By Brian Robinson.
A good anxiety recovery plan needs an element of physical substance. When we go for a walk in the fresh air; when we avoid things like caffeine and alcohol; when we do our breathing and relaxation exercises; all these things are tangible behaviours which are psychologically relaxing. We are doing positive things which we know will help on the road to recovery.
But what about the work that’s going on in our mind? Managing our thought patterns is a less tangible endeavour, and often we do not give our selves proper credit for the work we do.
Something that might help, is to do a visualisation where we see our mind as a natural harbour, and we see our thoughts as ships. The following are some examples of how this might work:
We should never try and block any ship/thought from entering the harbour. Troublesome anxiety thoughts, when recognised, are ushered into a holding area where we give them little attention.
Problematic thought issues, which require a lot of analysis can be stored in a work-in-progress area which is visited frequently/daily.
Unhealthy thinking traits, can be taken to an area where they are gradually dismantled. And new healthier approaches are constructed in another area.
The idea, is that our work with our thoughts will take on substance because of the visualisation and it will therefore have a more profound relaxing effect. Our thinking will become organised and in that way we will feel more in control of what goes on in our heads.
It is perhaps also worth making the point that most therapeutic approaches focus upon dealing with troublesome thoughts: they rarely turn their attention to the thought patterns that might replace unhealthy thinking. With the harbour visualisation, there is scope to introduce healthy thinking themes and topics. This holds tremendous scope to further relax the mind.
For example, how often do we overthink the positive? How frequently do we count our blessings? Are we in the habit of meeting each new day with an open mind? Do we try and live in the moment rather than dwelling on a negative past or catastrophising about an uncertain future?