Everybody in the world is anxious. Professionally and on the street, it feels like you’re surrounded by natural enemies. And the most lethal of all is yourself: you with your insecurities, imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and habit of saying the wrong thing. Right? Nope.
We live and work in a system where anxiety feels like the base state. We’re told (often in very polite, aspirational ways) that we should do better, look better, earn more, compete with our neighbors, quantify our successes and failures and even our personalities. It sounds more like the jungle than the summit of human civilization. At some point, people and structures who benefit from a worker population living in fear took control, and all we got was anxiety and dreams of the next iPhone upgrade.
There are some that say that rather than fight or soothe your anxiety, you should weaponize it, scream about it, let the exploitative classes know this may be just a feeling, but feelings are real (perhaps, indeed, they are everything).
But there are others who, not unreasonably, suggest taking care of your mental health first. Get some time off. Demand your employer gets you a shrink. And check out some of the visual meditations you can do to bring yourself down to Earth when your nerves have you hanging by a string.
Different visualizations work best in differing circumstances. The paned window meditation works well in a situation such as lying in bed awake at night when it is quiet around you but your inner voice won’t hush. Picture your thoughts as a gang of people standing outside an imaginary nearby double window. Calmly close the window and feel the voices quieten to a silence. Aaah!
The serene beach technique works in the opposite circumstances. If you are surrounded by literal stressful noise or a situation that makes you anxious (such as waiting for a plane to take off), imagine yourself on a golden sandy beach. This is a full-body immersion technique: imagine not just the view, but the sounds of the waves, the warmth of the sun on your toes, and your breath slowing as you relax.
The stop sign technique is useful if you are already familiar with your mind’s annoying machinations. For example, when you make a mistake, perhaps that inner voice immediately starts hating on you, telling you much of the stuff we mentioned in the first paragraph. This type of anxiety just feeds itself. Your personal insults become involuntary personal slogans, kind of the opposite to positive affirmations (well, that’d be negative affirmations then).
To use the stop sign, catch yourself when you start doing this; close your eyes and picture a bright red STOP street sign. Calmly, quietly repeat to yourself, ‘stop, stop, stop…’ – in your head, if you’re not in an appropriate situation to whisper it out loud!
The final one is a little more designed for when that anxiety is mixed with rage. Rage is a valid emotion (aren’t they all?) but can get in the way when you’re trying to strategize improvements to the work culture around you. When you’re stressed and crushed by work and office nonsense, close your eyes, picture a blender full of food, and press the big red button to start it blending (for heaven’s sake put the lid on first). Listen to the noise of the blade whirring through all that fruity pulp and grinding the chunky bits. And then switch it off and listen to the sound fade away. It’s anti-ASMR for the YouTube channel in your mind!
The good folk over at NetCredit have produced a guide to seven visual techniques like this, and they’ve even made some animated gifs to get your imagination going. Visualization meditations might not change the world, but once you find some inner calm you’ll be in a much better place to initiate the revolution.
About the author: John Cole writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.