Your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality and every stressful thought you have triggers anxiety in the brain and becomes tension stored in the body.
So, if your thoughts drift to all of those emails that are still sitting in your inbox, your lengthy to-do list, the traffic you are sitting in and wow, you are so late picking the kids up from school, the brain will register these things as anxiety and stress, and this will get stored in your body.
Symptoms of stress can include physical illness, restlessness, irritability, fatigue, worry, problems concentrating, headaches, muscle tension, and trouble sleeping, to name a few.
Many compulsive habits and addictions are also responses to stress.
But what is anxiety, and how does it differ from stress?
Stress is a state of tension resulting from specific and actual circumstances.
Anxiety is a general state of inner turmoil, worry, nervousness, or unease. It is future-oriented.
Anxiety can be focused on some specific anticipated event (and often takes the form of preoccupation with one’s health or with death), or it may be a more general feeling of apprehension with no specific focus.
Symptoms of stress and anxiety can be emotional such as frustration, tension, irritability, nervousness, restlessness, and uneasiness. You might notice mental symptoms as well, such as worry, apprehension, dread, trouble concentrating, or pessimism.
Sometimes stress and anxiety can manifest through changes in behaviour like nervousness, compulsive habits, and withdrawing from situations that provoke anxiety. You might also see physical issues as well.
The Stress Response, also known as the “Fight or Flight Response,” is a natural emergency mechanism mediated by the body’s neurological and endocrine systems. This emergency response is built for short-term dangers, but it is incapable of dealing with long-term stress. Some of the physical or physiological responses to stress are:
- The heart starts to pump more blood to the muscles. This means increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased respiration, and thickening of the blood (because more red cells are required to carry oxygen).
- The metabolism increases. This can lead to increased blood sugar.
- The senses sharpen, the pupils dilate, and hearing is better. This can cause sensitivity to light and sound sensitivities.
- Blood supply diverts to the primitive/survival parts of the brain. This causes a state of hyper-alertness and a decrease in activity of the neocortex (which is responsible for thinking). This can result in poor concentration and focus, decreased learning, and poor memory.
- The secretion of stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline (which is associated with anger), and cortisol (which can cause weight gain). Adrenaline has powerful affects, such as increased heart beat, blood pressure, and muscle tension.
So what can we do to manage stress and anxiety?
The body naturally has a way to mitigate the stress response and that is through REM Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.
However, if we are stressed and we can’t sleep, we aren’t able to get adequate REM sleep to manage our stress.
We can use wellness practices like exercise, meditation, and massage to help manage our stress levels.
But there is another way – Hypnotherapy.
Hypnosis is a natural state of the mind that produces measurable effects in the brain.
In a nutshell, the brain has four different brain wave states: beta, alpha, theta, and delta. See this article from Science Daily.
The alpha state is a relaxed state. Theta occurs during REM Sleep.
But Theta also occurs during hypnosis and meditation.
Theta brain waves are what can be considered the subconscious and the delta state is the sleep state.
The alpha and theta brain wave frequencies relieve stress and facilitate deep physical relaxation, promote euphoria, and stimulate the release of endorphins.
Hypnosis is quite similar to meditation but there are a few key differences.
Meditation trains you to train your awareness and become mindful while hypnosis encourages you to zone out and just let your mind wander.
Trance is a completely natural state, and in this state of relaxed awareness, you can tap into the powers of your subconscious to soothe and direct your conscious mind. When the subconscious and the conscious parts of your brain come together you can facilitate lasting and positive changes.
A relaxed brain under hypnosis it is open to new ideas and can turn ideas into habits.
Just as meditation can be used as a tool for relaxation and stress reduction, you can see how hypnosis and hypnotherapy can be even more powerful tools not just for relief but for lasting change.
If you would like to explore hypnotherapy to address stress in your life, I encourage you to speak to me and we can see how hypnotherapy can work for you.
Studies on Hypnosis, Anxiety and Stress
Hypnosis is an Effective Treatment for Anxiety and Stress-Related Disorders.
The tremendous volume of research provides compelling evidence that hypnosis is an effective treatment for state anxiety (e.g., prior to tests, surgery and medical procedures) and anxiety-related disorders, such as headaches and irritable bowel syndrome.
Reference: Expert Rev Neurother. 2010 Feb;10(2):263-73. Hammond DC.
Hypnosis is a More Effective Non-Medical Therapy for Anxiety
A study of 193 patients with anxiety disorders, ages 18-40, were offered combinations of non-medical therapies, such as psychotherapy, phytotherapy (plant extracts), and acupuncture. The best results were obtained by combined treatment based on cognitive and behavioral psychotherapy, hypnosis, and autogenic training as its major components.
Reference: Vopr Kurortol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult. 2008 Nov-Dec;(6):18-22. Bozhko SA, Tiuvina NA.
Hypnosis with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is the Best Treatment for Acute Stress Disorder
This research represents the first controlled treatment study of hypnosis and cognitive- behavioral therapy (CBT) on acute stress disorder (ASD). Civilian trauma survivors with acute stress disorder were randomly given 6 sessions of CBT, CBT combined with hypnosis, or supportive counseling. Those in the CBT and CBT-hypnosis groups had fewer criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder after treatment and 6-month follow-up than those who received supportive counseling. CBT-hypnosis resulted in greater reduction in reexperiencing symptoms than CBT.
Reference: J Consult Clin Psychol. 2005 Apr;73(2):334-40. Bryant RA, Moulds ML, Guthrie RM, Nixon RD.
Hypnosis is More Effective For Lowering Anxiety than Biofeedback
60 college students were assigned to use either hypnosis, biofeedback, trophotropic treatment for one hour per week for 8 weeks. Hypnosis was found to be a more effective self-regulatory technique for lowering anxiety levels when compared to the other procedures.
Reference: J Clin Psychol. 1980 Apr;36(2):503-7. Hurley JD.
Self-hypnosis Reduces Anxiety and Blood Pressure Even Nine Months Later
Twenty three adult patients with problems of anxiety in a suburban general practice participated in a study on the effectiveness of audiotaped self-hypnosis in reducing anxiety levels. After six weeks experimenters found significant reduction in psychological anxiety and blood pressure, and in some cases subjects reduced their anxiolytic medication. Nine months later, subjects these desirable effects were still detectable to a significant degree.
Reference: Aust Fam Physician. 1978 Jul;7(7):905-10. Davidson GP, Farnbach RW, Richardson BA.
Self Hypnosis is an Effective Treatment for Panic Attacks
A single-subject used self-hypnosis in the treatment of panic attacks. Presenting symptoms were acute fear, dizziness, constricted throat, upset stomach, loss of appetite, loss of weight, insomnia, fear of doctors, and fear of returning to work. Using hypnosis and guided imagery, the subject showed an increased sense of control, improved self-concept, elimination of pathological symptoms, and cessation of panic attacks.
Reference: Am J Clin Hypn. 1990 Jan;32(3):160-7. Der DF, Lewington P.
“Fight or Flight” Symptoms Respond Most Readily to Hypnosis
This study looked at 20 adults who sought hypnotherapy for stress, anxiety, and depression. They had significantly less symptoms after treatment in all measured dimensions, with the greatest decrease in anxiety. It is suggested that the symptoms most related to the “fight-flight” reaction respond most readily to hypnosis.
Reference: Am J Clin Hypn. 1989 Oct;32(2):110-7. Gould RC, Krynicki VE.
Hypnosis for Treatment of Combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Clinical reports and observations going back almost two centuries consistently indicate that hypnotherapy is an effective modality for the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Hypnotic techniques may be valuable for patients with PTSD who exhibit symptoms such as anxiety, dissociation, widespread pain, and sleep disturbances. Hypnotic techniques may also facilitate working through traumatic memories, increasing coping skills, and promoting a sense of competency.
Reference: Harefuah. 2013 Aug;152(8):490-3, 497. Abramowitz EG, Bonne O.
Hypnosis can Help Control of Anxiety After Trauma
Hypnosis can be used to achieve a better control of anxious symptoms through relaxation. It allows the patient to anticipate the anxiety triggering events. This technique also allows the patient to mentalise and integrate traumatic events, therefore helping him to prevent the post-traumatic anxious symptoms.
Reference: Rev Med Suisse. 2010 Feb 17;6(236):330-3. Smaga D, Cheseaux N, Forster A, Colombo S, Rentsch D, de Tonnac N.
Hypnosis Reduces Preoperative Anxiety
A study examined the effect of hypnosis on preoperative anxiety using three groups of subjects: a hypnosis group who received suggestions of well-being; an attention-control group who received attentive listening and support without any specific hypnotic suggestions, and a “standard of care” control group. Patients in the hypnosis group were significantly less anxious compared with patients in the two control groups. Moreover, on entrance to the operating rooms, the hypnosis group reported a significant decrease of 56% in their anxiety level whereas the attention-control group reported an increase of 10% in anxiety and the control group reported an increase of 47% in their anxiety. This study concludes that hypnosis significantly alleviates preoperative anxiety.
Reference: Anesth Analg. 2006 May;102(5):1394-6. Saadat H, Drummond-Lewis J, Maranets I, Kaplan D, Saadat A, Wang SM, Kain ZN.
Hypnotherapy Helps to Overcome Test Anxiety
Eleven medical practitioners were seen individually for two, 50-minute sessions of hypnotherapeutic training. 10 of the 11 practitioners reported passing grades, and 9 reported an attitude change with lower levels of test anxiety.
Reference: Am J Clin Hypn. 1993 Jan;35(3):198-204. Stanton HE.
Hypnosis Reduces Test Anxiety and Improves Performance
Fifteen college students with test anxiety were studied. Those who received hypnosis reduce anxiety prior to taking a learning and reading-comprehension test. On the reading-comprehension test the experimental group scored significantly higher than the control group. These findings support the notion that hypnotic training may be useful to reduce anxiety and improve test performance.
Reference: J Natl Med Assoc. 1984 Mar;76(3):233-5. Johnson RL, Johnson HC.
*Results may vary from person to person.