Sometimes, the only thing we have control over is our reaction to a stressor. A mental rehearsal is a way of preemptively tempering your stress for a particular event.
Example: Lily has to give a speech in class on Friday. She always gets nervous when she has to speak in front of a group. She knows her material, but the last time she had to give a speech she got so nervous she dropped her notes and then when she started it felt like she was kind of having an out of body experience. Her voice didn’t sound like her own, she couldn’t remember what to say, and now she can’t stop worrying and worrying about it.
Lily’s older brother doesn’t mind speaking in front of people, so she asks him for help. He tells her that as long as she has done the work and knows the materials when she is on her own, then doing a Mental Rehearsal could help.
He asks Lily to relax by taking some deep breaths. Then he instructs her to pretend, “in her imagination” that she is walking into the class, at ease and confident. He has her mentally rehearse not only the entire speech but at the same time pretending that she is cool and collected while giving the speech. She imagines that even if she stumbles, she just takes a deep breath and starts up again without any worries.
Lily does a couple mental rehearsals before she goes to bed each night before her speech, and then again that morning. She is still a bit nervous, but she knows she is in control and does just fine.