If there’s one thing you’ve probably learned from your own experience with PTSD, it’s that your brain is pretty good at imagining (that you’re in danger).
Well – today we’re going to take your brain’s ability to imagine, and use it to help you relax rather than to rev you up.
This exercise is a type of guided imagery.
First, a word about skills: they do not develop overnight. Tying your shoelaces is a skill; you can do it today because, as a little kid with clumsy fingers, you practiced.
This is no different – getting good at it will take practice. So, if your mind wanders the first time you try it, keep trying. You will get better at it with practice.
You can imagine any kind of restful place. We’re going to use a walk in the woods, because juicy delicious pictures of the woods are what the photographer is serving today.
If the woods are not a relaxing image for you, you can imagine a different place that you find restful.
First, find a quiet place where you can sit for at least 20 minutes without being interrupted.
Imagine that you’re standing at the foot of a trail, going for a walk in the woods:
Guided imagery is about imagining the space as vividly as you can — everything you can see, hear, smell, and feel.
If the first thing that jumps out at you is the trail marker – you’re not failing! You’re on the green trail; what else do you see? What can you imagine feeling, hearing, smelling if you put yourself in that place?
Feel how rocky that trail feels under your feet.
Look at how peaceful those trees look. Smell those pine trees…
Are wild blueberries in season? Can you find some on these bushes?
Listen to the sounds of that stream. Touch it – think of how cold it would feel on your fingers.
Can you hear birds chirping in the background?
Take, a big, deep breath of that clean air. Fill your lungs with it.
Feel the warm sunshine on your face.
Take your time to slowly explore these pictures, to imagine, as vividly as you can, being in that place. Include sights, sounds, smells, and your sense of touch.
Don’t worry if you sometimes zone out or lose track of where you are – that happens, and it’s all good.
You may also find that your arms or legs feel stiff or heavy; you might have small, involuntary muscle movements. You might cough or yawn. Don’t sweat it – that happens too.
When you’re ready, slowly bring yourself back into the present.
I’d love to have you share your thoughts, comments, and questions. If you do post a comment, please don’t give specific details of your trauma – these may be triggering to another reader. If you’d like to offer criticism, I’ll take it – I know I’m not perfect, and I’m always willing to learn. If you do offer criticism though, I’d really appreciate it if you could do so constructively (ie., no name-calling, please). Thanks…
~ Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych.
*Fine print: Please feel free to share the link to this blog wherever you think it might be helpful! Reading this blog is a good start, but it’s no substitute for professional help. It takes a different kind of courage to admit to yourself that you’re struggling. PTSD is not a sign of failure – it’s a sign that you’ve been through a lot, and have tried to stay strong for too long. If you need help – you’re in some pretty great company. Reach out, and give yourself a chance to feel better.
**Really fine print: The content of Coming Back Home is copyrighted; please feel welcome to share the link, but do not copy and paste content. Unless otherwise noted, all original photography on Coming Back Home is the copyrighted property of Larry M. Jaipaul; please do not copy images without permission.