Like many of us right now, I am feeling a little “cabin fever” during these times of social distancing, Looking at these same walls, the same few people, and friends only by electronic means.
When I go outside to get some fresh air I Imagine spring time with leaves on the trees, flowers in my garden and kids out on their bikes and playing basketball together on the street.
It makes me feel better for a short while.
I am relying on my memories of past spring times and also my imagination of how I want to envision this time of year. That sounds quite nice doesn’t it?
My imagination also has a dark side though and can get the better of me … I am sure you can relate to this as well.
When I have to go out to the stores, I imagine germs and potential illness. I feel my heart rate increase and I am scared of my surroundings. We know from our public health warnings that there is a real risk, and I can’t help but think of the worst possible scenario. My imagination runs wild and I imagine horrible outcomes.
I think I need to use my positive imagination images, to offset my negatives ones. A therapist friend of mine at Homewood teaches a relaxation imagination exercise to try to relieve some anxieties. This technique is often suggested to help people break out of “negative loop thinking” where thoughts go from bad to worse and depression, anxiety and panic set in. The idea is to help people focus on positive and soothing thoughts and outcomes to regain a sense of calm and wellbeing.
Try this. Think of a time and place in your life when you have felt relaxed and comfortable. Remember the location and how it smelled, how if felt. Can you recall sounds from this calm, pleasant time? What did you see? Were you alone or with others?
If you can recall this positive situation using all your senses, it helps to make the images seem more real. Try holding on to these positive and relaxing images for at least 12 seconds. My friend says that if you can stay with the positives for at least this amount of time you may be able to feel a sense of calm and wellbeing starting.
Conversely, negative thoughts and images can create feelings of anxiety and stress almost immediately!
It is so easy these days to find the negatives. But try, intentionally, to seek out positive thoughts. Try this little exercise I have just shared with you and hold on to the positive images. It is a form of positive meditation.
Maybe you will find a safe and positive place that will help you in this situation – and in the future.
*Paula Frappier is an occupational therapist and community education coordinator for Homewood Health Centre and CMHA. The “Open Mind” column is sponsored by community partners who are committed to raising awareness about mental health, reducing stigma and providing information about resources that can help. For local mental health resources/information, visit www.mdsgg.ca or call 1-844-HERE247.