stress

The Mind/Body Connection and Hypnotherapy

by Hervé Boisdé

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With every new client I always do a quick exercise in the first session that's meant to demonstrate the "power of the subconscious mind". I hand the client a small pendulum, the kind you can find in New Age shops with a stone or crystal at the end, and tell them to hold it up in front of them, at eye level. Then I say "Without consciously moving the pendulum with your hand, just look at the pendulum and imagine it swinging back and forth...just like a clock pendulum. See a clock pendulum in your mind's eye....like a grandfather clock...swinging back and forth".

And then invariably, within a few seconds, the pendulum will start swinging back and forth. Then I ask the client to imagine it changing direction and going in a circle. And then usually it will start shifting almost immediately and go into a circle. After the demo the client is generally stunned, and will say something like "Did I do that?" or "That's so weird!".  Then I say, 'Yes, you did that. Or rather your subconscious mind did it for you.' This is because the subconscious mind controls certain muscles in the body: the heartbeat, breathing, reflex motor response, and tiny imperceptible muscle movements called 'micro-muscle movements'. The swinging of the pendulum is created by those micro-muscle movements, which are controlled not by the conscious mind, but the subconscious mind.

This quick exercise is a great way to demonstrate the mind/body connection. But it also demonstrates hypnosis. When the person is using his/her imagination to visualize the clock pendulum and is causing the actual pendulum to start swinging this is actually an altered state. It's trance, a form of hypnosis. The client's eyes are still open but they are experiencing relaxed, focused, concentration.  That's all hypnosis is. Just like meditation, the brainwaves slow down and the person experiences some relaxation in the body while, simultaneously, they are able to focus and concentrate more easily. When a person has their eyes closed, the hypnotic trance can be even easier, and deeper.

So why is this even important to someone other than a hypnosis geek like me? Because most emotions and issues have a corresponding feeling in the body. Stress can cause headaches, digestive issues, sexual dysfunction...just to mention the tip of the iceberg. But many issues are not necessarily caused by accumulated stress in the mind/body. Insomnia for example might be caused by an emotional block in the subconscious mind that was formed in childhood by a negative event (trauma) that is getting triggered again in adulthood. Anxiety triggered by public speaking might be a symptom of a limiting belief created in elementary school. In fact, most "blocks" are formed in childhood, before age 8. This is because the critical factor (the gatekeeper between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind) has not yet formed in early childhood, making young children more vulnerable to negative events that can leave a lasting impression.

Hypnotherapy is, in effect, about healing these blocks, or limiting beliefs, and replacing them with more positive beliefs. One of the techniques available to hypnotherapists is to use regression to trace the issue back to the source. We are in fact going back to the memory of the negative event/trauma that created the block. One of the best ways to locate that memory is to use the body. The client's problem creates an emotion, a negative emotion, or else they wouldn't be coming to me to get help. We can locate that negative emotion in the body....maybe it's a feeling of a knot in the stomach....or tightness in the chest...or perhaps a feeling of heaviness in the heart. We use the body to go back in time to when they first had that feeling. The subconscious mind will remember when that feeling was first felt and bingo!...that's the "initial sensitizing event", when the block was formed. Then the hypnotherapist can do a trauma reversal on the memory to help heal the block.

The great thing about hypnosis is that the mind/body connection goes both ways. When a person goes into hypnosis they experience the healing effects of being in parasympathetic mode. This is the opposite of the stress response, when the nervous system is in 'fight or flight' mode. Parasympathetic mode is naturally healing to the body and to the mind. Because when the body is relaxing, so does the mind, and vice versa. Parasympathetic mode allows the body processes to function more optimally. Digestion, metabolism, the immune system, blood pressure, and the body's hormone levels are regulated to healthy levels. Just going into hypnosis not only helps with stress levels, but it's actually healing to the body as well. That's why I teach many of my clients self-hypnosis to manage stress and to allow their bodies to heal more efficiently.

As more and more studies emerge about the effectiveness of hypnotherapy for medical issues, we shouldn't be surprised. Modern science now recognizes the mind/body connection. Now it's up to the medical establishment to see the full potential for hypnosis to heal the body as well as the mind.

A Common Mistake that Makes Your Anxiety Worse

originally posted on Calm Clinic

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Many people make mistakes with their anxiety. In fact, one of the problems with anxiety is that anxiety itself can make mistakes more likely - because anxiety changes thought processes and feelings in a way that can lead to you to making decisions that are counterproductive for curing anxiety.

Alcohol abuse is a great example. People turn to alcohol to reduce anxiety because it can dull anxiety away, but in reality it actually makes anxiety worse because it replaces your mind's ability to cope with stress. But that is an extreme example. There is actually a single, common mistake that nearly everyone makes that causes anxiety to be worse.

The Most Common Anxiety Mistakes

There are so many mistakes that people make with their anxiety. Many people with panic disorder drink lots of coffee, for example, and coffee can make panic attacks worse. Others try to breathe in more when they're hyperventilating (because hyperventilation makes you feel as though you're not getting a full breath) but that actually makes hyperventilation worse.

But by far the most common mistake that people make with anxiety is moping. In this case, moping is the idea that you need to "be alone." The idea that you need to go home after a tough day at work and just sit and think so that your stress and anxiety get better.

The Problems With Moping

Moping - or some form of moping - is incredibly common. Feeling like you need to sit and do nothing to feel better is a function of anxiety. Anxiety completely drains the body. It makes it hard to want to do much of anything. You feel like you want to be alone, and that you want to go home and "veg out" until you feel better.

Unfortunately, this is a common mistake that has the potential to make your anxiety much worse. Ideally, you need to stay active. You need to be surrounded with friends and try your best to get out there, exercise, and have new experiences. Avoiding those experiences because you want to cope with your anxiety alone causes several issues that make anxiety worse:

  • Inactivity Easily the biggest problem is inactivity. Exercise and staying physically active and moving are extremely important for not only physical health, but mental health as well. Movement and exercise improve hormone function and neurotransmitter production, and drain the body of excess energy that would otherwise cause the mind and body to become more stressed. Moving and staying active in general is crucial to anxiety management, and inactivity from moping makes that much more difficult.
  • Uncontrolled Thoughts Anxiety changes the way you think, and unfortunately that often means that your own thoughts are your worst enemy. Many people don't realize that anxiety and anxiety attacks are often caused by letting yourself sit and think, because the mind eventually starts thinking about negative things. Staying active gives your mind distractions, and distractions provide you with a mental break that can reduce future anxiety symptoms.
  • "Giving In" There is a behavioral reason to avoid moping too. Namely, it essentially lets your anxiety win and controls the way that you react in the future. If you often keep to yourself when you have anxiety, then every time you have significant anxiety your body's reaction is to want to you give in again. It becomes your coping mechanism, and makes it harder to stop moping in the future.
  • Social Need Being around people that you like and make you happy is an important tool for combatting anxiety. Obviously those with social anxiety disorder are at a bit of a disadvantage here, but in general if you can spend time with people and talk to others, you're more likely to find life more enjoyable, and the more you enjoy life the easier it will be to treat your anxiety.
  • Happy Memories Finally, anxiety itself makes you focus too much on the present. One of the strategies to help reduce anxiety is goal setting, specifically because it gives you something to look forward to in the future. Staying active with enjoyable activities provides hope, and hope is important for committing to anxiety treatments.

How you react to anxiety does matter. It can be hard to control, but it matters. Those that push themselves through and try to stay active and distract their mind from these negative thoughts aren't going to cure their anxiety, because anxiety isn't that simple to solve. But they may find that when they finally commit to an anxiety treatment, they're more likely to see the results, because they've put themselves in a position where their anxiety isn't able to control them.

Moping behaviors are not the only mistake people make with anxiety, and it may not even be the worst. But it is an extremely common reaction to anxiety and stress and one that needs to be stopped in order to continue to control anxiety.

Other Anxiety Mistakes

Anxiety mistakes occur nearly every day. It can be hard enough to control anxiety even with the most effective treatment, so when mistakes occur it can really make it challenging to reduce your anxiety - especially without any help. Examples of other common anxiety mistakes include:

  • Listening to negative/moping music, rather than upbeat and happy music.
  • Purposely subjecting yourself to anxious and stressful situations, like horror movies.
  • Spending time with those that are generally negative.
  • Taking medications without combining them with a long term treatment.
  • Quitting an anxiety reduction strategy when it doesn't work right away.

The list of anxiety mistakes is incredibly long, because anxiety causes people to focus on far too many negative feelings and emotions that get in the way of better decision making.