Free Guided Imagery Recordings Help Kids Cope with Pain, Stress & Anxiety

I don’t have to tell you mod­ern life is full of stres­sors that exac­er­bate hyper­ten­sion, depres­sion, and every­thing in-between. Ther­a­peu­tic stress reduc­tion tech­niques based in mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion, trau­ma research, and a num­ber of oth­er fields have pro­lif­er­at­ed in our dai­ly lives and every­day con­ver­sa­tion, help­ing peo­ple cope with chron­ic pain, career anx­i­ety, and the tox­ic mias­ma of our geopol­i­tics.

These meth­ods have been very suc­cess­ful among adult populations—of monks, vet­er­ans, clin­i­cal sub­jects, etc.—but adults process infor­ma­tion very dif­fer­ent­ly than chil­dren. And as every par­ent knows, kids get major­ly stressed out too, whether they’re absorb­ing our anx­i­eties sec­ond-hand or feel­ing the pres­sures of their own social and edu­ca­tion­al envi­ron­ments.

We can’t expect young chil­dren to sit still and pay atten­tion to their breath for thir­ty min­utes, or to change their men­tal scripts with cog­ni­tive behav­ioral ther­a­py. It’s far eas­i­er for kids to process things through their imag­i­na­tion, chan­nel­ing anx­i­ety through play, or art, or—as pedi­atric psy­chol­o­gists at the Children’s Hos­pi­tal of Orange Coun­ty (CHOC) explain—guided men­tal visu­al­iza­tion, or “guid­ed imagery,” as they call it. How does it work?

Guid­ed imagery involves envi­sion­ing a cer­tain goal to help cope with health prob­lems or the task or skill a child is try­ing to learn or mas­ter. Guid­ed imagery is most often used as a relax­ation tech­nique that involves sit­ting or lying qui­et­ly and imag­in­ing a favorite, peace­ful set­ting like a beach, mead­ow or for­est.

The ther­a­pists at CHOC “teach patients to imag­ine sights, sounds, smells, tastes or oth­er sen­sa­tions to cre­ate a kind of day­dream that ‘removes’ them from or gives them con­trol over their present sit­u­a­tion.” In the video at the top, Dr. Cindy Kim describes the tech­nique as “akin to biofeed­back,” and it has been espe­cial­ly help­ful for chil­dren fac­ing a scary med­ical pro­ce­dure.

While all of us might need to go to our hap­py place once in a while, most kids find it hard to relax with­out some form of cre­ative redi­rec­tion, like the guid­ed imagery pro­gram above from Johns Hop­kins All Children’s Hos­pi­tal. At the CHOC web­site, you’ll find over a dozen oth­er audio pro­grams tai­lored for pain and stress man­age­ment and relax­ation, for both young chil­dren and ado­les­cents. Lifehacker’s par­ent­ing edi­tor Michelle Woo describes a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­pling of the pro­grams:

  • For pain man­age­ment for young kids, lis­ten to “The Spe­cial Cake.” Sam­ple line: “With your next deep breath in, notice the sweet smell of the yum­my frost­ing.”
  • For pain man­age­ment for teens, lis­ten to “Climb­ing a Lad­der.” Sam­ple line: “Let’s have a look at the first step. As you put your foot on it, you begin to remem­ber a time when you real­ize that you can have con­trol over your body.”
  • For anx­i­ety, lis­ten to “The Mag­ic Kite.” Sam­ple line: “All of the uncom­fort­able feel­ings or sad­ness or anger or pain or wor­ry are all on the ground and you are fly­ing away from it.”

As kids lis­ten to audio, Woo writes, “have them notice how their body feels—their breath­ing may slow and their mus­cles might relax.” And hey, there’s no rea­son guid­ed imagery can’t work for grown-ups too. Try it if you’re feel­ing stressed and let us know how it works for you.

via Life­hack­er

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Moby Lets You Down­load 4 Hours of Ambi­ent Music to Help You Sleep, Med­i­tate, Do Yoga & Not Pan­ic

Dai­ly Med­i­ta­tion Boosts & Revi­tal­izes the Brain and Reduces Stress, Har­vard Study Finds

How Stress Can Change Your Brain: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion

Med­i­ta­tion 101: A Short, Ani­mat­ed Beginner’s Guide

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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