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Guided Imagery and Stress Management

The objective of this article is to describe the way in which guided imagery works and to identify some of its uses.

By: Susan Adams M.Ed.

Guided Imagery and Stress Management

Summary: Guided Imagery is a technique used to help people create vivid images in their mind. This article describes the process of teaching people how to do this and identifies some of the uses that can be found for guided imagery such as in stress management and cancer care.

People learn to use the power of the mind early in life. When you think about a pleasant experience from the past and bring that memory into the present you bring with it the feelings that you experienced originally during the event. This is an example of guided imagery.

This technique can aid people to use the full range of the body’s healing capacity. Its benefits range from use in preparing people for surgery, cancer chemotherapy, and dealing with heart disease and stress.

The creative imaging power of the right side of the brain is something everyone is born with. When people are young children, that imaging power helps them form dreams, daydreams, enjoy imaginary play and imaginary playmates. Through skillful use of the spoken word, guided imagery can impact well-being by evoking the senses of touch, smell, sight, taste, and sound. Music and sounds of nature can be incorporated into the experience to help create a relaxation response and consciously direct the body toward a goal.

It is a lot like a parent telling a story to a child who is about to face a difficult experience. The parent designs the story about a similar problem. He tells the story in a different and creative way, incorporating positive images that engage the child’s senses. Doing so draws the child into the story so that the problem situation can be sorted out and managed.

For some people, creating vivid images in the mind’s eye by this means can come relatively easy. However, for others it is more difficult. Don’t get discouraged if you find it difficult to visualize things. Just listen to the voice and words. When you begin to relax, your mind slows down and you can begin to visualize things.

It is thought that guided imagery can cause different types of changes in the body. By the use of positron emission tomography (PET) scanning, researchers have noted that the same area of the brain that helps you see–the optic cortex–is activated in the same way whether imagining a tranquil scene or actually looking at it.

The effect of vivid imagery is to send messages to the emotional control center of the brain. From there, the message is passed along to the body”s endocrine, immune, and autonomic nervous systems. These systems influence a wide range of bodily functions such as heart and breathing rates and blood pressure.

Guided imagery has been found to be useful in cancer care. Patients using this technique have been able to reduce side effects of their cancer therapies.

Preparing for surgery provides another opportunity for the use of guided imagery. It’s use helps patients reduce anxiety and fear and offers people a greater sense of control prior to surgery. This, with use two to four times prior to the surgery date. In addition, a number of studies found that those using guided imagery needed less pain medication and were able to leave the hospital sooner than patients who didn’t practice the technique.

Guided imagery is a useful tool for promoting relaxation responses when you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or physically uncomfortable.

Last, guided imagery is a good tool for managing headaches. Research has shown that the use of guided imagery along with standard medical treatment for tension headaches may provide additional relief. Some studies have also indicated that the use of guided imagery may aid in reducing the occurrence of migraines and that this method proves to be as effective as taking a preventative medication.

If you are interested in more information on guided imagery you might research the internet and /or talk with your doctor about who in your community might be a provider for such a service.


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