Guided imagery is an effective tool for managing anxiety and panic attacks. It involves using the imagination to create calming and positive mental images. When used correctly, guided imagery can help you cope with anxious feelings and reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks.
How to perform guided imagery
Guided imagery is easy to use. You can use it wherever you are. It’s free, and you can choose the most soothing images. Here’s how to do guided imagery to relieve stress and stop a panic attack.
- Find a quiet and comfortable space where you can relax without any distractions.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
- Take a few deep breaths to help you relax and clear your mind.
- Create a safe, comfortable place in your mind. This could be an actual or imagined location—a beach, a mountain top, or even a room in your home. Take time to explore this space, using all your senses to make it as vivid and detailed as possible. Picture the colors, smells, textures, and sounds that make it a special place for you. Here is an example: If you envision a beach, imagine the sound of the waves. Recall the ocean’s smell, the sun’s warmth, or the feel of the sand between your toes.
- Let the calmness of the scene enter your body with each inhale. Take slow, deep breaths and relax each part of your body individually. Pay attention to how it feels as the tension leaves your body and your mind becomes more relaxed.
- Focus on the sensations of relaxation from being in this place.
- If you begin feeling anxious or stressed during the practice, acknowledge the feelings without judgment and redirect your attention to the calming scene.
- Focus on the peaceful and calming scene for as long as you need, allowing yourself to relax and let go of any anxiety or tension entirely.
Maximize the effectiveness of guided imagery
- Perform a guided imagery exercise.
- Imagine yourself in a situation where you would typically become anxious or experience a panic attack.
- Visualize yourself calmly and confidently responding to the problem with appropriate control.
- Imagine the anxiety and panic fading as you remain firmly in control of your emotions.
As you continue to practice guided imagery, you may want to incorporate positive affirmations into your visualization. Positive affirmations are short statements that focus on the desired outcome and reinforce self-confidence. For example, you might say, “I can handle this situation calmly and confidently,” or “I am strong and capable.” Focusing on positive thoughts can help to reduce the intensity of your anxiety and panic.
Practice guided imagery regularly, especially during high stress or anxiety, to promote a sense of calm and reduce the likelihood of panic attacks. Spend a few minutes daily visualizing yourself in various situations, and focus on feeling relaxed, confident, and in control. Over time, you’ll start to notice that it becomes easier to stay calm during stressful moments.
Tools to aid guided imagery
Guided imagery scripts and recordings are available online or from a mental health professional that can guide you through the practice. These scripts may include specific visualizations, such as imagining a white light washing over your body and removing tension or negative thoughts.
Guided imagery works best when combined with other anxiety-busting treatments
Employ guided imagery independently or as part of a more extensive relaxation or mindfulness practice for greater effectiveness. These may include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and mindfulness meditation.
- Deep breathing exercises involve taking slow, deep breaths to promote relaxation and reduce stress. Various techniques are effective.
- Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and releasing different muscle groups to promote peace and reduce tension.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy involves identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and developing new, more positive ways of thinking.
- Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment and observing thoughts and sensations without judgment. Meditation is powerful in reducing anxiety and promoting a sense of calm.
Use guided imagery to free yourself from anxiety and panic
Guided imagery is a helpful tool for managing anxiety and panic attacks. Using your imagination to create calming and positive images can promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. Use guided imagery independently or as part of a more extensive relaxation or mindfulness practice. It is a precious tool for managing anxiety and panic attacks.