relax picture dzenClose your eyes.

Read the rest of the instructions first. But then close your eyes.

Picture your troubles, in whatever way feels right to you. It could be a real face, or a real place, or a visual representation of an abstract concept – whatever is getting on your nerves right now. Imagine it however you see it in your mind. Make it feel as real as you can.

Then bring that picture closer to you. Imagine it creeping closer and closer to you, growing and expanding as it comes. Imagine it touching you, wrapping itself around you, engulfing you and clinging to you. It completely swaddles you and you’re all sticky and uncomfortable with its tight, suffocating embrace.

And then a waterfall crashes down over your head.

Cold, crisp and refreshing, it cascades around you washing all the problems away and off into the ether.

Imagine it cleaning you completely, until you’re left safe and spent and stress-free. After, you are relaxed and cool and unworried, floating happily in a pool of clean calm.

In short, you feel better.

Techniques like this don’t get rid of your problems. But they do give you a quick and effective sense of positivity. A lot of the symptoms of stress can be easily relieved by shaking off your negative attitude.

That’s not something that comes easily when you feel crushed under a heap of problems.

But little mental exercises give you enough of an emotional boost to take the first steps towards recovering. Those crucial first moves are key to getting back on a steady track.

If the flushing waterfall imagery doesn’t work for you, though, that doesn’t mean you can’t still lift your spirits by wanting to.

All you need is to find a metaphor that works for you.

Try this one:

Close your eyes again.

Imagine your problem visually, exactly as you did before. Imagine it exactly how it feels – huge and horrible and looming over you. It’s big and scary, pictured in your mind as it is in real life.

Now reach out to it, hold your hands over it, and push it into itself until it shrinks. Watch it get smaller and smaller and smaller. Watch it float downwards as it subsides, until it’s at eye level, then chest level, then down by your knees, and finally on the floor. By now, it’s so small it might as well be an ant down there.

Look down at it. See if you notice any of the things that seemed so big and awful just a moment ago.

They’re all tiny now. They’re blurred and indistinguishable from the floor. They’re dust.

They’re nothing.

Open your eyes.

They’re still nothing.

Kirstie Summers,

Daily Zen.