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Using Guided Imagery for Stress Management


Updated August 31, 2013

Using guided imagery, you can see yourself walking down a less stressful path.

Using guided imagery, you can see yourself walking down a less stressful path.

Photo from iStockPhoto.com

Guided Imagery’s Effects on the Body:

Guided imagery has been found to provide significant stress reduction benefits, including physically relaxing the body quickly and efficiently and even helping participants get in touch with deeper levels of wisdom (held on a subconscious level) that would help them better manage their lives in ways that would reduce stress. The studies demonstrating the health benefits of imagery are so numerous that many hospitals are incorporating imagery as an option to help with treatment.

What’s Involved?:

With the help of an imagery tape, a professional helper, or just one’s imagination, those who practice guided imagery get into a deeply relaxed state and envision, with great detail relating to all of the senses, a relaxing scene. They may also imagine a wise ‘guide’ with them, answering their questions and asking them questions that they must ponder in order to get to a better place in their lives. (This ‘guide’ is a representation of their subconscious mind that they aren’t generally able to access.)

What Are the Pros?:

Imagery can provide relaxation, insight and wisdom. It is a free stress relieving therapy and, with practice, can be done just about anywhere.

What Are the Cons?:

Like self-hypnosis, it can take some practice to master autonomous guided imagery. Working with a professional therapist or even tapes to get to that point can be somewhat costly.

How Does It Compare To Other Stress Reduction Methods?:

For the benefits it provides, it’s an excellent stress management option. It can be easier than exercise or even yoga for those with physical limitations. It has no risk of side effects like some medical and herbal therapies. Using it for simple relaxation is easy and can be done by just about anyone, but accessing an internal ‘guide’ takes more practice than other methods like progressive muscle relaxation or breathing exercises. It’s similar to self-hypnosis in that you’re getting into a deep state of relaxation and dealing with your subconscious mind. However, with self-hypnosis, you’re more often implanting ideas into your subconscious mind, whereas imagery focuses more on extracting ideas from it.

Tusek, Cwynar, Cosgrove. The Journal of Cardiovascular Management. March/April 1999.

Tusek, Diane. The Journal of Invasive Cardiology. April 1999 Vol 11. Number 4.

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