We’ve all had those moments, those days from Hell. - Your exam is in two days, and you are nowhere near prepared. - Your marketing plan is due tomorrow morning and you still don’t have the important numbers for page 2. - Your in laws are coming to visit – tomorrow!!!
Just about all of us, I'm sure, have stories about those mega-stress days - days when life seems to bear down like a ten ton weight. I can still remember as if it were yesterday, the emotions from a day many years ago. On that day, my boss walked into my cubicle, yelling at me about how our project was behind schedule, and how I would feel the consequences if it were late. Deadlines and threats, tensions lasting for weeks, the very thought of going to work made me feel ill. Like that day in my office, maybe you can recall one of those moments, or maybe you're in one now.
As the tension builds, Images pile up in your brain – images of failure, images of the awful things that could happen if... Your chest tightens. Your face feels hot. You want to snap your pencil in half - or maybe you want to punch someone. They call it Stress, and it can make you ill. If left unchecked, stress can kill you.
So, how can we come to grips with the stresses in life? This article looks at five ways in which we can bring the stress beast to heel. We look at some practical ways to manage stresses in life, and bring them under control. So read on as we begin to round up and domesticate the wild stresses in of life.
What is Stress? The Nature of the Beast
What is the stress monster? How does it live? Where does it feed? According to the Mayo Clinic website on stress management, “Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to ever increasing demands of life.”
Stress is a fundamental survival tool of the human mind/body. It helps us fight or flee. It saves us from enemy soldiers, saber tooth tigers, muggers during the night and supervisors during the day. It is an automatic response, occurring when the mind detects what just may be a threat.
The Fight or Flight Response
Like the radar on a ship, your brain continuously monitors your surroundings, watching for threats. Fine-tuned over millions of years to identify threats in the environment, it is alert and does its job well. When it detects something. Your hypothalamus receives signals from the brain’s sensory areas and sounds the warning. The alarm goes out. Your hypothalamus recruits your sympathetic nervous system, the wiring within your brain and body that increases activity. A cascade of electrochemical reactions occurs, the fight-or-flight response.
What happens when that mugger appears at the opposite end of a dark alley? The human body is an amazing machine, programmed for survival. When a threat appears, when that alarm goes off, a powerful cascade of events takes place. The result, a host of resources are mobilized. Human becomes superhuman. Your body is now ready to fight off the saber tooth tiger, or worse yet, the boss in your cubicle. Danger, Danger...
As the body readies itself to confront the danger. Hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline flood into your system. They shut down digestion, focus your attention on the threat, divert blood flow to your muscles and promote the rapid release of energy. Any unnecessary activity is set aside as you prepare for battle. Like a ship confronting the enemy, your body is now at battle stations. You are ready to do battle, or to get away as fast as you can. Either way, your only goal is to survive.
Stresses, Ancient and Modern
Unlike prehistoric times, we have very few saber-toothed tigers stalking us today. While there are muggers in dark alleys, thankfully they are rare. Yet as pressure mounts, as the time for your speech to senior management approaches, as an argument arises during a meeting, it may feel as if that saber-toothed tiger is just outside your door. The human nervous system is still active, still ready for battle at a moment’s notice. It takes very little to activate the responses needed to take us to red alert. Yet within your cubicle, It's probably not appropriate to roll up your sleeves and prepare for a fistfight (much as you might like to on some occasions). This is a time for reason and calm, not for battle.
More often than not, for the cues in the present day environment – those apparent threats such as the boss walking into your office – battle is not the answer. So how can we resolve the stresses in life, bringing the monster to heel so that we can get on with the day's work? The remainder of this article describes five ways in which we can look the monster in the eye, stare it down and tame it.
Monster Taming Tip #1) Solve the problem
Probably the most straightforward means of taking care of effects of a problem is to take care of the problem, itself. During my thirty years an engineer, computer programmer and project manager, one of the biggest things I learned is that to solve a problem, you need to find the source of that problem. Why is the issue actually an issue? What causes it? What can we change about that cause?
- Problem Solving
When a problem exists, what do you do? Do you let it grow, fester, turn into a monster? Or do you take action? I hope (and recommend) the latter. But what action should you take? That's where the first technique comes into play - problem solving.
Do a little emotional detective work. When do you feel the stress? What was going on when you last felt it? When was the problem worse? When was it better? Make a list - or better yet, a mind map (there are several good websites on mind mapping so I won't go into detail here. But the gist of it is to write down everything you can think of, arranging them on a sheet of paper (post it notes on a white board work great), then see how they are connected. Often the causes of a problem show up as you brainstorm aspects of them in this way.
- Confront and Resolve
At some point, you discover the true cause of the problem - or maybe you already knew it. In either case, now comes the hard part. You need to tackle the problem head-on. Most often, there is another person involed. Perhaps it is a disagreement, or a misunderstanding. In either case, the best solution is often to talk with the person - preferably face to face - to reach a solution to the problem.
An excellent self-improvement primer with many lessons on skills for doing this is the "Dealing with Difficult People" CD, taught by Joe Gilliam. He teaches many different techniques for dealing with the people who drive you nuts. There are many other such training vehicles as well, but so far, I like this one the best. Perhaps by confronting the problem head-on, you can resolve whatever the stressor is. Hopefully, this will go a long way to reducing the stresses in your life.
- break the deadlock
Unfortunately, it isn't always so easy to look the beast in the eye and stare it down. Some times issues are more fundamental, insidious or deeply-rooted in your life. What then?
Once again, problem solving can be a big help. What is it you want to do? What (or who) stands in your way? Is there a fundamental conflict between two (or more) particular aspects of life? Are they all equally important?
For many years, I held the unrequited goal of becoming a healer, a researcher, writer and public speaker. Most important, I wanted to be my own boss. Unfortunately, due to my family situation, for many years I felt stuck in a corporate cubicle. I (not so) affectionately called it "CubeWorld" and hated every minute of it. With the help of lots of hypnotherapist friends of mine, I was able to eventually find and resolve the deadlocks, the issues that prevented me from moving. Eventually (and it was worth the wait), I found that the problems resolved themselves, and the gridlock passed. But at the time, it seemed like I was stuck in quicksand, up to my neck and sinking fast. So the real question was, is the gridlock really a gridlock?
If it truly is a gridlock between intractable forces, then maybe you can determine the root causes of each. Is there a work-around, some way you can have both in a win-win solution? While every situation is unique, there are most often solutions that seem obvious in retrospect, yet at the present time, they are invisible. A little brainstorming might help, then the follow up with some creative problem solving
- Transcend the problem - look at it in a new way
You have been staring at that software bug all day and accomplished nothing. You have been looking at the sales numbers and sales are down - but why? Many times, we find ourselves looking at a problem from within the problem, at the same level in which the problem was created. Like losing the forest for the trees, we miss the big picture, the relationships that help us to solve that very same problem.
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that "no problem is ever solved at the level at which it was created". So how can we rise above the problem and see the big picture?
One way I learned while doing extensive software debugging work was to always seek more information. What is it about the problem that you don't know yet? Is there something you're overlooking? Is there another concept involved, something you don't understand yet? Are there people involved, and if so, are they the right people?
Sometimes by creative problem solving, such as we described above, we can gain new insights into the problem, see it in a new way and observe relationships that perhaps were hidden before. Truly, each new tidbit of information helps us piece together a solution - like a puzzle piece, it helps us piece together the big picture in a way that shows us a solution to the problem.
Most often, once we take the problem head on, identify the real issue and begin to take concrete steps to solve it, it begins to look far less ominous. And sometimes, that's all it takes to tame the beast.
Monster Taming Tip #2) Humor
What is the worst aspect of any stress? More often than not, it is the fear it brings up within you. Nothing is less funny than a boss threatening to fire you. Few things are less conducive to a smile than having to give a speech tomorrow morning. Still, inside every situation, is there is something that may seem ironic, humorous, or otherwise make a good story to tell your grandchildren? How can we find these little gems?
Laughter is one of the greatest gifts given to humanity. A good chuckle can bring light to the darkest moments. I often find that making some light-hearted sarcastic quip about an over-arching problem can ease the way through the darkness. And in so doing, perhaps allow you to see a creative solution.
- Laugh with co-workers at the water cooler
Along with simply taking a break from whatever situation you might find yourself in, sometimes just getting away from your office or cubicle can be a welcome respite. And while up and about, why not get your morning endorphin fix? Step over to the photocopier and joke with the engineer from the other department. Make a quip about machines or technology, or other thing that everyone likes to poke fun of - something that you can all agree on (don't offend anyone). Above all else, laugh.
- Poke fun of the problem
One of the oldest and most time-tested ways of dealing with stress - and to get those humor endorphins going - is to poke fun of whatever the problem is. In short, the best way to cope with a problem is some times to laugh at it. Notice some little irony, or amusing aspect to the problem. Maybe your boss-from-hell has a stain in his jeans at just the right spot. Maybe the CEO sitting in the room in which you are about to give your speech has a funny twang to his voice. You might silently notice these little elements and in your own mind (in a kind, discrete way) smile at them.
Find a little pun or light-hearted quip about the situation you are in. At one point during the project with the boss from hell, one of the other engineers on my project made the quip that "forty hours (sixty, actually) of working on this project can make one weak (week)." The comment hit me just right, tickling my funny bone. Suddenly, the bug I was working on seemed less of a problem. Matter of fact, I found the solution to it only a few minutes later.
- Read a funny story or watch a funny movie
One of my favorite movies is "Office Space," a spoof on high-tech companies like software engineering. It pokes fun of many of the little things we notice each day in the workplace. To me, at the moment it came out, it was one of the best pieces of psychotherapy I could imagine. Like poking fun of the problem in other ways, a spoof like a satirical story can do wonders to take the seriousness out of a problem.
A good comedy can do wonders, both to take your mind off of the problem and to get the laughter endorphins going. There are many comedy shows on television - pick one and watch it. The result can be - well, hilarious - and healing.
Monster Taming Tip #3) Change of focus
Eventually, regardless of how much we laugh at a problem, the problem is still there. The boss from hell is still standing in your cubicle. The podium is still in front of you, with the board of directors and CEO in the audience. You still have that test tomorrow. The problem is still there and must be addressed. So how can we change focus, to look at the problem in a way that gets us away from the pain.
- Divert attention from the problem
You've been looking at those numbers for hours and you still don't see the solution. The sales numbers are falling and you don't know why. You could stare at the problem for hours. It is intractable, complex, and pressing. So what do you do? Maybe for a little while, why not do nothing? Go get a cup of coffee. Go talk with a friend. Read your e-mail. Read an article on stress management by a famous hypnotist in the Minneapolis northern suburbs. Just take your attention away from the issue long enough to allow your subconscious mind to play with the problem. Perhaps, at a time you least expect it, the solution will appear - almost as if by magic. And in a way, it is magic, the magic of the human mind.
- Change of scenery
Just like above, where we diverted attention from the problem, perhaps you can get away from work for a few moments. In the short term, perhaps you could go take a walk, let your subconscious mind chew in the problem as you walk along the footpaths in the nearby park. go home and get some sleep.
in the intermediate term, maybe you could take a vacation. I've often found that after a few days away from the problem, the world looks fresh. New opportunities and solutions present themselves. Take a long weekend and go to the lake, or visit your cousins in California for a few days.
Ultimately, you may find that once you get back, the world will look a little different . Sometimes, though, the problem is more structural. Your boss from hell is still a boss from hell, regardless of how long a walk or vacation you take. While those may release a little of the pressure, in the long term a major change is needed. There are lots of publications on managing your career, counseling and career exploration options, etc. If the issue is fundamental, I suggest you explore these. Take action and notice that simplyby doing that, you may find your stress level decreases somewhat. Ultimately, you may need to change jobs, change your social settings, relationships settings, etc. By exploring and using creative problem solving, it is often possible to discover the root of the issue, figure out the change you need, and develop a plan (can be mental/informal) to make that change. Again, sometimes the very fact that you are taking some kind of action, do much to help relieve your stress burden.
- Find and develop a hobby
OK, so the problem is longer term - your job sucks. The day to day stress is tremendous. Maybe you feel you are just not cut out for this type of work, or maybe you are just missing something. Should you change jobs? Well, maybe, but perhaps there is a less extreme situation you could try first - a hobby.
What do you really love to do? A sport? writing? dancing? or some other activity that requires your attention during the time you are doing it. For me, hobbies have always been a vital element of life. During high school, it was amateur radio. During the 1980s, it was mountaineering and rock climbing. Now, it is investigating anomalies such as unexplained light-in-the-sky sightings, ESP and parapsychology, and other mysteries that tickle the edge of our accepted beliefs. In addition, I love to write novels and short stories. All of these have the delightful property of being something other than work. They are just simply fun to do.
When I was a hundred feet up on a rock face, I didn't give a hoot about the software test plan I had to finish next week, or the project schedule being behind. All I cared about was finding the next hand and foot hold, and getting to the next ledge where i could anchor off to finish that section of the climb. During that time, the work at my "day job" was probably just as stressful as any other time, but I had other areas to channel my excess energies - and as a result, I was happier at my job in engineering than any other time I can remember.
Monster Taming Tip #4) Take care of yourself
When you are at work, or when you are home do you feel good? Or are you in pain? Does your body feel rested or fatigued? Do you feel nourished or are you somehow seeking extra munchies to fill your tummy? In short, how well to you take care of your body? Because if you take care of your body, chances are much better that it will take care of you.
- Make sure your diet is good
What is your diet like? Do you eat a healthy, balanced meal or is dinner a Big Mac from the drive-thru. How does that food choice reflect in your job performance, your overall level of happiness in life? My bet is that it is a lot more so than you think. There are a lot of experts in nutrition, who know far more than I do about this topic. My only advice is to find one of them and follow their advice.
- Get enough rest
How clear-headed are you during the day? Are your emotions and thought stream clear or do you find that by the end of the day your thinking becomes fuzzy and your emotions volatile. Do you feel alert during the day, or do you sometimes find yourself wanting to doze off late in the day. In each case, if it's the latter, then you might ask yourself whether you are getting enough sleep [Note: there are many possible causes for each issue you might observe in answer to this question, this is for information only and is not intended as any form of medical opinion or diagnosis].
Regular sleep patterns are vital to a continuously well-functioning and creative mind. Getting too little sleep simply short-changes all other aspects of your life, reducing your mental faculties and emotional control - ultimately contributing to factors in your life that could easily worsen the causes of stress.
If you have issues regarding sleep, try adjusting your sleep schedule. If you can, try to get to bed earlier. If you have difficulties with sleep, please take my advice and see your doctor. Sleep is a life-critical part of the day, providing healing and regeneration your body requires.
- Pamper yourself
Some times, it can be delightful to treat your body to something wonderful. Spend a little money on yourself. Do something for your appearance. Get your hair cut or styled, or something similar. Go buy some new clothes. These tell your body that you care about it, and are willing to devote precious resources to taking care of it.
Another way to pamper yourself is to go get a massage. This can be a heavenly way to release and unwind many of the stresses you carry in your body. The healing circle I now work in also has several massage therapists, and as a result, I have found that it can be wonderful to free up many of the life stresses I was carrying in my body. I was surprised by how much that was true, and how much it helped to release those stresses.
- Go out and have fun - go on a date - go to a party
Regardless of whether you are married or single, or whatever your relationship status is, go out and have some fun. Go on a date with your spouse or significant other. Go to a nice restaurant, a movie or some other form of entertainment. Take some time to enjoy life, with no productive intent other than to have an enjoyable evening. When you return to work, you may find that life is much more fun, and your relationship much stronger.
Monster Taming Tip #5) Change your life by changing your mind
Where is stress? Where does it live? Does it live in the outside world? Or does it live in the perceptions and reactions you have to the world? Most likely, the latter is true. Ultimately, any particular influence on your life is stressful only because your own mind perceives it that way. So perhaps one of the best ways to reduce stress in your life might just be to change your mind. By modifying the way you perceive an influence, reducing your emotional responses or controlling your thoughts and feelings about a factor in your life - such as that boss walking into your cubicle - may be nearly as effective as any other stress management tool available.
What are some of the ways we can reduce the mind's reaction to stress? How can we moderate the effects stress has on your life? here are some excellent tools for helping your mind develop those essential stress management skills and tools.
Your inner brain is wired to help you avoid events in the future that could pose a danger to you. We call the emotion associated with this, fear. At the core of stress is fear and the core of fear is the future - specifically, the avoidance of certain aspects of that future.
According to my hypnotherapy instructor, Kevin Hogan, "Fear is an Illusion." Fear is not real. It does not live in the present, where you and I live, but in a future, which does not yet exist. Often, when I experience intense life stress, like that speech coming up, that paper (or article on stress management) due soon, etc., it is associated with an impending event or challenge lying ahead. Therefore, perhaps we can reduce (or even eliminate) unnecessary fear by keeping our attention on the present moment.
A technique I was taught sometime ago, and have found it to be highly effective, is to focus on something in the immediate environment. What color is the wall? What is just under your feet? Wiggle your fingers - what does that feel like? I think you get the picture. The trick is to bring yourself out of the past or future, right to the here and now. This is the technique of mindfulness - being completely aware and in the present moment.
One of the greatest spiritual writers I know, Eckhart Tolle, describes the practice of mindfulness far better than I ever could and I highly recommend his book, 'The Power of Now' as a model of how to do this. It contains wonderful techniques to help you bring yourself back to the here and now. Take a few moments each day to try this technique. Notice how well it centers you, getting your focus off of whatever might be lurking beyond the horizon of time.
Extending from the daily practice of mindfulness is the next practice I recommend - meditation. Meditation is like taking a little vacation - for twenty to thirty minutes twice a day. Over the years, I have practiced several different forms of meditation, including Himalayan Tradition, Zen Mindfulness Meditation and Transcendental Meditation. Each has its own unique strengths and ultimately, they accomplish the same goal.
What is the goal of meditation? Nothing. Meditation is not goal directed. It exists in its own right as a way of training the mind to be the master of its own self. There is no 'trance' involved. Once simply turns one's thoughts inward and allows the mind to explore and know itself. So how does one meditate? There are many possible ways, techniques vary depending upon the tradition you choose to study. I have found that combining the best elements of different techniques such as Himalayan and TM traditions, I can sit comfortably and focus on a key thought. Often this key thought is a simple one - what eastern meditation schools call a mantra. In both TM and Himalayan traditions, mantras are often given to the meditator by a teacher, and each influences the mind at a deep level to enhance the depth of meditation, etc.
I have found that in the process of meditation, I find myself relaxing, going inside my own being and simply being in the moment. Often I find myself reluctant to come out of meditation - I enjoy the moment of vacation and wish it could last longer. Still, I find that after having meditated for 15 years, I have been better able to control my own thoughts and feelings. Like everyone else, I have a long way to go, yet I have found it a powerful way to learn personal stress management and at the same time find relief from the concerns of life.
Ultimately, when the problems of life - or your experience of them - become overwhelming, do not hesitate to seek help from a professional. This is what they are there for, and they are effective at what they do (trust me on that). By reframing your own thought processes through counseling and therapy, you can go a long way to reducing the ways in which life issues affect your mind and body. I highly recommend that, if the need arises, you do not hesitate to seek help from the mental health community.
- NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming/Psychology/Patterns)
A few years ago, as I was walking through the airport, pulling my carry on luggage behind me, including my satchel with a 'National Guild of Hypnotists' logo plainly visible, I felt someone tug on my sleeve. I turned to see an older gentleman standing there, who asked me if I could hypnotize his wife. When I followed his gaze, I saw his wife sitting at the gate, white with fear. It turned out that they were on their second honeymoon, and that this was the first time they had travelled by air. She suddenly realized she was afraid of flying, and hadn't known it until that moment.
I used a classic NLP technique to help her build her confidence. I invited her to close her eyes and tell me about a time when she felt extremely confident. Once she had done that, momentarily reliving that moment and feeling her strength in that moment, I invited her to see herself walking down the jetway. I had her bring that confidence from the past up to that present moment on the jetway.
We repeated this pair of scenarios several times, enhancing and reinforcing the effect. A few moments later, it was time for the couple to be off. Last I saw of them, they were walking off, hand in hand down the jetway, on their way to their second honeymoon.
Who or what are the sources of stress in your life? Is it a coworker? Is it a particular circumstance? When you think back on stressful events in your life, is there a pattern to these events? When they occur, is there a sense of familiarity? Have similar things happened before?
There are many potential stress drivers in our everyday world. We live in a fast-paced society. We deal with many demands on our time, many moments of criticism, many roadblocks and frustrations. Why do some seem to cope with stressful influences easily, while others are more easily drawn into the fight or flight response?
Each of us has our own unique vulnerabilities, our own internal hot buttons based upon our memories, knowledge, beliefs, past experiences, etc. Our beliefs form a lens through which we see the world. For some, this filter may be such that negative influences are limited and reactions to them are low key and collected. For others, the filter may allow too many stressful influences, and too strong a reaction.
When you hear someone speak to you, does your mind directly hear the words spoken from the other person? Or is there something in between, layers of interpretation and filtering? Obviously, the latter is the case. When you hear someone's words and observe their actions, your senses perceive data directly from the world. However, the conscious mind can process only a limited amount of information. Your mind needs to do filtering and pattern recognition long before it can understand the information from the outside world. Thus, a large amount of interpretation goes on between your senses and the processes within your mind.
When you perceive something in the outside world, spoken words, actions, writing on a page, the information enters through your senses and travels to the visual or auditory processing centers in your brain. The sensory centers within your brain decode the information, sending their interpretations on for higher processing. Your brain interprets the raw data from the outside world. Interpretations give rise to thoughts and feelings, which in turn give rise to intentions and then actions. We in turn perceive our actions as well as their results in the outside world, repeating the cycle.
If events in the world are seen as threats, then thoughts and emotions of fear and anger may be the result, initiating the stress response and engaging the fight-or-flight instinct. We roll up our sleeves and prepare to fight – or to get the heck out of there.
Your boss walking into your cubicle and asking why the project is behind schedule might bring back memories from years before. While you might hear him (or her) asking about the schedule status, your memory is reminding you of that case many years before, of a teacher yelling at you, threatening to flunk you. So what will your reaction be? Perhaps, fear and anger.
To the threat-recognition wiring in your brain, the boss might as well be that saber-toothed tiger. Even if the boss never opened his mouth, even if he just came in to tell you that Bob's birthday party will be in conference room B, the first instinct - before even hearing his voice - might be the first inklings of fight or flight, a reaction based upon expectations, formed from experience.
So, if you are to change your life to reduce the continuing influence of stressful thoughts and beliefs, and resulting continuous fight or flight responses, you somehow need to break the cycle, alter the programming by which you interpret outside world events. You need to change your life by changing your mind.
Changing beliefs, the mind-body connection
The human mind is probably one of the most complex systems that ever existed. It forms the very essence of who we are. It is the site and sum of our waking thoughts. It is also the location of the processes in our lives, some of which you are aware, but most occurring out of view. Yet in all cases, those hidden thoughts and feelings affect how your conscious mind functions. Thus, it is necessary to access the subconscious mind to correct non-helpful influences.
As information flows into the brain, the conscious mind and the subconscious mind both process it, influencing your thoughts and feelings. Perceptions enter your conscious mind and pass through a barrier, called the critical faculty, into the subconscious.
What is the critical faculty? It is the capability of the mind to reject or control which information you believe. It is disbelief on hearing something that disagrees with what you know to be true. It is your sense of control, knowing where you are and what’s going on. It protects the subconscious mind from the vast universe of information that may be untrue or even harmful.
The critical faculty is that vital shield protecting the subconscious. Yet as part of the finite conscious mind, it has a very limited ability to process information. It filters and rejects much of what you perceive – including any efforts we may undertake for counseling or healing. Yet to access and correct those processes in the subconscious, we need to get around this barrier, to work directly with the subconscious, focusing in on the areas of the mind that need changing or healing. We call this direct interaction with the subconscious hypnosis. Using Hypnosis to Manage Stress
What is Hypnosis? Hypnosis is both an everyday occurrence and a profound mental gift - Perhaps you have gotten lost in a good book and completely forgotten what time it was. That’s hypnosis. - Perhaps someone suggested to you that by doing some minor activity, you might reduce some type of discomfort You tried it and it worked. That’s hypnosis. - Perhaps you found yourself daydreaming while stuck in a boring meeting – losing yourself in your memory or imagination. That’s hypnosis.
Hypnosis is merely the suspension of one’s own disbelief, along with the willingness to think selectively on that which you desire to focus. Although simple, this gift can offer us tremendous tools for personal wellness. It allows us to work directly with the subconscious mind to quickly resolve the issues that bring vulnerability to stressful influences.
Take a moment to remember a time when you felt one of these interesting little events happen. Maybe you noticed an idea pop into your thoughts, or maybe a name you had been trying to recall for some time. It felt kind of good, didn’t it? Maybe you noticed that time passed a little faster. And last but not least, maybe you noticed your level of stress had decreased a bit. That's hypnosis.
Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy
What is hypnotherapy? Hypnotherapy is simply the process by which we use hypnosis to help address issues within the subconscious mind. It is using hypnosis to improve your life.
There are many ways hypnotherapy can help reduce your reaction to life stresses. Among them is the ability to help the mind by modifying your internal programming in response to stress. Another way is to dial down the volume of the alarms that drive the fight-or-flight response.
- Hypnosis as a stress reliever – dialing down the volume
The loudest and most troubling element of the stress response is the emotion reaction that often accompanies stressful events. It is like the alarm bell within your mind. Like the claxon on the battleship, the alarm can be deafening. And each time it sounds, your body prepares for battle.
So, one of the simplest ways to relieve stress is to dial down the volume of the alarm bells. By reducing the volume, it allows your mind to cope a little better. It gives you time to think, to work out the solution without the accompanying fear.
Here is a little trick I have found useful to bring down the alarm bells in the mind. At a time in which you feel stress, I invite you to do the following: - While in the stressful situation, picture some kind of a volume knob or dimmer switch. - Turn the knob ever so slightly and picture your stress level changing. - Next, turn it up, just a little bit. Then turn it down slightly. Each time, picture your stress level changing in response. - Now dial down the volume a little more and imagine your stress level decreasing even more. Continue this as far as you wish and let the feelings decrease to a more comfortable level.
Each time you use this little trick, as the feelings decrease, touch a finger to your thumb. This can serve as a reminder to your subconscious that it can reduce the volume of the alarms. In hypnosis terminology, this technique of touching your fingers together is known as an anchor. When the brain detects such an input, the anchor, it can remind the subconscious of an associated feeling or action. In this case, we are associating the finger touch with reducing the alarm level. This offers us a powerful tool to trigger the healing response, allowing you to reduce the noise level of that moment as needed.
As you repeat this technique multiple times, your subconscious mind may learn to associate stress relief with that finger-to-the-thumb reminder, turning the stress response to a relaxation response.
As with any learned technique, practice makes perfect. The more you use it, the more effective it becomes until, at some point, it might even become automatic, with cues in the world triggering you to touch your finger to your thumb and dial down the volume on your own.
- Turning Stress into Confidence
Another way to relieve stress is to remember on cue, a moment of strength innate within you, and then to replace stress with calm and confidence. Regardless of your present life circumstances, you most likely had some moment in which you succeeded, achieved a goal, felt confident and secure. Even if at the moment, those times might seem few and far between, deep within your mind, you have the ability to recall those positive feelings.
So here is another little trick I’ve learned over my years as a hypnotist: - Pretend that you are back at a positive moment. - Take a moment to remember what it was like. Recall the emotions. How did it feel? What it was like to experience that successful time and place? - Just like in the previous exercise, you can once again touch your finger to your thumb. This will associate your memory of that moment with the finger touch – again using our good friend, the anchor. - Rub the finger against your thumb slightly and let the intensity of the feeling in your finger tip increase. Allow the feeling of calm and confidence to deepen similarly.
Repeat this little trick as often as needed, training your subconscious mind to associate the two, the touch stimulus and the positive emotion.
Now let’s imagine that we’re back in a stressful situation and put our subconscious anchors to use. - Picture a moment of stress, perhaps when you had that all-important speech, or perhaps a confrontation with your boss. Or maybe a project deadline was approaching. Whatever the case may be, as you recall the moment you begin to feel the pressure. Stress builds up and you again feel that familiar sensation of concern rising within you. - At the point in which you begin to feel the mounting stress, again touch your finger to your thumb, suddenly recalling the positive emotions you previously captured. - Picture the less-confident emotions instantly turning into the positive ones. As if by magic, you can begin to recall the calm, secure, confident feelings you had at your moment(s) of success. - Again rub the fingertip against your thumb and feel the sense of calm and confidence deepen.
Repeat this trick as often as needed, training your subconscious mind to associate the finger touch and the positive emotion. In doing this, we are reminding the subconscious of the confidence you felt at that earlier positive moment. Yes, you can succeed. You can do it because you did do it.
Taming the beast
One such additional way is to find the programming, the associations of the events in your life and the corresponding stress responses you experience. The first step is to ask yourself, does this reaction feel familiar? Have you felt this way before, perhaps sometime earlier in life?
Just as when, during a daydream, you might have lost yourself within your memory. Using hypnosis we can recreate that daydream state and return to the memory of an earlier time in which this association began. We can then use the healing technique above, re-invoking the positive emotion anchor we used earlier, to disconnect the negative associations. In effect, we can turn off the programming.
By finding the right event in your memory, it may be possible to greatly reduce the stress reaction you initially felt, perhaps even stop it entirely. And when this happens, it is as if someone lifted a heavy weight from your shoulders. Fear turns to freedom. Darkness turns to light.
Often, during my hypnotherapy sessions with clients, when this deep subconscious healing happens, I see the client’s shoulders square up. I see the person sit higher in the chair, taking a deep relaxed breath – maybe for the first time in years. It is a joy to behold, and an even greater joy to experience for yourself.When the client emerges from hypnosis, he/she feels far happier, far more confident. At least for the moment, they have tamed the wild stress beast within, set aside the burden and become free.
Summary and beyond
The techniques described above are just a few of the many ways to bring relief from stress. There are a lot of other techniques as well. In this article, we have discussed ways to help tame the monster and hopefully, to bring peace and calm to your life. I invite you to try out one or more of the techniques we examined in this article series. Use them repeatedly and allow yourself to notice the changes. Like any skill, your results will improve with use, so you can feel better regardless of the level of success each time you use it. Practice makes perfect.
Please also feel free to check out more of my own website, Explore with Hypnosis, or view my self-hypnosis CDs and downloads on-line at The Hypnosis Store. Let me know how any of these work for you.
You can also e-mail me or call me at the address below: Craig R. Lang, Certified Hypnotherapist Minneapolis, MN 612-888-4976(HYPN) e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I wish you the best of luck, smooth sailing and a safe journey down the path of life.