Clinical Hypnotherapy, also referred to as guided hypnosis, is a form of psychotherapy that uses relaxation techniques and focussed attention to achieve a heightened state of awareness or mindfulness.
Hypnotherapy can be used to great effect to treat a wide range of issues, enabling us to change our habits and behaviour patterns from helping with insomnia, anxiety and stress, controlling our weight to giving up smoking. Working within a therapeutic capacity it can be hugely beneficial in treating phobias and complex trauma because while in hypnosis people are able to explore distressing thoughts, emotions and memories they may have suppressed from their conscious mind.
Long gone are the days when a hypnotherapist is seen waving a pendulum and controlling people’s minds. Clinical hypnotherapy is the therapeutic use of hypnosis to help create change in a client’s thoughts, feelings, behaviours or values and beliefs, as opposed to something that might be used in stage hypnosis which is more about putting on a show for the audience and volunteers to have fun and to be entertained for a short period of time.
When most people think of hypnosis its of being in a trance like state, but really when you’re in a hypnotic state you are in a truly, deeply relaxed state of mind where your conscious mind is so totally relaxed that you’re not thinking at all about the usual everyday things that clutter your mind and cloud your thinking. Hypnosis is a deeply relaxed, extremely focused state of mind, sometimes referred to as an altered state of consciousness. Often hypnosis is likened to being asleep although when in hypnosis you are neither fast-asleep nor wide-awake but somewhere in-between. You are still completely conscious when in a state of hypnosis, no one can take control of you and make you say or do anything that you would believe to be wrong or consider out of character if you didn’t want too.
Clinical hypnotherapy is a very gentle, calm way of healing through the use of relaxation techniques. It can be very effective in helping with self-esteem, confidence building, anxiety, stress and depression.
Physical Exercise and Quality Rest for Anxiety
Coping with Anxiety
Most of us feel like we should exercise more, we consistently hear from the medical health profession and through the media how much physical exercise will improve our mental health. It’s difficult to believe something so simple can have a substantial impact on how we maybe feeling. Finding the motivation to exercise can just feel like a mountain too high to climb sometimes. Research shows that people who exercise on a regular basis have better mental health and emotional wellbeing and lower rate of mental illness. This suggests increasing our exercise will help to treat anxiety, stress and depression.
Not having quality rest via a good night’s sleep affects our mental health in a chicken and egg situation. Poor mental health can affect our sleep and not enough sleep can negatively affect our mental health. A good night’s sleep helps to promote both mental and emotional resilience, helping us to cope better, to think more clearly and maintain higher levels of concentration. Whereas a poor night’s sleep can lead to irritability, negative thought patterns and emotional vulnerability.
Increasing our physical activity can lead to better quality sleep.
Physical Exercise and Anxiety
When we are more active and begin to exercise our body increases the levels of endorphins sent to our brain. These increased levels of endorphins help to boost our mood and improve our self-esteem, alleviating our levels of stress and anxiety.
Being active doesn’t mean we have to start training for the London Marathon. Finding an activity, you enjoy can give you a goal to aim for and a sense of purpose. It can also be a great way to meet new people, have a break from daily life and gain confidence.
Consider your current levels of fitness, how much time you have to exercise and what feels realistic and achievable for you. Finding the right time for you to become more active is half the battle. Decide on a time of day that suits you best, perhaps first thing in the morning before you become distracted by the routine of your day. Start your new routine gradually, one step at a time this way you are more likely to enjoy it and continue forward. If a 10-minute walk down the road seems manageable, it’s an excellent place to start.
Anything you choose to do to become more active and reduce the amount of time you spend sitting or lying down, can only be a good thing.
Relieve stress, tension and mental fatigue
Provide a natural energy boost
A sense of achievement
Increase levels of concentration and motivation
Dissipate feelings of anger or frustration
Lead to a healthy appetite
Exercising outdoors is even better. Research suggests that being in and around nature can make us feel more positive, happier and feel our lives are more worthwhile. It can further reduce our levels of anxiety, stress and depression. You don’t have to be exercising to feel these benefits, sitting in your garden having a cup of tea listening to the birds singing, feeling the breeze on your face and just noticing the things going on around you in that moment can boost your mood.
Please take care when becoming more active, the NHS has a webpage about becoming more active or if you have a disability or health condition, please find links below.
Just like regular exercise and a healthy diet getting enough quality sleep is an essential part of looking after our health, mental and physical.
If you have a lot of things on your mind and are struggling with your emotions, going over and over things in your head can often make it difficult to fall asleep. If you feel like you’ve been up all night worrying you start to see a change in your mood and a lack of sleep can leave you feeling low. This cycle can cause you to feel anxious and add to the negative thoughts about not sleeping, keeping you awake longer, making you worry more and sleep less. Try practising a breathing meditation exercise to give you a break from worrying about the past or future, please refer to my earlier breathing techniques blog. You could put pen to paper and write about your worries and concerns in a journal, please refer to my earlier journaling blog, this could help you to organise your thoughts and help you to get to sleep.
When you first think about journaling it may conjure up an image of a teenage girl, giggling and drawing hearts in a notepad but this is the stigma attached to the idea or thought of recording the day to day for adults. The belief that maintaining a journal is solely for young adults trying to understand who they are and what they want from life.
This is not the case, learning to journal can provide you with a powerful tool to explore and shift anxious, chaotic thoughts, lessen feelings of distress, and increase well-being. It can help to relieve anxiety and stress by helping you work through anxious feelings bringing more focused examination of difficult feelings, experiences and events. Journaling can help you process your emotions and highlight thought processes, patterns and triggers. It can help to rid negative thoughts and release pent up feelings.
It can even be enjoyable!
How to Journal to Relieve Anxiety and Stress
Think about how you are feeling now, what are you feeling anxious about?
Are there specific situations or people that you find stressful?
What aspects of these situations or people do you have the power to change?
On a scale of 1 – 10 where would you rate your level of anxiety?
How do you identify your feelings of anxiety?
Do you have a nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach?
Do you have a sense of dread or are you fearing the worst?
Are you feeling restless, on edge and irritable?
Do you feel like the world around you is speeding up or slowing down?
Sometimes other emotions can be lurking beneath anxiety, are you able to identify any other feelings beneath your anxiety?
What coping skills do you use to deal with your anxiety, what works for you?
Make a list of things you can do to help reduce your anxiety e.g. “I will go for a 15-minute walk after work today”.
Identify 3 positive things that have happened today.
Identify 3 of your strengths.
Identify 3 things you would like to achieve.
Learning to manage anxiety can be difficult and challenging. It takes practice before a new behaviour can become a new way of thinking or a new habit can be formed. Journaling can help you to make sense of your thoughts and emotions and to identify the early signs of stress and anxiety and help you to implement new coping strategies.
Decide when is a good time of day for you to write your journal, allow between 5 to 15 minutes daily.
Find a quiet, private space where you wont be disturbed.
Give yourself time to reflect and rebalance yourself both before and after writing.
Don’t try to structure your writing, feel comfortable in your flow of thought. Journal about what feels right in that moment, try not to overthink it.
Write freely don’t worry about spelling or grammar, don’t interrupt yourself to correct mistakes; just keep writing.
Write with the freedom of knowing no-one else will read it.
Take the time to reflect and gain insights into yourself from what you have written.
Your journal doesn’t have to be in a traditional notebook you could decide to keep an electronic journal on your computer or phone, use whatever is easiest for you.
To begin with, the process may feel a bit clumsy and awkward but stick with it and it will become easier.
Breathing Techniques to help with Anxiety, Stress and Panic Attacks
Coping with Anxiety
“To control the breathing is to control the mind. With different patterns of breathing, you can fall in love; you can hate someone, you can feel whole spectrum of feelings just by changing your breathing”. – Marina Abramovic
Breathing is something we don’t often think about, it is something we just do and perhaps take for granted, even though oxygen is the most important factor in keeping our body alive. There are many benefits to breathing with mindfulness, it can help to provide us with increased energy levels but also improve our mental focus and clarity, all essential components in our fast-paced world.
Learning to breath mindfully is an uncomplicated, straightforward way to focus our mind, helping us to feel more relaxed and calmer, reducing feelings of anxiety, stress and depression.
Below are some simple breathing techniques for you to try;
4 Count Breathing
Breathe in for a count of 4
Hold your breath for a count of 4
Breathe out for a count of 4
And pause for a count of 4
Imagine you are standing on a beach looking out to sea at the waves
As you inhale, imagine you are drawing a wave towards you up the sand
As you exhale, imagine the water retreating back into the sea
Imagine a balloon is inside your tummy
As you breathe in, the balloon expands and your tummy rises
As you breathe out, the balloon deflates and your tummy falls
As you breathe in deeply, you breathe in calm
As you exhale out deeply, you breathe out tension
Repeat silently to yourself as you breath in and out.
You are the expert on you, so you know your body better than anyone else, please be sure to use caution when undertaking any breathing exercise. If you start to feel dizzy or unwell whilst performing breathing exercises, please stop.
Coping with Anxiety
Anxiety is a very unpleasant and uncomfortable feeling of dread, uneasiness, apprehension or worry and can be very distressing for those suffering from an anxiety disorder. A certain level of anxiety is natural and helps us stay alert and aware commonly referred to as our fight or flight instinct. But for those experiencing high levels of anxiety it feels far from normal and can become completely debilitating and difficult to function affecting everyday life.
Nobody wants to live with anxiety. If you think you’re starting to feel as though anxiety or feelings of panic are beginning to affect your everyday life or you feel it’s becoming more and more difficult to maintain your emotional and physical well-being – it’s time to take action. It’s time to learn new strategies or remind yourself of old strategies that worked for you in the past that will enable you to cope better with that anxiety now.
Strategies for Coping with Anxiety
One of the key things to remember when dealing with anxiety is that learning to cope with it actually happens inside of you. Seeking help from a counsellor could be one of the first steps you take or employing one or more of the following approaches might be the solution you’re looking for.
Deep Breathing Techniques
Physical Exercise and Quality Rest
Diet and Nutrition
Awareness and Identifying Triggers
Creating a Support Network
I will explore each of these strategies in future blog posts.