by Aimee Wojtowecz
Calm down. Seriously.
We all have things that leave us on edge. Sometimes it’s an event or a person (like a visit from your mother-in-law… JK mine’s the best!). Sometimes we’re more anxious due to more significant issues, leaving us unsure of our safety and well-being, like when there’s a global pandemic. Whatever the case, anxiety is adept at derailing our lives and keeping us from accomplishing what we want and need to. A dietary analysis published in 2021 (read more here) revealed an association between higher levels of anxiety and a high-fat diet, inadequate tryptophan and dietary protein, high intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, and “unhealthy” dietary patterns.
How do you handle this kind of nervous worrying? If you’re lucky, you eventually learn how to take it in stride. For some people, their coping skills aren’t healthy, or they flounder, trying to find their way. If you’re in this latter group, consider this: visualization is a proven skill shown to reduce anxiety and create a calmer and happier you.
The benefits are immense. You can get your health back. You can get your family back. Your stress levels will lower. All of these add up to a life lived to its fullest. Who doesn’t want that?
If your anxiety is interfering with your nutrition and wellness goals let’s explore how visualization can help in just a few minutes a day.
Go Somewhere Else
Feeling especially fearful? It’s time for a trip to feel someplace safe. For some, this might be the beach. Or perhaps you’d feel more at home by a mountain lake or city café sipping coffee. Wherever you feel the safest and most at home, you want to go there now in your mind. Start by sitting back and making yourself comfortable. Close your eyes and picture yourself in your favorite place. Add in every detail you can to make this experience as real as possible. Include all your senses in the background. Breathing deeply, holding yourself in this place until you feel calm and somewhat refreshed.
Unwind with some String
Feeling all tense and coiled up inside? This usually comes when you’re holding back too many emotions. Picture yourself carrying around all these knotted emotions tangled up with words you’ve wanted to say all day but couldn’t. Make all these feelings into an imaginary ball of yarn. Now sit back and take several calming breaths as you withdraw this ball of yarn and hold it in your hand. Do you feel the weight? Good. Now drop it on the floor, holding onto the end of the string so that the ball rolls away from you, unraveling as it goes. Watch all the strands of yarn unwind, disappearing as they do. Stay in the vision until the entire ball is unwound and gone, and you’re feeling lighter and more relaxed.
Shut it Out
Our thoughts can be noisy things. We hear so many voices in our heads, reminding us of deadlines, things to do, and people to see. Add to this the negative self-talk which creeps in occasionally and the half-heard phrases we’ve carried with us, which sound suspiciously like our parents, and you’ve got a lot of chatter and no peace. For this kind of problem, visualize yourself in a room with a big open window. Set all these voices outside the window. Now, take a deep breath and shut the window firmly. This is a nice thick double-paned glass. You can no longer hear the voices when the window is closed.
With visualizations like these, you tell your mind to calm. You take back control where you need it most and set your feet back on a smoother path. Remember, you’re in charge of what goes on in your head. Don’t let anxiety set the tone for you and keep you from reaching your goals. Like with any new skill, visualization takes practice. Maybe you’ll discover you hate it, it gives you more anxiety to even try, and that’s ok too, but keep trying new coping skills until you find the one that works for you. You and your peace of mind are worth it.