Okay—you might not fancy Paris. Instead, imagine yourself lazing on a white pearly sand beach in Hawaii, or skiing down the untouched snowy slopes of Aspen. The key word here is “imagine” and it’s one thing even the most dedicated caregiver can make time to do.
The truth of the matter is, no matter how unbearable our circumstances may become, we can take just a little bit of time out to grab a fistful of imagination and escape the harsh realities of what’s going on. Sometimes, we zone out as we mechanically go about our daily chores and unintentionally get a healthy dose of imagining through daydreaming. I prefer taking some control of the process, directing where my thoughts carry me.
Norman Vincent Peale said “Imagination is the true magic carpet,” and it’s certainly an inexpensive way to travel. But you don’t have to “go” anywhere. Visualization exercises have helped me through the roughest of times. They’re easy enough to do—close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and do your best to clear your head of troubling and problematic thoughts. Sometimes you can do this by concentrating on relaxing your forehead and scalp as you begin your breathing. Generally, something will just “pop” into your head. It might be an image of a person, place or thing. It might just be a scent, like coffee or vanilla. Let your mind wander and see where it takes you.
If you prefer, you can breathe deeply and picture a place or thing you’ve already decided you’d like to explore. Often I’ll breathe and relax and go to what’s I think of as “my ideal place of relaxation,” and find that when I “arrive” at my destination, there is someone or something waiting for me. This place has “matured” over the years and at this point is a glass house in a forest on the beach. Hey…it’s MY imaginary place; logic has nothing to do with it. A caregiver needs a fabulous place to escape to.
I’ve furnished this house with a beautiful library that has a huge glass conference table with high-back, tufted leather swivel chairs around it. I consider this room be a laboratory that holds everything I could possibly need to solve problems and make life easier. If I need to brainstorm, I open the door to the library and the people I need to “discuss” my situation with are there to help. Everyone from Albert Einstein, to Walt Disney, to Steve Jobs, John Lennon, Eleanor Roosevelt and Marilyn Monroe have been at my door and then seated at my table.
A fabulous relaxation exercise is the “Hot Air Balloon.” Imagine a day where the sun is shining and there’s a beautiful, clear blue sky. Climb into the basket of the balloon and when you’re ready, start to drop the sandbags off the sides. The bags contain your financial worries, personal problems, health issues and fears. One by one the bags drop off and the balloon gets lighter and begins to rise. Suddenly you find yourself floating above a beautiful landscape of your choosing—whatever and wherever. I’ve flown over the Great Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China in a single meditation.
As you practice these “great escapes,” you’ll find you can go there by just closing your eyes, breathing and imagining yourself in a happy place. I’ve taken many five-minute trips and held many quick interviews with the great minds of the world. It ‘s a lot of fun. And again, it’s all free.
Sometimes, caregivers are so involved with the concerns of others that trying to think of pleasurable places and things doesn’t come easily. Flipping through a magazine or looking at old family photos to find an image you connect with is an easy way to begin the process. Here’s a sampling of evocative subjects you can “spin off” of:
– Ice skating on a frozen pond where you can see through the ice
– Browsing through the aisles of your favorite bookstore
– Sitting at an outdoor café watching people pass by and giving them stories
– Getting a fresh set of paints and having the skill to create whatever you want
– Waking up to the smell of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup
– Taking a long walk in the woods with no fear of getting lost
Sometimes, after taking a “short trip,” I’ll write it down in my journal so I can come back to it and revisit my experiences.
Carl Sagan said “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were; but without it, we go nowhere.” When we’re feeling trapped, isolated and depressed by caregiving, these little escapes can do wonders—they can heal the heart and soothe the soul. The more we practice these techniques, the more rewarding they become.
Image credit: Deposit Photos/WDGPhoto
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