By Sheila Menon
We all crave happiness, but sometimes work-life pressures can threaten to engulf us. Stress can lead to fatigue and the harder one tries to relax the more elusive those peaceful moments become.
18% of Americans suffer from some form of anxiety, and in Malaysia it is about 13% of the population. If you or someone you love experiences anxiety, doubt, worry or even low self-esteem, remember you are not alone.
Typically people feel powerless and defeated by anxiety. One patient described getting better as being just too hard. Others talk about their self-confidence being eroded day by day until they were left virtually helpless to do anything about it.
People suffering from anxiety often have poor quality sleep, get easily depressed and feel a sense of loss about the life they should have. In short they feel fearful and miserable, and friends and family are often powerless to help.
But the good news is that anxiety is treatable even if one has been suffering from it for a long time.
The first step is to stop problem-based thinking, often characterised by obsessing about symptoms or trying to work out the cause of the anxiety. This often only serves to make the anxiety worse.
Anxiety and the subconscious mind
The most effective way to switch off anxiety is to stop thinking about it. And that is where clinical hypnotherapy comes in.
By using clinical hypnosis, a therapist can reach into your subconscious mind, identify the cause of distress and simply release the tension.
Other methods used by clinical hypnotherapists include retraining the body and mind to relax. This is called the relaxation response and it is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body.
Anxiety is one of the highly treatable conditions yet only about one-third of sufferers receive help. Part of the reason is because people often hope that their symptoms will pass. Others feel ashamed of their feelings or are worried about being labeled mentally ill. But the truth is that an anxiety disorder is simply your body being out of balance, emotionally and physically.
One clue that worry has taken over is when you start putting your life on hold or find that your fears are interfering with your ability to make good decisions.
Another indication is that you no longer focus on things that you enjoy but find your mind going back to general or specific worries.
If you don’t like how you feel, then it makes sense to do something about it. One of the first things that a clinical hypnotherapist will help you do is learn to relax again.
Relaxation the antidote to anxiety disorders
Once this is achieved, many have described the feeling of a weight being lifted off their shoulders. For someone who suffers from anxiety, the ability to relax without triggering invading anxiety thoughts can be bliss.
Clinical hypnotherapists generally teach their patients how to continue the experience even after they leave the consulting room. Using these techniques can teach people how to be happiness seekers. Even people who are natural pessimists can learn to become more optimistic.
There are many simple techniques that help people to continue this positive outlook after therapy ends, such as regular exercise, meditation or self-hypnosis and of course doing things that you enjoy from time to time.
Sometimes stress can lead to feelings of anxiety in top executives. Many corporate clients describe persistent negative thoughts. Clinical hypnosis can help switch these off or convert negative messages into positive motivational thinking.
Other techniques include writing down the bothersome thoughts because writing helps engage other parts of your brain, which help process negative feelings.
The “worrying” exercise
A useful strategy is to schedule a short period of time each day specifically for the purpose of worrying. The rule is to only worry during this time. This exercise provides emotional relief and allows the person to have control over the invading thoughts.
Many people who suffer from anxiety feel unsatisfied or cheated because they actually want to feel happy. Wanting something but not getting it creates a conflict between what you experience (disappointment) and what you desire (to feel happy).
Practicing self-hypnosis interrupts this pattern and restores a sense of personal confidence. Regular practice once or twice a day can also reduce stress and anxiety.
Another simple strategy is to become a happiness seeker. This means that instead of focusing on what you don’t want, start focusing on the things that are fun and make a commitment to do one nice thing for yourself each day. Research shows that planning the event can be as much fun as the experience itself.
The London College of Clinical Hypnosis Asia runs one-day workshops on self-hypnosis at RM50 per person.
Sheila Menon is Principal of the London College of Clinical Hypnosis (LCCH Asia).
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