Turn Off and Tune In: Using Visualization to Turn Off Worry and Tune in to Relaxation

As the systematic creation within the mind of highly defined images of scenes that one associates with peacefulness and tranquility, visualization has been known to induce a state of calm that can help combat stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, ease muscle tension, and lessen pain.  Both visualization and guided imagery, which typically relies on another’s voice as a means to help the listener visualize what’s being described, provide slow, gentle cues that help us tune into the sights, sounds, and feelings of a specific place-so much so that we feel as if we are actually there.  So, the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, or worry, why not give visualization a try!

The Whys of Worry

Given the myriad challenges and changes to our lives during the Covid pandemic, we’ve been immediately thrust into a new mode of living that most of us have never experienced before.  Between being isolated from friends and family, having to share workspace at home with our significant others, adapting on the fly to using zoom for everything from schooling to work meetings to social meet-ups, concerns about keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe, and the sorrows from all that we’ve lost during this past year, it’s no wonder that we may be feeling uneasy about what life might throw at us next.  That uneasiness, coupled with feelings of powerlessness over our lives, can be a driving force behind heightened anxiety, since we might be worrying a lot more than usual about what lies ahead for us.  Also known as rumination, excessive worrying is when we think so much about what’s troubling us that we can find it hard to think of anything else.  Because visualization redirects our attention to a place that looks and feels quiet and peaceful, it helps our brain turn off the rumination chatter that we hear in our heads.  The result? A release from pent-up anxiety, the easing of muscle tension and lowering of blood pressure, and an increase in our overall sense of well-being.

Beginning a Visualization Practice

  • Set the Stage for Success-before you get started, take some steps to be sure you’ll be comfortable and won’t be disturbed. Find a quiet place where you can spend a few minutes without interruptions.  Make sure the space is warm or cool enough to your liking, and adjust the lighting as needed.  Leaving your cell phone in another spot altogether is ideal, but if you can’t, silence it.  Settle into a comfy chair or on the floor with a cushiony pillow or two-anywhere that allows you to sit comfortably with your back relatively straight.
  • Focus First on the Breath-start off by taking a few slow, deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, focusing your attention on the ebb and flow of air in and out of your lungs. Try the 4 squared method of breathing- count to 4 as you breathe in, hold it for a count of 4, and breathe out while you count to 4; repeat 4 times.
  • Relax Your Body-Shifting your focus to your head, mentally scan your body, slowly, from the top down, noticing areas of warmth, coolness, muscle tension, or pain. Or try progressive muscle relaxation-again starting at your head, tighten the muscles or your head and neck and hold for a count of 4 before releasing.  Moving down your body, repeat the process by focus next on your arms and hands, then your abdomen, legs, and feet.
  • Go to Your Happy Place-use any place or scene that is calming and relaxing for you for your visualization. Many people like to see themselves at the beach or sitting beside a quiet lake or gentle waterfall, where others prefer to view mountaintop vistas, or find solitude in lush, green forests.  Drawing on all of your senses, close your eyes and take in all you can envision about your place of solitude.  Notice the multitude of colors you see around you- the blues, greys, and purples in the water, the whites, and browns in the rocks, or the light and deeps shades of green in the mosses, trees, and shrubs of a forest floor.  Envision the sky-is it dotted with big, puffy clouds against a background of brilliant cerulean blue?  Are you witnessing a glorious sunrise or sunset, where shades of pink, melon, and red streak and blend together?  Feel the warmth of the sunshine or the coolness of the air as you tune in to the sounds and scents of your surroundings.
  • Use a Guiding Voice if Needed-No worries if you need someone else to guide you to a peaceful place. There’s plenty to be had in the way of online videos, pre-recorded CD’s or smartphone apps geared towards visualization.  Our picks:

Visit Independent Living Inc on Facebook, Instagram, or on the web at www.myindependentliving.org for more tips and videos on stress management techniques and coping strategies.  Prefer to talk?  Call us at 845-762-2275 to speak to one of our trained Crisis Counselors – we’re always happy to share information on managing stress or to offer a compassionate, listening ear.


Headspace. (2021). Visualization meditation. [Web interactives]. Retrieved from https://www.headspace.com/meditation/visualization

Inner Health Studio (n.d.) Visualization Audio Downloads.

. Retrieved from https://www.innerhealthstudio.com/visualization-audio.html

MentalHelp.net. (n.d.). Visualization and guided imagery techniques for stress reduction. [web article]. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhelp.net/stress/visualization-and-guided-imagery-techniques-for-stress-reduction/

Psychcentral.com. (n.d.) Guided visualization: A way to relax, reduce stress, and more! [web article]. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/guided-visualization-a-way-to-relax-reduce-stress-and-more#1

Star, K., & Monahan, M. (2020, Sept. 30). Using visualization to reduce anxiety symptoms. [web article]. VeryWellMind.com. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/visualization-for-relaxation-2584112