Anxiety levels are pretty high at the moment, for adults and children. So many things have changed and it can feel like there are so many restrictions. Now, more than ever it is important for kids to learn to find their "special place" to help relax and feel calm. This special place is somewhere they can go where they are calm an happy. Using guided imagery in relaxation has been proven to reduce anxiety and build resilience. Guided imagery works to reduce anxiety for several reasons;
1. Security: Having a special place in your mind means that you can create a safe place that you can go to whenever you need to. You don't have to physically be there to experience the calm and peace that the special place brings.
2. Predictability: This special place is YOUR place, it only changes if you want it to change. Using this technique often will mean that you can go to the same predictable environment. This is especially helpful when things are so chaotic and routines have changes everywhere.
3. Having some control: You and you alone have the power to create this special place. Only you can decide what and who are there. This is particularly helpful at a time when so many things are out of our control.
All of these are effective to reduce stress and build resilience. However when we combine them with controlled breathing and mindfulness, this becomes an incredibly powerful calming technique. If practiced regularly, like anything, it will become easier and the ability to relax will work quickly. You will literally be able to train your brain to calm.
Finding your special place
To find your special place, whether an adult or a child, start by closing your eyes and think of a time when you felt completely happy and relaxed. Was it a holiday? A time that was special to you, a tree, cubby etc anything. It is amazing how often water seems to be part of someone's special place. So often it is the beach, river or pool. But it doesn't have to be, just anywhere that you felt calm and happy.
When working with children, I find it best to draw where ever possible. I usually start by tracing around their hand
Then when they have thought about their special place, have them draw this in the palm of the hand.
At each finger write See, Hear, Smell, Taste and Touch
Have them imagine their special place in detail. Go through the 5 senses and write them in the fingers. What can they see in that special place, what are the sounds around them, what does the air smell like, what can they taste and what does it feel like on their skin.
By doing this you are adding mindfulness to the relaxation. This engages the whole body in the relaxation and creates the space for calm. They become aware of their body in the safe space and activates all areas of their brain in the imagery.
This in itself is a very powerful relaxation. However if you add some controlled breathing it will be even more effective.
Have them trace their hand with their finger. As you take your your finger up to the top of a finger, take a slow deep breath. Hold your breath at the top, and then slowing breathe out as you go down the finger. Adding arrows to the drawing will help them remember how to do this.
Adding this routine to your day will be helpful to build the skill of relaxation. At night in bed is a great place to practice, chances are they will fall asleep soon after they start. If you practice this regularly, it will be easy to do when they are stressed or anxious and they need to calm.
By doing this technique with their hand, they can remember easily the picture, the 5 senses and the breathing. They also know that they have this special technique to use wherever they are. They can use it anywhere and any time.