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How can I use visualization to relieve stress?

Everyone can benefit from using the techniques of visualization and guided imagery to bring the mind and body into better balance.

Using your imagination, you can visualize a place where you feel relaxed, such as the beach or other natural area. It's a bit like daydreaming, but sustaining that visualization long enough to work through your stresses can be challenging. That is why the use of guided imagery can be so successful for those coping with stressful and difficult times.

With guided imagery, you hear directions spoken by someone on a recorded CD, audiotape, or coaching you in person. The words guide you through an imaginary story, helping your mind to become more peaceful, calm and relaxed.

Research shows that hospital patients using guided imagery are more relaxed, need less pain medication and return home from the hospital sooner. Guided imagery also helps lower anxiety, stress and blood pressure, reduces the severity of headaches and even strengthens immune functioning.

You can do visualization or guided imagery (with a CD or online coaching) on your own. To begin:
  • Go to a room where you will not be interrupted for 20 minutes.
  • Close your eyes.
  • To relax, take several deep abdominal breaths.
  • Focus on your breathing as you relax.
  • The guided imagery CD or tape will direct your imagination.
  • If you choose to visualize on your own, think of a restful place you have enjoyed or would like to visit. Picture it in your mind. Imagine how you would experience it through each of your senses. Hold that visualization for several minutes.
  • At the end of the session, take a minute or two to return slowly to a less stressed-out reality. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.