Visualization technique to reduce stress

This may seem like a surprising shift of focus from my regular hard-core strategic management articles.  But it is a follow up to my recent article about managing workplace stress.  I thought I could share some of the techniques that have been helpful to me to reduce stress during my career.   And I think it will help you, the reader, to read something with a completely different focus!  A different perspective can lead to new insights.

The increasing demands on managers

No doubt, everyone at every level in every type of organization is facing stress.  Our pace of life seems to be constantly increasing.  And while technology was meant to help us be more efficient, it also brings with it greater expectations to always be “plugged in”.  Every time something unpleasant happens in the world, we are bombarded with it on social media.  So people are feeling more and more overwhelmed.

But managers face additional challenges.  As we are leading others, we are also in close contact with their problems.  This all piles on top of the stress we are facing with managing our own workload and pleasing our own bosses.  And in the organization I was previously with – downsizing meant that managers had to take on the workload as other positions that were eliminated!

I remember coming back to my office after a day of back to back meetings, only to find a line-up of people at my door waiting to talk to me about their issues.   Then there was the stack of memos, endless emails and messages on my phone voice mail.  It seemed no matter what I did, there was just no catching up!  And on top of that, I was commuting almost 2 hours each morning and evening.  So I really had to find ways to manage my stress!

Connecting with nature to reduce stress

I have found this one of the best methods for managing stress.  Being in nature often has immediate, positive benefits of reducing our stress level.  It connects us to our biological roots, and has a grounding effect.   Breathing in fresh air has both physical and emotional benefits (I’ll talk more about breathing techniques in a future article).

Obviously, getting out in the real world is the best approach.   In my personal time, I make sure I get out for walks and enjoying nature as much as I can.  But even during a busy work day – taking a short walk is so beneficial!  Of course, I am lucky to live in a moderate climate with some beautiful green spaces.  So I realize getting into nature isn’t always an easy option.  But there is a solution that works well.

Visualization technique for stress reduction

Yoga and meditation have been essential tools for helping me with managing stress.  So much so that I ended up taking taking Yoga Teacher training, and now do some volunteer teaching to help others learn these techniques.  Visualization can be used as a mediation technique.  But if you are not quite ready to fully commit to a meditation practice, you can still get the benefit with taking a little “mental holiday” for a few minutes whenever you need it.

If you can find a quiet spot to close the door and minimize distraction – that is best.  I have even been known to sit in my car in the parking lot just to get some space!  If you are limited for time – set a little timer on your phone.  Then you won’t have to worry about time.  Get as physically comfortable as you can.

Bring to mind a place where you feel safe and relaxed.  It could be a real place that you have been to, or based on a photo you have admired.  Perhaps it’s a beach, the mountains or a field of flowers… But try to bring the detail to mind.  What do you see?  Take in the full scene of earth and sky.  What sounds can you hear (waves on the shore, birds singing…?)  Are there any scents (flowers, ocean….)?  What do you feel?  Perhaps a warm breeze on your face, or you feet in the water.  Really bring your full awareness into the scene.

Once you have done this technique several times, you will probably find you can call you scene to mind quickly.  So anytime you are feeling stressed – you can bring it to mind.  Even a few seconds can help you start to relax physically, mentally and emotionally.

Did you find this article helpful?

As I mentioned, I have done a lot of work on finding and using techniques to reduce stress.  I would be happy to continue sharing tips in future articles.

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