Visualization for Stress Relief

Visualization uses the power of your imagination. You mentally take yourself to a calm place when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. It’s been proven to decrease anxiety. 

For this exercise, you don’t need anything special. You can do it anywhere, at any time.

How to Practice Visualization

  • First, think of a place that makes you feel at ease.

    It could be a place you’ve been before on vacation, somewhere you go all the time, or an imaginary place that you create. It might be a backyard swing, a clearing in the woods, a beach view, or a quiet room.

  • Now, picture it in detail.

    Once you have your place in mind, close your eyes for a minute or two and try to picture it in detail. Pay attention to what you’d see, the colors, smells, and sounds as if you were there.

  • Take yourself there mentally when you need a calm moment.

    Think of that rich, detailed scene when you need to create moments of calm. This is what we mean by “visualization.”

You can use this technique to prepare for a future situation, too. Here’s how:

  • Take a moment to choose a future situation that makes you feel stressed. Maybe it’s being around other people smoking or vaping. Maybe it’s starting a conversation with your child about their vaping. Maybe it’s telling someone close to you that you’re going to try quitting. Try to choose one conversation or interaction – something with a beginning and an end.
  • Think about where you’ll be when this situation happens. Picture yourself in that location, looking around and taking in all the details. You can close your eyes for a few moments if you’d like, and just imagine that physical space.
  • Now, imagine the few minutes leading up to it. How might you be feeling in your body? Can you imagine yourself taking a few deep breaths? Close your eyes for a few moments and imagine the physical sensations you’ll be feeling at that moment.
  • Next, think about starting the interaction. Picture where you’re sitting or standing. Picture where other people are. Who speaks first? Is it you? What do you say? Try to imagine a neutral scenario if you can. This is more about getting yourself comfortable with the idea of being in that moment. You don’t need to problem solve or predict the future here.
  • Spend a few minutes visualizing. You can do this with a timer, or you can just imagine on your own time. Somewhere between 1-5 minutes should be your goal. After you’ve pictured the moments leading up to the situation and the situation itself, you’re ready to end this visualization.
  • Pay attention to your feelings. You might be feeling more prepared and confident about your future situation. Or you might be feeling more anxious. Either way is OK. Take some deep breaths or imagine the calming scene from the first part of this exercise.

What If It Doesn’t Work?

Different relaxation methods may work better for you at different times. Experiment and try out different approaches.

You can also follow along with this Mayo Clinic video for a guided meditation that you may find helpful.