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Visualizations to use with Healing

I have used healing visualization many times when recuperating from surgeries and illness.

After a back fusion, I used the recovery time in the hospital to visualize healing and reduce pain levels.  Its amazing how powerful such images can be.  The visualization reduced pain levels so I did not need all the pain medication available to me and the relaxation and visualization increased and maximized my healing. 

Healing Visualizations

Here are some visualization images you can use to deepen relaxation, reduce pain levels and induce healing. Allow your mind to create the images that are right for you. Any relaxation and visualization exercises are better when you have time and a quiet place to do them. 

Find a quiet spot where you can sit comfortably or lie down and will not be interrupted. Go through the relaxation exercise that relaxes all the parts of your body.  These are never done while driving.

Healing Pool of Water 

To deepen that relaxation, visualize yourself going down a flight of stairs. Count in your mind from 1 – 10 as you take each step down into a deeper relaxed state.

When you have reached the bottom, imagine you are standing beside a beautiful healing pool. Place yourself in it. Feel its relaxing water healing every cell in your body. Imagine a bright light shining on you that intensifies the healing.

Stay there as long as you want before returning up the stairs to your relaxed spot. Slowly open your eyes. Be sure to give yourself time to allow energy to flow back into your muscles before resuming activities. 

Healing Mist

After relaxing your body, lie still and imagine that with every breath you take in, you are breathing in a healing mist. This healing mist flows throughout your body, touching every nerve cell, calming and healing and releasing it from pain.

My “Pac Men”

This a visualization I used after back surgery. As I recovered in the hospital, many times during the day I closed my eyes and focused on breathing in a healing mist that went immediately to the surgery site.  As it touched nerve endings reducing inflamation and pain, I created images of the blood cells working away, healing and mending the bones.  They took on the image of little “Pac Men”.  My mind drew that image from old Pac Men computer games. 

Closing the Gate

Pain is experienced in the brain. The gate-control theory of pain tells us that our sensory pain signals travel to the nerves in our spinal chord then up the spine to our brain.

One way of reducing pain levels is visualizing little gates along our spinal chord that we can open and close. 

Pain is important as it tells us when something is wrong that we need to pay attention to. But when we are dealing with ongoing chronic pain, we can reduce some of that intensity by relaxing and visualizing ourselves closing those gates from time to time.  

Throwing the Switch

Another similar image is imagining a switch, like a large light switch, at the base of the brain. When you push the switch to the off position, you stop the pain messages. 

Again pain messages are important.  They tell us something is wrong and we need to pay attention.  But when we continue to experience chronic pain after the problem has been attended to, these visualizations can relieve pain signals. 

These visualizations have been created by people in the healing profession that I have used in my own life over the years.  They are examples of how we can create our own visualizations using images that put us in charge of our health, our healing and our pain.  

The concept is the same: choose the images and thoughts that induce healing versus creating tension. Our first response to pain is to tighten up.  Relaxation and visualization allows the blood to flow so our bodies can heal.  It already knows how to heal.  We are just creating an environment that maximizes that healing.

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

Mini Relaxation Exercises

Here are some additional ways to reduce stress on an ongoing basis throughout the day. They are quick and easy and once you start doing them, they become habits that continue to make life easier and more pleasant. 

Mini-Relaxation Exercises

1. Develop the habit of becoming aware of your breathing throughout the day. If it is fast and rapid, it is probably shallow and  increasing your stress levels.  Immediately, take a few deep, slow breaths and as you breathe out, say to yourself: “Let Go” and create an image of all the tension draining away.

2. Use mini visualizations like the one posted last week – standing under a beautiful waterfall.  Create others that bring you an immediate calming and relaxing response. Bring to your mind a peaceful walk through the woods or anything that will trigger deep peace and relaxation. I like to reflect on the promises God gives us throughout scripture.  It creates an immediate image of love and peace.    

3. Become a kid again! Imagine yourself rolling down a grassy hillside or covering yourself with leaves or running through mud puddles. We can release the kid inside us through our imagination. Even though we aren’t doing it physically, we are reaping the benefits mentally.

4. Throughout the day, focus your mind on what you do like rather than what you don’t like.  You can bring positive thoughts into any situation.  

5. Laugh.  Reframe your situation into something funny.  Even the most disasterous event can have its humorous or comical side.  We love to listen to  comedians because they take our tragedies and turn them into humor. 

6. Whenever you feel tension, anger, anxiety or stress, do the following: stop, take some deep slow breaths and then ask yourself:

Why am I feeling this way? Am I simply reacting to someone or something I have no control over? Is there any reason I need to remain in this anger mode? If I do, will it make me feel any better or solve the problem I am facing? Is it worth feeling upset over?

Instead of hanging on to anger, anxiety, fear and stress, let these emotions tell you what needs to be done, what you can do and what you can’t.  Then look for solutions instead of hanging onto resentment, anger, frustration, worry, etc.  

Throughout your day, whenever you feel tension and stress, take some slow, deep breathes, take a quick internal inventory and breathe into the tension spots.  Imagine your tension and stress are a bundle of rocks and you have just sent them rolling down the hillside. If you see your muscles tied in knots, imagine you are untying the knots and you see the muscles relaxing. Allow your mind to create the visualization that works for you.   

©Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

 

Use Relaxation Strategies Anytime – Anywhere

Once you are able to relax and let go of unnecessary tension by using a relaxation exercise once a day, you can start using that relaxation response wherever you are.  

The body quickly responds to breathing evenly, slowly, and deeply. When you add such phrases as “letting go”, your body will let go of tension and become more relaxed anywhere, anytime.  

Here are some ways to use the relaxation response at any time:

Healing Waterfall

This is a quick visualization I have used many times when I have been on the run and I want to maximize those minutes when I am waiting in line, in the elevator, in the doctor’s office, etc.

Since I have already taught the mind to respond to both images and accompanying words, I can use this process to quickly reduce stress levels. Instead of thinking about how slow the line is moving or what I need to be doing, I simply use that time instead to relax. 

If you can, close your eyes for a moment. If not, you can still visualize.

Focus on breathing calmly, evenly and deeply.  Imagine yourself standing underneath a beautiful, warm, gently cascading waterfall. Actually feel the gentle stream of water wash over you and as it does, visualize your tension flowing away as well. Let go of your stress and allow yourself to relax in this quick moment of relaxation.

Driving

Nothing can create tension faster than to be late for an appointment and the traffic reduces your progress to a crawl. Your thoughts increase the tension in your body and you feel angry, anxious, frustrated, pressured, helpless, aggressive, etc.

Use your mind to bring you calm instead of adding more stress. You  are stuck in traffic. You will not arrive at your destination any faster by feeling angry and getting more and more tense. So change your thoughts.

Instead of creating additional stress, go with the flow of events that you have no control over. Use this time to monitor your thoughts and attitudes. Reframe your situation. 

Our thoughts can create stress or it can reduce stress.  We choose.

I can’t make the traffic go any faster by thinking about why it should, must or has to. But you can tell yourself, since I have to go slow, I will just use this time to think about pleasant things.  Recall some of the pleasant memories you have used in your relaxation/visualization exercises. Think about how much you love your family. 

Traffic slow downs often make other drivers become aggressive and we react to their aggressiveness with our own.  “You can’t cut me off like that”  or “You jerk, you didn’t need to cut in front of me”.  You have a choice to either allow yourself to react to what others are doing or to tell yourself it isn’t worth it to allow myself to get frustrated and angry over something so trivial. 

We may get angry for a moment, but we choose whether to hang on to that anger or not.  

Stay in the moment rather than fretting about the future or what you should or ought to be doing. You can either be reactive or proactive.  It is your choice at all times.

©2012 Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

Added Benefit of Visualization

Deep relaxation of the body and mind may feel  threatening if you are a person who has always been in tight control of everything. But when you allow yourself to become deeply relaxed you are able to let go of the need to be controlling and instead are able to take charge of your life. You will be  able to consider options and make better choices.     

Visualization can enhance any  relaxation exercise. It is especially effective when used in any healing process such as   recovery from surgeries, illnesses or simply using visualization to see yourself building a strong immune system. Relaxation and visualization can help manage and reduce pain levels. 

Our mind responds to images as well as words

Close your eyes for a second and imagine you are cutting in half a plump, juicy lemon. Pick up a piece and put it into your mouth. Suck on that lemon for awhile.

If you are like me, the image of sucking on a lemon is enough to make your mouth pucker and you can almost taste the intense sour flavor. There is an immediate response to the image you hold in your mind. 

Remember a time when you were relaxed and enjoying a special event.  You will find that your body responds to what you experienced before.  

Think of visualization as using positive images you want to hold in your mind that will increase your ability to deeply relax.  As your body relaxes it is able to heal and restore itself.  Visualization is a quick and easy way to enhance that relaxation and healing process.

Creating a safe, special place 

If you have lived your life remaining hyper alert to everything around you that might cause you harm, the process of relaxation can be challenging and even intimidating. Relaxing in the real world for you means putting yourself in potential harm’s way. Safety for you is maintaining a rigid hyper alert state.

Remember, you are simply relaxing in your space.  Think of visulazation as creating a safe place in your mind where nobody can enter or intrude unless you give them permission. 

Using the relaxation model given in previous blogs, while relaxed   create an image of a comfortable and safe place in your mind. Imagine youself in this safe, peaceful and restful  place.  

Or bring a past memory to your mind when you were in the woods, or sitting next to a pond or stream. Perhaps it is enjoying the beauty of wildflowers or gardens. Perhaps it is at the beach where you can lie down and feel the warm sand and smell the salty ocean spray. Perhaps it is a church where you go in and draw comfort from the spiritual connection to God. Create peaceful and relaxing scenes. Feel the temperature and smell the aromas.

Visualization is a way to bring back the experience of doing nothing and relaxing in that nothing. You are just being.     

When you have attained a level of deep relaxation, tell yourself you are ready to resume your duties. Gradually allow yourself to return to the moment, open your eyes, and stretch your muscles to get the blood flowing before getting up.

Fifteen minutes of deep relaxation can be more restful than a night’s sleep.

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

Relax quickly

Teach yourself to relax quickly with a few simple words

Teaching Yourself to Relax

You can quickly relax your mind and body anytime, anywhere by putting in place a relaxation response habit.

Getting Started

Find a quiet, comfortable place where you feel safe and you won’t be disturbed. Tell people you don’t want to be disturbed, put out a DO NOT DISTURB sign, shut off your cell phone.

Get comfortable in a chair that supports your back, neck and arms, sitting in an upright position with both feet on the floor and arms at your side and hands in your lap. Cover yourself with a blanket, loosen belts, etc.

This exercise can be done sitting up or lying down. When you lie down, however, as you relax you might fall asleep. Falling asleep might be what you need, but to get the most benefit from this exercise it is helpful to remain awake. A recliner works nicely.

Breathing that is Relaxing

Close your eyes and begin breathing slowly and evenly. Begin by just focusing on your breathing. Most of us take little short breaths and never fill our lungs. This shallow breathing does not relax us.  Breathe deeply, filling your lungs with air. Notice your stomach area expand as the lungs fill with air. Practice breathing deeply like this until it feels comfortable.  Breathe in slowly through the nose, hold for just a second and then slowly let it out.   

As you sit with your eyes closed, breathing in and out, notice how much calmer and relaxed you begin to feel simply by breathing effectively. Practice this for awhile until your breathing becomes even more relaxing.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

The next phase of this exercise is to progressively relax the different parts of your body. I like to start from the head and work my way down.

Tighten the muscles around the eyes and forehead. Feel the tension. Then take a deep calming breath and as you let the air out, relax all the muscles that you have tensed. Next tense the jaw and cheek muscles, take a breath and then release both tension and air.

Continue relaxing the different muscle groups, continuing with your neck, shoulders, back, arms and fingers, stomach area, hips, legs and feet. Follow the same sequence of “tense, breathe and relax”.

Now choose one of the following phrases to say to your self as you follow this sequence. As you breathe out say, Letting go” or “I am relaxing more and more” or “I am relaxing deeper and deeper” or “All my tension is melting away”. Alternate them as you systematically relax your body.

By pairing the tensing of muscles and relaxing breathing along with words that tell your brain you are letting go of tension and stress, you are associating the words or phrases with the actions of the relaxation process.

After you have relaxed your entire body, take a moment and focus inward, relaxing your internal organs as well.

Enjoy this relaxed state for a few minutes. Then open your eyes.  But before you resume your activities, take a moment to allow your body to energize again before getting up. Stretch your arms and move in your chair.

When you have done this exercise every day for a few weeks you will be able to relax the tension in your body anytime anywhere by simply taking some slow even breaths, focus on the areas of the body where the tension is and telling yourself “letting go”. When I do this, I can immediately feel the tension drain away. Using my teaching Relaxation CD allows you to just listen and follow. 

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

Only 15 Minutes A Day

Fifteen Minutes can do wonders

We can learn to quickly relax our bodies and reduce tension or high levels of stress by practicing a simple  relaxation exercise once a day. 

Learning how to systematically reduce the tension throughout your body can quickly lower your stress levels.  Taking the time to learn how to do this can have enormous health benefits. 

You might think that adding one more “must do” item to your “To Do” list will only add more stress to your life, but the long term benefits are worth the small amount of time it takes to put this habit in place.  

Once a Day is All it Takes 

Once a day find a quiet time and space away from family or work.  During that time, close your eyes, tense the different muscle groups, breathe and then release the tension as you expell your air. As you systematically relax all the different parts of your body, tell yourself you are letting go of all the stress that is stored there. Pairing relaxing phrases with the breathing and relaxing teaches your brain to associate it with calming breathing, relaxing, and letting go of tension.  

It is difficult to learn how to relax on our own, as we often try to “make” ourselves relax instead of “allowing” the body to relax. It is really helpful to use a relaxation CD that helps put the process in place. 

An emmy-award winning composer friend and I collaborated to produce the Relaxation CD available on my website.  The music is composed specifically to match the simple script that teaches you how to become aware of where you hold the tension in your body and how to quickly let go of that tension. 

The script is based on relaxation techniques taught by a physician years ago working with bio-feedback. In the CD, you tense different muscle groups, breathe into that tension, and then slowly release both the air and tension. You learn to allow intruding thoughts to simply pass as you re-focus on relaxing.  

The CD is both relaxing and instructive. We hold tension in different parts of our body. In the process of going through this exercise, you will discover where you hold your stress and tension and how to let go of it quickly. 

When you add to the sequencing of tensing, breathing and release, words such as “letting go, relaxing deeper and deeper” you are increasing your ability at a later time to quickly release the tension in your targeted area. 

Our brain responds to words. Without realizing it, we are constantly streaming some kind of stress loaded statements in our mind all day. Purposefully choosing different words that associate slow, deep breathing with instructions to let go of tension, helps return the body to a restful state.

It takes about 30 days to put a new habit in place. If you listened and followed the CD every day, you will put in place stress release responses that you can use anytime anywhere.

In Thursday’s blog, I will give you the basic information needed to put in place your own relaxation exercise. 

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC 

Focus On What you can do

What do you say to yourself?

When we are under pressure to complete a job within a time frame, our thoughts can add to that stress.

  • I’ll never finish in time
  • If I don’t do a good job, I might lose my job
  • I wish I could work as fast as Susie
  • If I don’t get this done soon, they will take their work somewhere else.

When these and other automatic thoughts stream through our mind they have an immediate response. When these automatic thoughts are negative statements about ourselves and our abilities, we are telling ourselves we are incompetent and our doubts add another layer to the stress of pressure we are experiencing. 

We can maximize our energy and work by replacing negative thoughts with positive affirmations:

  • I am relaxed, capable and confident.
  • As I relax I am thinking clearly and creatively
  • I handle whatever challenge is placed before me
  • There are answers to every problem
  • I ask for and receive help from God and others
  • I can do this
  • Every time I stop, breathe deeply and slowly, I am letting go of my tension
  • I am focusing on my job and maximizing my abilities
  • I enjoy what I do and I am happy doing it
  • I find something pleasant in everything I do 

 

These affirmations not only reduce stress, but become a self directive enabling us to work at our optimum and maximize our energy and abilities.

One Minute Tension Breaks

We live in a world that is going faster and faster. We are expected to do more and more while maintaining or improving the quality of our work. Competition is fierce. Stress turns to distress and can become the norm.

But when our stress energy becomes distress, it takes a toll. Taking 1 minute tension breaks throughout your day, becoming aware of what you are saying to yourself, turning any negative thinking into positive affirmations, is so easy and effective you will wonder why you didn’t do it earlier.

The body is amazing and it will continue to tense and adjust until our muscles are literally tied up in knots. When you purposefully relax it, you will be able to accomplish so much more.

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

Quick Relaxation Techniques

An adrenaline rush can help you perform superhuman feats in emergencies, but when that adrenaline rush keeps you in high stress and tension over a long period of time it reduces your work productivity and ability to perform at your best. By taking some time outs, you can  maintain  a high level of intensity without the added stress of panic adrenaline.

Here are some quick Stress Reduction Techniques you can use 

When under pressure to complete a project, we typically throw ourselves into the work nonstop until completed.  But without purposeful breaks, the additional tension soon compromises our work.

Taking mini time outs might seem conunterproductive when you are on a deadline, but those breaks can actually maximize  your performance and minimize the time to complete the job. 

Five Minute Walk Away

Get up and walk away from your work. Physically remove yourself from your work area and find a quiet spot by yourself.  

Stand with arms at your side. Take a deep slow breath, and slowly raise your arms, stretching them high over your head.  Hold them there for a minute and then slowly expell your air and gradually bring your arms down to your side.  While doing this exercise, focus your mind on relaxing your whole body.   Repeat several times.  

Before returning to work, take an additional minute to walk around, stretching muscles and focusing on anything other than work.

Ten Minute Time Out   

If your project takes a longer period of time to complete, schedule longer breaks throughout the day.  Even when you think you absolutely have no time, do it anyway.  Set your watch.  Going for a walk outdoors is helpful because it enables you to relax your mind as well.

Walk someplace away from trafficked areas and someplace where it is pleasant. Walk slowly and enjoy the sights and sounds around you. Focus on relaxed breathing, the temperature of the air, flowers, and all the intense colors, shapes, textures, forms. Breathe slowly into all of this as you absorb the beauty of nature. 

Another quick time out using visualization

Find a place where you can sit down and relax. Close your eyes and focus on breathing from the diaphragm.  Tension promotes shallow breathing from the chest cavity which adds stress.  Take slow even breathes in through the mouth, hold it a second and then slowly release through the nose.

If thoughts about what you should be doing intrude, simply refocus on your breathing instead of trying to stop the thoughts.

As your body relaxes, repeat to yourself, “I am letting go. I do not need this tension and stress.” Imagine your tension melting away. Relax into this wonderful sensation of stress melting away and muscles relaxing.  Savor the feeling of relaxation.  

When you are ready to return to work, open your eyes and give yourself a moment for the blood to start flowing and your energy levels to return before getting up and moving around. 

You can use this exercise anytime.  Practice doing this exercise when you are not stressed.  You will find it becomes easier and easier to shed tension and relax your mind and body the more you use it.

In Thursday’s blog, I will share some additional information on how to relax and reduce stress and tension. 

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC