Exercise helps me deal with stress by improving my mental and physical health, but it’s hard to make regular time for it. This is where my second tool comes in.
Visualisation is a concept you’re probably familiar with already. It’s the mental process of setting a goal or objective and then picturing doing it. Visualisation exercises are used with great success in fields like medicine, the military, sports, and the arts. I use visualisation in two different ways. First, to practise something in advance such as making a change or embedding a new skill like breathing under pressure. The second way I use visualisation is to enhance my capacity to commit to something important – like my goal of exercising three times a week to offset stress proactively. This kind of visualisation has two parts, and it’s so easy to do.
Here’s how it works: part one is called ‘process visualisation’. It involves visualising all the steps that will lead you to your goal. In my case, this means picturing myself putting my runners and gym gear next to my bed, setting my alarm to get up early, and reminding my husband he’s on-point with the kids in the morning. I picture my alarm going off and me getting up, thinking This is my time to exercise, and putting on my gym gear. I get my phone from the recharge box in the study, put on my playlist, plug in my earphones and walk out the door. All the steps leading to the action are plotted out in my head in realistic and achievable increments.
Part two is ‘outcome visualisation’, and it focuses on achieving the goal. For me, that means closing my eyes and tapping into the senses of achieving my goal. I see and feel myself running and watch what’s going on around me. What can I hear? What can I smell? I feel fit, more energised, and proud of myself for executing my goal. I see myself returning home and ticking the star off my goal chart in front of my kids. An essential part of outcome visualisation is celebrating the achievement of your goal. So, make sure you praise yourself and use that positive self-talk throughout your visualisation. Tell yourself you’re amazing and capable – that you made this happen.
Set aside time each day to practise visualisation ¬– in bed works for me – and it will become a powerful tool to better manage stress and its symptoms, as well as achieve goals that are important to you.