Visualise a favourite spot. Stay in it; fine-tune the memory. Practise creating this mental image. Safe-place visualisation is one of the ways to take a mental vacation. This kind of getaway can last as long as a tea break. You can escape once a week, or multiple times a day.
Not to be confused with daydreaming, those unfocused moments of staring into space, a mental vacation is a planned break that should be rich in detail — and devoid of any interference from real life.
Recreate the sounds from your chosen moment, the smells and feelings; the way the light reflected off the water or the feel of the wind on your skin; the kinds of birds that flew past, how long their chirps lingered; the tilt of the shadows at sunset.
All this is meant to ease stress and anxiety by acting as an escape, almost like a real vacation would.
To do it right, start small, says psychologist Dr Devanshi Jalan. “Make room for 5 or 10 minutes in a quiet nook, away from the phone,work and other people. Free of responsibility.In abnormal times,this can act as a getaway, a series of little pauses woven into our lives.For best results,tap into all five senses.”
It can be a little hard a first. We’re not used to taking a break from our lives, while still immersed in them. “You have to learn to put your phone away,ignore emails. It takes practice to disconnect from every little thing, even for if it’s for five minutes,” Dr Jalan says.
Start each interval with some deep breathing. “Stress leads to shallow breathing and the release of more stress hormones,creating a cycle,” says Dr Jalan. “Deep breaths help regulate the nervous system. The flood of oxygen is a signal to the brain to relax. Breathing deep from the abdomen is important; it triggers the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormone.”
Done right, the effects of a mental vacation should carry through the day, helping you slow down, savour moments, ease the sense of being a hamster on a wheel.
It’s bad enough that we can’t take any real breaks to socialise, can’t break our routines, says Dr Jalan.“Making matters worse is this sense that we should also be ‘using this time’— to upskill or rethink our lives, learn to bake or Marie Kondo the house. It’s great if you like it, but if you don’t, just take away some of those ‘must’s. There’s a pandemic on. It’s enough just to get through it.”