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Manage stress naturally with visualizations

On Oprah a few days ago, Dr. Oz asserted that Americans would be significantly healthier if they could just find effective ways to manage stress without drugs.

I’ve been thinking about this statement recently as I find myself pulling out an old visualization stress-relief technique to calm those feelings of being overwhelmed with life. It helps me to remind myself that there are times when I can’t be everything to everyone, and sometimes I just have to let some things go for the moment until I get back to a space where I can manage them again. (You may have noticed an ebb in my posting schedule lately? Too much on my plate right now.)

Visualization is a form of self-hypnosis where you will yourself to change your mental and/or physical state. When I practiced Hypnobirthing as my birth method, I leaned heavily on visualization and guided imagery to keep me in a zen-like state during labor. In regular life, I use a different visualization to calm myself when it feels like my life is slipping into chaos.

Here is my calming visualization. It works best when paired with belly breathing (as in yoga), but can be pulled out anytime its needed by just remembering to be the leaf:

I picture a perfect green leaf, like one off a maple tree, floating on top of water in a gently moving stream. I am the leaf, I tell myself.

The leaf floats effortlessly by on the current without struggling against it. It swirls briefly in the eddies along the edges, but continues on its way downstream. Rocks poke out of the water signaling rapids ahead… does the leaf struggle? No, the leaf continues trusting that the water knows the path of least resistance through the deepest channels. The leaf veers near the rocks, right alongside them in fact, maybe even bumps them, until the leaf relaxes and allows the water to choose the safest course. I am the leaf.

The sunlight dapples through the trees overhead, the water laughs and gurgles, and the leaf clears the rapids and floats easily into calm and safe water. The path ahead is clear and obstacle-free.

I am the leaf. I am the leaf. I am the leaf.

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