How to Overcome Your Fears Through Visualization
Visualization is a relaxation technique in which you imagine pleasant scenarios or scenes. There are two basic ways you can use visualization to overcome fear. You can visualize yourself overcoming the fear, which can eventually translate to real life success. You can also visualize a calming scenario in moments of intense fear.
Be realistic.Visualization is powerful. The brain's response to imagined scenarios is often on par to its response to real life success and failure.If you want to overcome a fear, it can be helpful to make a point of habitually visualizing yourself succeeding. However, try to keep your scenario realistic. Imagine yourself overcoming your fear in a manner that could actually happen.
- Say you're afraid of public speaking but need to speak at a seminar for work. Avoid seeing yourself give an impassioned, bombastic speech and being met with a standing ovation. While your presentation might go over well, such a response is unlikely.
- Instead, imagine things going reasonably well. Picture yourself staying calm and collected while in front of the room. Imagine your heart rate remaining relatively stable and remaining calm. Picture yourself not stumbling over the words and answering questions as they come without too much hesitance.
Try visualizing your success gradually.If visualizing the end result (such as giving a presentation at a seminar) itself is still terribly overwhelming, break down your visualizations to follow your preparation. In this way, giving a successful presentation will be much easier to envision, because you have already completed so many steps successfully that will help you get prepared andbesuccessful.
- For instance, visualize yourself completing all your research and preparing your notes. Once you have completed this step successfully in real life, visualize yourself delivering the presentation to an empty room, and then do so. Move on to visualizing a strong presentation in front of a trusted friend or colleague, someone who is supportive and will give constructive feedback on things you can work on to improve your speech. Then go ahead and do this step in real life. Finally, visualize giving the presentation successfully at work, starting a day or two before the presentation if possible.
- Using this method, you work up to the final result, increasing your confidence along the way.
Visualize your success.When you have to deal with something that frightens you, try to visualize regularly. Close your eyes and imagine success. Take 10 to 15 minutes before bed each night to visualize yourself overcoming your fear. You may find yourself becoming more calm in real life if you regularly face your fears in your mind. For example, you may speak more calmly at regular work meetings.
- Again, you may wish to start small, starting by visualizing yourself contributing a comment during a work meeting or perhaps speaking up to support someone else's contribution. Once you have accomplished that, you may move on to visualizing something more assertive, such as acknowledge what others have said in the meeting in a sentence or two, then following it up with a question. In this way, you will build up to the greater goal of contributing calmly and regularly to the meetings.
- Choose a location free of distractions. It will be easier to concentrate on your imagination without outside noise. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. You want to make sure there are no aches and pains distracting you from your mind's eye. Close your eyes and begin imagining.
- Some people find it helpful to write down their visualizations before or after the process. This can help you nail down concrete details and better imagine your success scenarios.
- You might want to play some soft music or light a candle. It might be easier to visual in a relaxing atmosphere. Make sure your breath is slow and steady as you visualize your success.
Go into detail.The more detail you use in a visualization, the better. When you encounter the actual scenario, you'll be more calm if the moment closely matches your imagination. Try to engage with all your senses, including sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste.
- Sight is probably the easiest thing to visualize. Returning to the presentation example, you can easily visualize what a conference room might look like. You might even want to Google image the place where the presentation will take place to help you better imagine success.
- Smell and taste may be slightly harder to visualize in certain scenarios. However, try your best. A conference room, for example, may smell of cleaning products. If you usually have a cup of coffee before speaking, you may have the aftertaste in your mouth.
- Engage with sound and touch as well. You may feel your papers in your hand as you move through your notes. You might hear the sound of people coughing, shifting in their seats, fiddling with their phones, and even the occasional whisper.
Provide yourself with physical reminders.Many people make use of physical reminders to aid in the visualization process. It can be helpful to have a bulletin board in your bedroom where you keep images of people succeeding in areas that frighten you. This can inspire you to overcome your own fears. If you're afraid of heights, for example, have a poster of someone rock climbing hanging over your bed.
Combating Anxiety with Visualization
Make a list of places you find calming.Sometimes, you can use visualization during a moment of anxiety to calm down. This usually means going on a mental vacation. You think of a calming place or scenario, close your eyes, and imagine being there. To start, brainstorm some places you find calming.
- Think about your past and present. What memories do you find the most calming? Is there a special place or moment that brings you feelings of happiness?
- Make a list of your most calming places. These will vary from person to person and can be vague or specific. For example, you can picture yourself by an unnamed body of water. However, you may also remember a specific room in your grandmother's house where you used to nap as a child.
Visualize in a comfortable environment at first.Before you can visualize in moments of stress, you need to practice at home. This will help you get the hang of the visualization process.
- Find a comfortable place in your home that's free of outside distractions. Lie down or sit in a position that's comfortable for you. If it helps, play soft music or light candles. Anything that makes the experience more relaxing.
- Close your eyes. This makes it easier to focus on the mental image over your physical surroundings.
- If you're having trouble relaxing and getting started, try taking a few deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and then out through your mouth, channeling the air towards your lower abdomen. This can help quiet your mind and allow you to focus on your imagination.
Use all your senses.Visualization is most powerful when you engage with all your senses. When you go on your mental vacation, pay attention to sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste.
- Say a relaxing spot for you would be a spring day near a lake watching a group of ducks swimming. First, what does this image look like? What color is the water? What colors are the ducks? What kind of foliage surrounds you? Where are you in this scenario? Are you sitting on a nearby bench? Standing over a bridge running across the creek?
- Engage with your other senses. What does it sound like? Imagine hearing the gentle flow of running water. Think about the quacking noises the ducks would make. What might this area smell like? Are there lilac trees blooming nearby, for example? Can you smell the wet dirt near the lake?
- Can you taste the air in your mouth? Do you taste a small hint of dirt and water with each breath? How do you feel physically in this moment? Are you pleasantly warm with only a light spring jacket? Is there a gently breeze blowing on your face?
Practice visualization during fearful moment.When you find yourself in a stressful situation, close your eyes and take a mental vacation. If you can successfully imagine yourself somewhere calm and relaxing, this can help initiate the body's calming response.By doing this regularly, you can train yourself to respond calmly to stressful or frightening situations.
- When you experience fear, your body enters fight-or-flight mode, which means it's pumping you full of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol (known as the "stress hormone") and your blood pressure and heart rate become elevated.
- Relaxing your body and mind through visualization will help activate the relaxation response, which will trigger your brain to release signals and hormones that calm your body and mind.
- Many people find visualization very effective for combating fear in the moment. If you're scared of flying, try visualization during take off. If you're unable to sleep due to stressful thoughts, try visualizing before bed each night.
Talk to a therapist if necessary.Everyone experiences fear from time to time. It's a normal part of life. However, if you suffer from intense or constant fear and anxiety that affects your day to day life, you may have an underlying anxiety disorder. You should make an appointment for a therapist for evaluation. You can call your insurance providers for a list of therapists in your network. You can also ask your regular doctor for a referral. If you're a college student, you may be entitled to free counseling from your college or university.
Be patient.Visualization is a skill. Like all skills, it takes practice. The first time you try overcoming your fears using visualization, you may not feel it was tremendously successful. However, keep trying and eventually things will improve.
- Practice visualizing regularly. Even when you are not stressed, try engaging with your senses to imagine a calming scenario.
- Visualization is one of many relaxation techniques. It may not work for everyone. If visualization does not work for you, even after practice, move on to another technique. You can try meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or many other relaxation techniques.
Learn about your fears.Oftentimes, your greatest fears are irrational. Learning about your fears, and their relative unlikely nature, can sometimes quell anxiety. If you're scared of flying, for example, you may find it helpful to know the chance of being in a fatal plane crash is 1 in 7 million.
- Some fears, however, may be made worse by research. Medical fears, for example, can worsen anxiety if you google symptoms or diseases. If you find your anxiety increases when you learn about your fears, stop looking up information and do something else.
QuestionIs visualization technique effective?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerGo ahead and try it a few times. See what it does for you. Everyone responds differently to different techniques. It depends on the person.Thanks!
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