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Rose technique for anxiety

By Sam Rezazadeh, September 23 2020—

My Rose technique in coping with COVID-19 related stress:

A typical day for me, at least for the past four years, would be going out of the house at around 9 a.m. and being on campus until late at night, going to classes and doing assignments, performing my teaching duties and hanging out with friends. Then comes mid-March 2020 when a killer pandemic hits the brakes on our social and professional lives. 

I left Saskatoon to come back to Calgary, where I work in the summer and enjoy the urban environment to reset my life batteries for the next school year in September. But there was something different about Calgary life this time. When I arrived at YYC, it was like I was in a zombie movie: a closed airport with flight boards painted bloody red with Cancel signs for flights. Due to my provincial travels, I decided to self-isolate for 14 days to make sure I am safe to go out in the city, but Calgary was in morbid silence. 

My unconscious takes control:

You probably have read about or experienced PTSD and stress-related incidents due to the Coronavirus pandemic. For me, it was my psyche getting the hold of the wheels. My anxiety showed itself as nightly nightmares that I see my favourite movie or book scenes where my loved ones or I am being killed, and then I wake up with shooting pain in my body. And let me tell you, it is not easy to see yourself as Frodo and being shot dead with an arrow in the depths of the mines of Moria. 

The nightmares were taking away so much of my energy that my summer school performance has been negatively affected. Then, in my late night insomnia due to fear of seeing another nightmare, I remembered a technique that once a teacher taught me: the Rose technique, the power of your imagination. 

My Internal War: Aware Mind vs Unconscious Psyche:

My panic in times of stress and anxiety feel like a tightening in my chest coupled with a very negative mood, and the world then feels dark for a long time until the tightness goes away. My technique is when this panic attack happens is that I try to imagine a rose flower, like the one in Beauty and the Beast. I try to imagine every minute details of that rose, from a vibrant fiery red colour to the loving, soothing smell of the velveteen petals. This technique helps in calming my nerves and the burden of breathing. But why is it that imagining an absent rose has the same effects of seeing it in real life?

It’s the world of our imagination that anything can happen; imagination is a powerful tool to overcome your fears and anxieties.  In a report by Medical News Today, it is found that imagining “that we hear certain sounds or see particular shapes can change how we perceive the world in real-time” and that “what we imagine can seem just as real to our brains as actual experiences,” as Maria Cohut reports in her article. 

Thinking about positive pictures, shapes and sounds that have calming effects on a person are linked with the processing abilities of individuals that is why such imaginations have the vividness and emotionality of a real memory or experience, according to Emily Holmes and Ann Hackmann at MRC Cognition unit, Cambridge, and Oxford University in London. 

Corona’s Second Wave, Let’s Bring Out the Rose:

The number of cases across Canada is on the rise once more and mental health issues are becoming a pressing concern again. It goes without a doubt that the best and most important thing to do is to seek help from licenced professionals and practitioners in your area to find a solution for mental health problems. But if it is another 3 a.m. insomnia session for you, you might want to do the Rose technique. 

When the dark and depressing thoughts are racing in your mind, just try to pause for a second and make yourself aware of the situation you are in and accept your fears and worries as a valid emotion. For example, I always stare at something that I like in my room, and I repeat to myself that it is okay to be feeling this way, and I know these are challenging times, and the source of my thoughts are because of these reasons. Acceptance helps with detaching yourself from the deja vu feelings of depressing thoughts and brings you back to your self alert and conscious state, so you can see they were just a dark temporary moment. 

After accepting your valid feelings and finding the source of it, it is time to imagine something that brings you joy and visualize all its details as if it is present in front of your eyes. For me, it is a rose, as it is my favourite flower and brings me absolute joy no matter what is happening around me. The most important thing is to recall every detail possible and try to see it with your inner eyes. This will help to divert your focus from unconscious and unwanted depressing thoughts to an aware and active level of contemplation about something you love. Doing so after a while will condition your brain and mind to trigger happy memories and feelings for the next time when you feel down. 

In the end, don’t forget that there’s always another morning for us at the end of a dark night, and there are many beautiful roses in the world for us to make us feel good. 

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