranging in height from your ankles to your knees. Purple and white lilacs are blooming, filling the air with their sweet heavenly scent. The bushes are overgrown, tall enough to create an arch through which you walk. You are sheltered from the warm sun and enjoying the coolness of the shade the arch supplies. The air is so comfortably moist and filled with scent, it is pure joy to walk! As you approach the end of the lilac-made archway you see…..

You can take it from here. Do you see a hot air balloon? A train? A horse and buggy? A woodworking shop? An artist’s studio? A vineyard? A beach? A library? A cozy chair for you to just sit and rest? Your Grandma’s kitchen? Hang gliding equipment? A football stadium? A pet shop? Enjoy your trip!

 Louella DeVries, MA, LCPC

President, Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc

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