We all know that stress can exacerbate a lot of medical conditions, so last week I decided I should look into some techniques for reducing stress.
One of these techniques is visualization. When you're stressed, you try to imagine yourself in a place that would be relaxing, you feel the stress fall away, and the healing powers within your own body begin to get to work.
This technique does sometimes backfire. I read of a woman who was instructed to imagine she was floating on a soft, fluffy cloud. Unfortunately, she was terrified of heights, and every time she did the cloud thing, she worried that she'd fall off. There aren't a lot of places to hang on when you're on a cloud. So she panicked and her blood pressure went through the roof.
I decided to skip the cloud trip and try some other visualizations. I once read of a woman who would imagine that her basement was filled with light bulbs that went on and off when you pulled their strings. Each light bulb represented a part of her body, or a pain in her body. If she got a headache, she imagined going into the basement and turning off the headache light bulb.
Hmm. This might work. I'd just find the string for insulin resistance, pull on it, and I'd be cured. So I sat in a comfortable chair, closed my eyes, and started to visualize. I went down a set of mossy steps into a deep underground cavern below my house. There were all the strings and the light bulbs, just as advertised. Now all I had to do was find the one for insulin resistance.
Not so simple, as it turned out. There were hundreds of those @#$! strings, with the labels in tiny print, and I'd forgotten to bring my reading glasses. As I wandered among the strings, they kept slapping me in the face.
Then I started sneezing. I'm allergic to mold, and this dank basement with all the damp strings was filled with the stuff. My eyes started to water, and I ran toward the exit, but I could hardly see to find the door. I slipped on the mossy steps and skinned my knee. When I finally opened my eyes, my pulse was racing. Perhaps basements and strings weren't the perfect visualization for me.
Next I decided to try visualizing a bucolic outdoor scene. Settled in my comfy chair, I closed my eyes and visualized myself walking down a scenic country road. Then I took a path into the forest, where I found a little stream and a waterfall.
I settled myself on a nice rock and contemplated the scene, watching some butterflies flit about. Very relaxing. This should really help.
But then the black flies found me. Slap! Slap! I'd forgotten my DEET. I leaped off the rock and ran running down the road. Not fast enough. The black flies became a huge swarm around my head, and by the time I reached the road my face was puffy with insect bites.
OK. Forest visualizations were out too. Maybe I could try the seashore. I visualized a deserted beach, the breakers pounding the white sand in front of me, and seagulls darting about above in the gleaming summer sunshine. Lovely.
Except I'd forgotten my sunscreen, and before my inner healing powers had time to cure my diabetes my face was as red as a Mountie's uniform and my back had begun to peel. Skin cancer, skin cancer, the gulls started screeching at me as I raced toward the protection of my car, which wouldn't start. I used the time waiting for the tow truck to try to get the sand out of my mouth.
Then it occurred to me. I'm not really an outdoor person. Perhaps I'd be more relaxed if I visualized an indoor scene. Yes. There I was in a comfy armchair, in front of a blazing fire, my loyal dog Snarfy at my feet, and a glass of sherry at my side, reading a good book. For effect I added a tweedy sweater and a pipe, even though I don't smoke.
Then I remembered that I hate sherry, and just as I was replacing the glass of sherry with a cup of espresso coffee, the blazing log rolled out of the fireplace and set Snarfy's fur on fire. As I ran to help Snarfy, I tripped on the rug and hit my head on the fireplace, the pipe fell onto the couch and set that on fire, and I barely escaped from the burning building with my life.
I managed to save the tweedy sweater, but I'm beginning to suspect that visualization isn't the solution for me.
Published On: December 10, 2007