7/3/10

Combating Stress with Hypnosis

There can be many factors contributing to poor health, but one major cause is stress. When we are under stress, our autonomic nervous systems switch into survival mode, slowing down functions that are not essential to surviving. These include the immune, digestive, and reproductive functions. This is why people who are chronically stressed get sick more easily and heal more slowly, develop ulcers and digestive problems, and experience irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, and sexual dysfunction. A form of hypnosis called guided meditation can be an effective means of combating this stress.

Few of us experience true danger in our daily lives, but our nervous systems react to traffic, time constraints, loud noises, and other stimuli in the same way that we used to respond to bears, battles, and other dangers. Stress causes the body to prepare for fighting, fleeing, or freezing, not growing, eating, and reproducing. To bring these normal, healthy functions back online, we need to shut off the survival response. We can do that by relaxing, but many people find that to be more easily said than done.

True relaxation requires mental and physical relaxation. Most of us know how to relax physically but many of us find it hard to relax mentally. Even while receiving a massage, for example, our minds might be active. A mind full of worries or woes is triggering all the same physical stress responses that a massage, a bath, a game of golf, a beer, etc., is trying to remedy. Unless we can quiet the mind, the body cannot achieve complete relaxation.

The best way to quiet the mind is meditation. While there are many different styles of meditation, most people find it easiest to begin with a guided meditation. Most forms of meditation focus on clearing the mind of all thought or focus the mind on a single concept or mantra. In guided meditation, the thoughts are directed. Because the imagination is engaged, guided meditation is actually a form of hypnosis rather than true meditation.

Guided meditation combines progressive relaxation with positive imagery. The progressive relaxation induces a hypnotic state, thereby switching the nervous system out of survival mode into growth mode. The positive imagery then redirects the mind away from obsessive thoughts towards peaceful thoughts, such as imagining a beautiful garden. Since it addresses the needs of both the mind and the body, guided meditation helps you relax both mentally and physically.

By consistently practicing guided meditation, your body will gradually learn what a normal, healthy state feels like. If you have been stressed for a long time, you body may have become stuck in fight or flight mode. Guided meditation will help you to retrain your body to switch out of survival mode so it will become less responsive to stressors and recover more quickly when exposed to them. Your mind will be more peaceful when you replace an active mind with a peaceful mind. Between the mental and physical benefits of guided meditation, you'll feel calmer and more in control of your life, and your immune, digestive, and reproductive functions will flourish.