A Self-soothing Recipe for Nighttime Freak-Outs
Having an anxiety disorder sometimes means that I get to wake up in the middle of the night feeling high anxiety or the beginning of a panic attack. These episodes can be triggered by real or imaginary concerns and fears. One way or the other, that’s certainly not the best way to spend my time in bed at night, especially when I should be healing and recovering my energy through peaceful sleep.
One of the most effective methods I employ to trick my mind into relaxing and falling back asleep is the same technique I started using years ago to help release sciatica and osteoarthritis pain: I soothingly guide myself to sleep with positive affirmations (silently, in my mind), as a form of self-hypnosis.
Although my affirmations are customized to different circumstances, I usually start repeating something along these lines, as I take deep breaths:
“I am not my body... I am not my aches and pains or health conditions...
I am not my mind...
I am not my fears...
I am beyond my mind and physical body...
I am health... I am wellness... I am wholesomeness...
I am perfect in my imperfection...
I am loved... I am loved... I am loved...
I am love... I am love... I am love...
I AM... I AM... I AM...”
Occasionally, depending on the level of anxiety, I have to repeat this exercise more than once to achieve the desired effect. More often than not, however, I fall asleep in the middle of the first set, as I start relaxing and feeling relief from anxiety and physical pain.
This simple technique is just as effective for daytime anxiety or panic. Although it’s often recommended that hypnotic suggestions are made as affirmations, rather than stated in the negative, in this case it feels empowering to first acknowledge limiting beliefs by denying them, and then affirm that which is true.
What self-soothing techniques are effective for you?
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 04/21/22
Photo by Alex Shute on Unsplash
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…But Being Defined by Labels Can Become a Deficiency
Never before have we had access to so much information about… well, pretty much everything. That can be helpful and useful in many ways, if we have the discernment to sift through the overload of available information and determined what’s accurate, what’s inaccurate, what’s distorted by the sponsors behind the information being disseminated, and so forth. If we do manage to come out on the other side of the maze, there’s plenty of reliable information we can access on our own or through reputable healthcare professionals to help answer our questions.
Due to the outspread availability of information, it has also become easier to label conditions, even when those labels mean that current knowledge doesn’t have all the answers and healthcare professionals don’t really have a clue about what’s going on or how to cure it. Still, there are plenty of labels that get thrown around in relation to diseases and illnesses with internal, external and unknown causes that doctors can’t quite define or understand, from autoimmune to brain-related/neurological conditions such as RA, Fibromyalgia, Autism and Alzheimer’s, to name just a few.
On one hand, it’s important to know as much as possible about health issues and conditions that may limit our lives in any way. Knowledge is power; it can enable us to manage such issues and maintain a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle.
On the other hand, being defined by such labels can become a deficiency if that instills fear in us, preventing us from living life to the best of our abilities. It can become a deficiency if we accept these labels without question and feel limited to the point where they are used as excuses to stop growing, to justify the belief that we’re not capable of pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone, trying to overcome our circumstances and doing better every day. Labeling can lead to resignation that makes us forget the power of the mind and spirit.
As someone who deals with frequent anxiety and even the occasional panic attack due to OCPD, and who has discovered as an adult that I might be on the lower end of the neurodivergent spectrum (in addition to having physical issues such as herniated disks and hip repair surgery), I understand how difficult it can be to deal with and manage a limiting condition. Because I don’t want to take medication, managing myself takes a combination of alternative therapies (hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, flower essences, essential oils, etc), along with regular meditation, breathing techniques, etc. Exercising and practicing yoga also help; so do writing and coloring book therapy. In other words, proper self care is vital; that includes establishing priorities and strong boundaries that involve plenty of quiet time, while not neglecting to stay connected with loved ones. I also developed the habit of deliberately shifting my thinking when I start obsessing and feeling anxious about something; I try to focus on the ultimate goal, set my intention and simply say to myself: "I give this to God (or my guides, Angels, Source, Universe, etc)." That opens the space to receive clear guidance and be able to follow it, even when it’s unsettling. Not beating myself up for not being perfect is also key!
Of course, each individual has different needs and needs to find their own ways to cope or recover; but here are some additional tools that have been effective for myself, my clients and others who have tried them:
- Rather than reminding myself of why I can't do something, I make sure to constantly re-frame that thought by teaching myself how I can do anything I set my intention to accomplish.
- Hypno-coaching can help jump-start healing on a subconscious level by using scripts such as Gateway to Healing by Linda Bennett and Self-Health by A. Chips.
- The Emotion Code is a simple technique to help release trapped negative emotions from the body: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g7pRNLJKh4
- Mel Robbins' 5 Second Rule and other similar techniques are effective shortcuts to trick the brain into doing what I want it to do: htthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI2VQ-ZsNr0
- The morning pages exercise (also known as brain drain or mind dump) is a powerful method of uncluttering the brain and opening the space for creative solutions to life’s puzzle:
Here's Everything I Learned From Doing Morning Pages Every Day
FINAL WORD: We are all works in progress, doing the best we know how at any given moment. Whatever challenges we deal with on the physical, mental emotional and spiritual levels, we are the only ones with the power to define ourselves; and that in itself is an organic, ever-changing process. Let’s not get stuck on a label!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 09/28/21
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
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What Is Self-Hypnosis?
Self-hypnosis is the self-induced form of hypnosis through which you make use of self-suggestions and affirmations. Self-hypnosis can help reinforce the work done during guided sessions. In a way, all hypnosis is a form of self-hypnosis. Different techniques can be used, either on your own or with a hypnotherapist as your guide. But even when you engage the help of a hypnotherapist, it's your subconscious doing the work of opening up to and accepting suggestions for positive change. The more motivated you are, the better it works. Most people are capable of reaching a hypnotic state, as long as they are motivated to do so.
• Define your goal, being as clear and specific as possible. And then think about suggestions and affirmations that can help you achieve your goals, along with imagery, symbols, etc, which you relate with and will make it easier for you to visualize your goals. You can also choose to write up a script outline or a full script.
• Choose no more than one or two goals per session. Otherwise, you might overload your subconscious and end up by not achieving what you want. Also, try to keep it realistic and simple.
• Try practicing 15 to 20 minutes per day. You can do it sitting down or lying in bed, right before going to sleep. You should expect to make positive changes that will benefit your life, based upon the suggestions given during hypnosis. You can also add a post-hypnotic suggestion to make it easier to achieve a self-hypnotic state every time. In addition, you can choose to record your session and play it every day.
• Choose a quiet place and make himself comfortable. If you’d like, you can gauge the effectiveness of your session by choosing a number from 1 to 10 that represents the intensity of your discomfort (stress, anxiety, etc) or challenge. At the end of the session you can assess yourself again by choosing a number from 1 to 10 and checking if it decreased.
• Use your voice, making it normal in the beginning of the session, then making it softer and slowing it down as he proceeded. Eventually you might get to the point where you don't need to speak it out loud; saying it silently in your mind can be just as effective.
• Separate your hands and feet (to stay open and receptive to the process), close your eyes when you are ready and start helping yourself relax by using deep breathing and progressive relaxation techniques to allow your mind to get calmer and clearer. You can use some imagery at that point, such as a liquid relaxation that spreads throughout your body, from head to toes.
• Use a deepening technique such as counting down (with or without imagery) to reach a deeper level of relaxation.
• Create your safe place or inner world using imagery and trying to engage all your senses for best results. Use your imagination! Or you can choose a more direct and authoritative approach.
• Include positive affirmations and self-suggestions to reach your goal, repeating them as much as possible. Make them positive and keep them in the present, such as: “I am calm and peaceful; I feel completely stress-free,” rather than “I will be calm and peaceful and not feel stress anymore.” The subconscious responds better to positive affirmations and often doesn’t recognize negatives.
• You can also choose to end with a post-hypnotic suggestion for continuing benefits, as well as to make it easier to achieve self-hypnotic trance next time.
• Count yourself back up, while taking the opportunity to reaffirm your goals. Example:
5... I’m getting ready to return from my positive experience.
4... I’m very satisfied with the changes that have taken place.
3... I’m more in touch with the room around me.
2... The mind and the body are returning back to normal.
1... I am refreshed, feeling calm and peaceful, wide awake and completely stress-free.”
• Assess yourself again, and practice whenever possible.
FINAL THOUGHT: Self-hypnosis is a great self-empowerment tool that can be very effective. Give it a try!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 07/13/2016
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
What Hypnosis Is and Isn't
As a hypnotherapist, part of my work with clients involves explaining how hypnotherapy works and playing the role of “myth buster.” That has become necessary because of the great amount of mistaken notions about hypnosis that’s out there, mostly due to misrepresentation on TV shows, movies, etc. It doesn’t help that hypnotherapy is often compared to and confused with stage hypnosis and other entertainment-driven practices such as mentalism, street magic, etc. It’s been my experience that a lot of people, including other practitioners and healthcare professionals, share at least a few misconceptions about hypnosis.
One recent example came from a client of mine. After a few sessions, she started noticing marked positive change. This client happens to be someone who goes easily and deeply into trance, and hardly ever remembers much about the session on a conscious level. As it often happens in these situations, she couldn’t believe that something as seemingly simple and easy as a hypnosis session (which she often felt as if she’d slept through and couldn’t even remember), could start making such a big difference in her life. So, every time we’d meet, she would question me about how hypnotherapy works. I was only too glad to answer all her questions to help her feel as comfortable as possible with the process. One of those times, however, she mentioned that she had spoken about it to someone she knew, a massage therapist who claimed to also be trained in hypnotherapy. She had told this person that she was mostly zoned out during her sessions and couldn’t remember almost anything. The well-intentioned but ill-informed practitioner told her that it was not working, then; and added that she needed to be alert and engaged for it to work. So I had to explain to my client that this is one of the most common misconceptions about hypnotherapy. I told her that, although it might feel like being asleep during session sometimes, she’s really not completely asleep or unconscious. She’s actually in a sleep-like state or somnambulism, which is between awake and asleep (in the Alpha/Theta zones), and not in deep sleep (Delta zone); in that state, she might lose conscious awareness but her subconscious is still engaged, listening to the sound of my voice in the background and duly recording the message. That’s how she always knows when I’m counting her back up (which is referred to as “awakening”). As my client was still looking a bit unsure, and also wondering about the content of the scripts I had been using, I offered to show her the script I had used in our last session, explaining that it would give her a good idea of what we had covered but it wouldn’t be exact, since I customize it for each client. Well, the moment my client started looking at the script, she cried out in instant recognition: “Oh, I remember this! I remember the door and the key and everything!” Merely glancing at the script was enough for her conscious mind to get triggered into remembering what her subconscious had already recorded. She was quite surprised about it, and was finally convinced that the therapy was working as it should, and her subconscious was doing its job.
Light or Deep Trance? Trance levels vary for countless reasons. For instance, some scripts are more interactive than others, so you might be more alert during those. Or you might be curious about the process or a bit nervous during your first session, which could also cause you to stay more alert. Or your levels of stress might be higher than usual that day; or unexpected background noises might pull you out of your relaxation mode; or your mind might be distracted by your to-do list; etc. Or you might simply feel more comfortable staying alert through the process. Of course, the therapist will do the best to help you stay relaxed and engaged in spite of distractions. But, in general, your own subconscious will do whatever is best for you at the time. If there’s something you need to remember on a conscious level, you will be more alert during the session; or go in and out (in for the part you need to remember consciously and out for the part that you will retain more on a subconscious level). If your subconscious needs your conscious mind out of the way for some deep healing and change, you are likely to zone out for most of it. As illustrated above, if you do go into a deep hypnotic state (or sleep-like state), you might not remember everything (or anything) on a conscious level, once you are awake. And that’s OK; your subconscious mind still records the message. You can actually train your mind to stay conscious and aware during a deep trance, but that’s not necessary for the hypnotic suggestion to work. On the other hand, it is possible for a client to get completely detached from the environment and go into the Delta zone (deep sleep). However, the tell-tale signs are clear, and at that point the hypnotherapist can bring the client out of hypnosis a bit, making the trance lighter.
IN SHORT: Hypnotherapy works through subliminal suggestion, regardless of how deep the state of hypnosis. The hypnotic trance achieved by the client can be light, deep and everything in between; and significant change can happen at any level of trance. The only exception I’m aware of is medical hypnosis for pain management or control. In this case, the client needs to reach a deeper trance for best results. You can learn more about the science behind Hypnotherapy (including studies proving its effectiveness and theories discussing why it works) by exploring the sources under References.
OTHER HYPNOSIS AND HYPNOTHERAPY FACTS:
1) About Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy. Hypnosis is a trance or altered state of consciousness that's between waking and sleep, and is characterized by increased suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination. It's a natural state which we achieve many times throughout the day, without even realizing it (for instance, when we become so involved driving, watching TV or a movie, or reading a book, etc, that we lose awareness of where we are). We just don’t refer to it as going into a hypnotic trance; we call it “zoning out.” Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic method of healing by using hypnosis.
2) Hypnotherapy is completely different from stage hypnotism, mentalism, street magic, etc. What entertainers seek to accomplish is to distract your conscious mind through rapid induction and confusion techniques, so that they can get you to temporarily believe certain things and act in certain ways for the purpose of entertainment. But for that to work, you still need to be a willing participant. And even when it does work, it will be short-lived, as your subconscious will seek to go back to normal (and “normal” is certainly not clucking like a chicken!). This process is called homeostasis, or a natural state of balance, and it will soon occur even without suggestion removal by the entertainer. A hypnotherapist, on the other hand, discusses goals with you before the session so that you are aware of and in agreement with the positive suggestions that will be made to the subconscious during the session. Then the hypnotherapist intentionally induces a trance to help bring you into a relaxed and focused state, which makes the positive suggestions much more effective. And even in such planned circumstances, if you have too much resistance or mixed feelings about the goals you are trying to accomplish, your subconscious might not accept the positive suggestions, or just accept them to a certain degree. The bottom line is: the more motivated you are, the better it works.
3) Hypnotherapy is not mind control. Nobody can force you to do anything you don’t want to do through hypnosis. You have to be willing to accept the suggestions. As I mentioned above, even in the case of stage hypnosis, the participants need to be willing to play the game.
4) Hypnosis is not dangerous. There has never been a documented case of harmful results from the therapeutic use of hypnosis. It is easy to be brought back from a hypnotic trance; there has never been a documented case of someone unable to come out of it.
5) All hypnosis is a form of self hypnosis. Different techniques can be used, either on your own or with a hypnotherapist as your guide. But even when you engage the help of a hypnotherapist, it’s your subconscious doing the work of opening up to and accepting suggestions for positive change. As I mentioned before, the more motivated you are, the better it works. Most people are capable of reaching a hypnotic state, as long as they are motivated to do so.
6) Hypnotherapy does not work better on weaker minds. In fact, the stronger the will and imagination of a person, the more likely they are to achieve success in hypnosis. This is because people are most influenced by their own suggestions and, in actuality, put themselves in a hypnotic state. A therapist's role is to guide them in this process. Hypnotherapy will only be effective if you want to be helped and want to resolve your problem. In a hypnotic state you will either accept or refuse a suggestion.
7) Potential Issues with Hypnotherapy. There are some issues which can potentially decrease the effectiveness of hypnotherapy by impeding or slowing down progress, such as resistance (often caused by the client being of two minds about a goal; having fear of symptom removal; trying too hard; being over analytical; having lack of rapport with the therapist; suffering from extreme anxiety or other mental health issues; etc). The hypnotherapist should be able to help the client through some of these issues, at least to a certain degree; however, the client needs to be willing and open to change. The combination of hypnotherapy with counseling or other behavior modification practices can be beneficial in such cases.
There are also potential risks involving hypnosis; some of these are: abreaction (a strong emotional reaction to a memory); physical reactions (especially if the client has epilepsy, lung or respiratory disease, etc); recollection of blocked memories (which can cause an abreaction); and false memories. It is important to remember that such occurrences can be great opportunities for a client to remove, resolve and release past issues or trauma. It’s also important to understand that recollected “memories” might be real; but they could be distorted and embellished, much like being in a dream state. Such recollections could also be just a symbolic representation of what the client felt during a hurtful or traumatic moment. A qualified hypnotherapist should be prepared for and able to handle such issues, and also know when to call for additional professional help or refer the client.
8) Hypnotherapy is a safe, natural and non-invasive way to guide you through positive change. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Hypnosis that's conducted by a trained therapist or health care professional is considered a safe, complementary and alternative medical treatment.” It can be of great use in the treatment of many behavioral, physical and psychological conditions, such as stress, anxiety and panic, fears and phobias, pain, fatigue, health issues, sleep distress, self esteem and motivation, loss and separation, depression, learning disabilities, bed-wetting and many others. It is often used for weight loss, smoking cessation, athletic performance, natural child birth, regression, etc.
BOTTOM LINE: So, once you choose a qualified professional or learn how to practice self-hypnosis, how do you get the most out of your sessions? Simply put: motivation... and an open mind.
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 05/12/2016
Image by the 33D Animation Production Company from Pixabay
Clinical Hypnotherapy: A Transpersonal Approach, by Allen S. Chips, DCH, PhD
Hypnosis for Change, by Josie Hadley and Carol Staudacher
On The Hypnotic Induction
Scientific Theories of Hypnosis
Various research, training and educational materials supplied by SWIHA - Southwest Institute of Healing Arts