A couple of years ago I had my very first panic attack. Sitting at my desk in the middle of a busy office one day I couldn’t catch my breath. The room started to spin. Sound seemed elastic, quiet one minute, unbearably loud the next. My colleague’s faces loomed unfeasibly close, then retreated. Lights flashed. It was terrifying. Then, as suddenly as it had started, my breathing returned to normal and it was over. It happened again later that week.

To give you some context of what was happening in my life around that time, my Mum had recently died after a long battle with leukemia, one of the magazines I edited had been folded, the other had been sold to a new company, and a long relationship had ended. My life seemed completely out of my control. Everyone kept telling me how well I was coping and I guess I was going through the motions of someone who was doing just fine, but the panic attacks told a different story. A few months earlier a friend had passed on the details of a counsellor she’d seen when life felt overwhelming. I called and made an appointment.

I saw the counsellor once a month, or so, for around six months. At the end of one session she asked me to gather together a bunch of images that represented how I’d like my future life to be and to bring them along to our next meeting. I collected pictures of beaches, flip-flops, cut-off jean shorts, girls on road trips, surfing, doing yoga and taking photographs. Spreading them out on the table in her office, she pointed out the obvious. There was nothing work-related at all. It seemed my subconscious knew that some time out to travel was just what I needed. Shortly after I handed in my notice and embarked on a year filled with, yep, beaches, yoga, surfing, road trips, mostly wearing denim shorts and flip-flops, taking photographs along the way.

What I’d done, without realising it at the time, was to create a vision board, a collection of images that represented what I wanted my future to be like. Fans of the process believe that when you surround yourself with images of who you want to become, where you want to live, what you want to have and so on, your life changes to match up with those images and those desires. I think that maybe it just helps you work out what it is that you want, and then you can start working your way towards it. Whatever, it can’t hurt, right?

If you fancy making a vision board, gather together a large piece of paper or board, a pile of magazines and some glue. Go through the magazines and pull out images and words that speak to you in some way. Lay your favourites out on the paper or board, perhaps organising them into sections (future home, future holidays, future job and so on) or maybe just placing them where they look visually pleasing. When you’re happy, fix them in place.

I think it’s worth taking some time to work out what your board is saying about your dreams and desires. Perhaps you live in the city but your board is filled with images of country cottages, meadows, flowers and so on. Maybe you can’t move to the country right now, but perhaps it would serve your soul to spend more time in the country? Why not book in a weekend to visit a country-dwelling friend or take a day trip to the countryside on one of the upcoming Bank Holiday weekends?

Hang your board somewhere you’ll see it often. I took a photograph of mine and set it as my phone wallpaper, so I got a reminder every time I switched my phone on. Apparently it’s a good idea to make a new vision board each year or so and, as I’ve pretty much done everything on my board, I think it’s time to put together another one for the next stage of my life…

Have you ever made a vision board? How did you find the process? Did your life change to fit your board? Do share!