Visualizations: A Tool for Caregivers

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Years ago, during a counselling session, I was asked to imagine myself in a place that I felt completely at ease and safe. I pictured myself floating on Kalamalka Lake in the Okanagon, on a hot summer’s day near a beach that was steps away from my dad’s old home. Just thinking about it, I can feel the water on my skin, the hot sun on my face, and I can hear the wind rustling the branches of the willow tree that shaded the shoreline. Returning to this place in my mind is one of the tools I often use when I’m feeling anxious or stressed. I have other visualizations that are useful in different situations, too. When I feel nervous about speaking up about something that I don’t feel is right, I visualize a team of my most supportive friends and family standing behind me. If I’m feeling really stuck in a situation, I picture someone that has been through something similar, and I try to embody their strength, or humour, or candour.

Being able to use visualizations can be helpful on your caregiving journey, when there’s often so much uncertainty, grief, and stress. Visualizations can help caregivers to temporarily escape stress by imagining a more peaceful environment, or they can help you to picture a different way to get through a challenging situation.

Maybe you need to speak with a doctor about a concern you have, but you’re terrified to bring up the topic for fear of the response. You’re feeling scared and anxious. Those feelings are valid, and should not be pushed aside or dismissed, but if they’re stopping you from speaking with your doctor and getting the answers you need, you might need another way to handle the tough feelings that are coming up for you. Think of a time when you were scared and anxious about doing something, but you found some courage, and did it anyways. Now, take that energy and approach your doctor. If you can’t think of  an example, visualize someone that you know to be calm and resilient, and imagine yourself acting the same way.

There are numerous ways to use visualizations. If you’d like to learn more about how you can use them in your caregiving role, take a look at these resources:

Visualization and Guided Imagery Techniques for Stress Reduction

Take a Break: 3 Minute Visualization

Visualization Of Joy

Creating A Container for Grief  (scroll to the end for a visualization that helps work through grief) 

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Take a Break: 3 Minute Visualization

You might be juggling a few responsibilities in your life- working outside the home, caring for a spouse or parent, and managing a household full of people. Amidst the demands of your everyday life, it is a wonderful thing to pause and find a moment of connection. A simple three minutes of slowing down is all you need. This is a time set aside for visualizing what you would like MORE OF in your life, and can provide some much-deserved nourishment for your mind and body.
Visualizing is about noticing and appreciating the great things that are already in your life, as well as inviting positive experiences to come your way. Uplifting mental images give your brain a break from stress, and can significantly recharge your energy.

It’s not about avoiding a thought, it’s about finding another thought.
-Abraham Hicks

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I suggest trying these steps:

1. Get in a comfortable chair. Close your eyes and allow your body to relax against the chair. Feel how you are supported in this simple act of sitting.

2.Visualize 1 activity that you enjoy doing with a friend or family member. Picture the colours and sounds you experience. Notice your own facial expression as you participate in this enjoyable moment.

3.Imagine that you are sitting alone with a cup of tea or coffee alone. What does the mug look like? How does the drink feel as you sip? Pay attention to feelings of relaxation. Let these peaceful feelings radiate through your body.

Here is a resource for accessible visualizing exercises: http://www.self-help-and-self-development.com/visualization-exercises.html

It can be helpful to write down your feelings and thoughts after the exercise, as an inspiration to make it a part of your daily routine.

Remember to enjoy it! Don’t think too hard … Allow the images to find you.

-Karyn