HOW TO DO SELF HYPNOSIS AND BIOFEEDBACK TO REDUCE STRESS
Adapted from Engs, R.C. Alcohol and Other Drugs: Self Responsibility. Tichenor Publishing Company, Bloomington, IN, 1987
Like most other mind-altering techniques, hypnosis is very ancient. The earliest documented use of hypnotherapy dates back 3000 years to the Evers Papyrus of ancient Egypt. The sleep temples of the Babylonians and ancient Greeks are other examples of early hypnosis centers. Hypnosis has waxed and waned in popularity over the centuries. Until recently, it has not been popular in North America. However, hypnotic techniques under different names, such as visualization and imaging, have been used increasingly over the past twenty years. Mental health professionals are now also beginning to use hypnosis in treatment. Many hypnosis techniques are easy to learn and can bring relaxation, altered states, and alertness. They can also relieve headaches and other chronic pain and are effective against insomnia. When people think of hypnosis, they often think of a trance state that takes special preparation, intelligence, or skill to achieve. However, going into a trance through self hypnosis is something we do every day. For example, when you drive a car and suddenly "wake up," realizing that you had driven further than you thought, you have just come out of trance. Daydreaming in a boring lecture is another example of a trance state. Using self hypnosis for relaxation or concentration is taking this natural skill of relaxed, focused concentration and putting it to use for your benefit.
The following procedure is a simple self hypnosis technique that takes about ten to twenty minutes to accomplish.
1. Sit in a comfortable chair.
2. Close your eyes and breathe slowly in and out ten times.
3. Imagine that you are at the top of the stairs in an old mansion.
4. Each time you breathe out, start to take a step down the stairs.
5. As you are breathing and stepping down, start counting backwards from 20 to 1.
6. As you are breathing, counting, and walking, down the steps you may notice that your body is beginning to feel relaxed, warm, and heavy.
7. When you have reached the bottom of the stairs, go out a door that opens onto a beach.
8. After you have walked through the door to the beach, feel the warm sun on your body. Hear the waves washing against the shore and the sound of seagulls. Feel the warm sand flowing through your toes. Smell the fresh salt air. See the sparkling water and the blue sky above you. Enjoy the beach for a few moments.
9. When you are ready to reorient yourself back to your surrounding environment, start to count from 1 to 20. At the count of 20, you will feel refreshed, alert, relaxed, and wide awake. You can do many variation upon this image. Instead of going to the beach, you may like to go to a favorite outdoor spot in the woods, or to the place you used to enjoy as a child. This and other self hypnosis techniques can help you to feel relaxed and calm, and sometimes result in an natural high.
Biofeedback is a relatively new technique. It generally relies on a machine that can measure brain waves, cardiac rhythm, pulse, breathing, muscle tension, or conduction of electricity by the skin. Since it is not a technique that you can do without purchasing expensive and complicated equipment or going to the office of a therapist who has the equipment, biofeedback will not be discussed in great detail here. Basically, biofeedback training is a conditioning process. When a more tranquil state is recorded by the equipment, the individual is rewarded by a pleasant tone or colored light. The individual attempts to concentrate so as to produce more and more of the reward in response to changes in the body system he/she is trying to control. This technique can be used to lower blood pressure, produce an increase of alpha waves, or slow pulse or muscle tension.
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