This secret superpower could help you deal with anxiety
Fuzzy fingers? Tight chest? Worrying about the same problem over and over? If these things sound familiar, then join the Worry Club.
There are countless things you can try to feel a bit better. But what if we told you one way might be by using your imagination more? Sounds good, right? Here’s how it might work for you.
According to the latest research, more and more of us are feeling worried, stressed and anxious than ever before.
Although fuzzy limbs and having trouble breathing are a few of the main signs you might be stressed or suffering from anxiety, there are many more. From feeling irritable through to having trouble sleeping.
There are lots of ways you can combat these symptoms, calm down a little or at least better deal with them so you can get on with your day, like breathing techniques, therapy or exercise. But one which some researchers and therapists swear by is visualisation.
What is visualisation?
We know, we know. Visualisation might sound a bit silly. Or unhelpful. Or spiritual. But it doesn’t have to be any of those things.
Visualisation is simply when you paint a picture of something in your mind and imagine what it’d be like. That’s it.
It sounds really easy, but the idea is that you can convince your body it’s in a different state by picturing how something might look, imagining how it might feel and even putting your senses to good use and dreaming up how a situation might sound and smell too.
How can visualisation help me?
You can use visualisation to calm yourself down, to pump yourself up and get motivated and to imagine a better outcome in a situation - and that’s just the beginning.
Let’s use an example of a horror movie versus a superhero movie.
If you’re watching a horror movie, chances are you’d feel scared. If you’re watching a superhero movie, you’d likely feel inspired and like you could kick some ass instead. That’s exactly how your brain responds too.
Many of us show our brains the mental equivalent of a horror movie, like worrying about a big test and it all going horribly wrong. But really if we showed our brains a superhero movie, like imagining doing really well in a big test and coming out of it feeling awesome, we might feel better, perform better and learn to show ourselves superhero movies more and more in future.
The thing is, this takes hard work, especially if you’re used to showing yourself a horror movie. But the more you pick the superhero movie over the horror movie, the more it’ll become second nature to you.
Visualisations you can try right now
Fed up with all this movie talk? Here are some things you can visualise to help you out next time you’re feeling stressed:
Need some self-belief before public speaking? Imagine walking out of that group presentation you need to do with your head held high and a big smile on your face.
Need some competitive edge? Imagine stepping up to the start line before your next big race feeling calm and in control.
Need help dealing with people? Imagine talking to a bully who really gets to you and you’re calm and confident.
Need to ease your stressed-out mind? Imagine being in a really calm place where you feel at ease and how your whole body feels there.
The key is to really put your imagination to good use. You need to visualise how it’d look to do all of these things, but engage your other senses too. How would it feel? How would you stand? What would you hear?
Finding what’s right for you
The important thing to remember when it comes to these strategies is they won’t work for everyone and they won’t work all of the time. This is totally fine. We’re all really different.
But it’s important to learn how to put these tips to good use so you can try them next time you need a helping hand. Think of it like an anxiety toolbox. Next time you’re in trouble you’ll know which tool to use.