Hypnosis – both the self-administered variety and professional hypnotherapy – has been used for stress management and as anxiety treatment for generations. But to what extent (if any) is there medical evidence to suggest hypnotherapy is genuinely helping people deal with stress?
Can hypnosis offer personalized and effective relief from everyday stress and anxiety, or are there better ways to cope with stressful situations?
Understanding Stress and Anxiety
Contrary to popular belief, not all forms of stress are negative in the traditional sense. Good stress is the type that drives you to reach your personal and professional goals, and can therefore be healthy. Bad stress can take a major toll on your health (mental and physical) and your quality of life in general.
Finding effective ways to handle stress is something every person does differently. People develop different coping mechanisms to use at home and at work, in order to bring relief when faced with stressful situations. But to believe it is possible to live a life free from stress in its entirety is to have an entirely unrealistic perspective.
You can focus on reducing and minimizing stress, you can use every technique to relax in the book and you can consider professional stress management sessions with a trained therapist. Nevertheless, there is still no realistic way of completely avoiding all forms of stress outright.
Instead, therefore, you need to find ways to manage stress proactively, which may otherwise have a negative effect on your professional and personal life.
The Main Causes of Stress
Back in 1967, two noted psychiatrists – Thomas Holmes and Richard Hahe – conducted a study looking into the most stressful experiences a person is ever likely to go through in their lifetime. Their research took into account the thoughts, opinions, and experiences of a broad audience, resulting in the development of the following list of 10 top causes of stress:
1. Death of a spouse
3. Marital separation
5. Death of a close family member
6. Injury or illness
8. Job loss
9. Marriage reconciliation
Of course, some would object to at least a few of these entries and claim that they may have changed significantly over time. Modern life isn’t quite the same as it was back in the 60s, but the vast majority of these still rank among the most stress and anxiety-inducing scenarios imaginable.
Still, comparing causes and triggers of stress like for like isn’t particularly productive, given how they tend to differ significantly from one person to the next. It’s rare for most people to be on the same page as each other when it comes to their own personal stress triggers. What one may consider a gentle or non-existent stress trigger, another may find far more difficult to cope with.
The Benefits of Hypnosis for Stress Relief
From a medical perspective, stress is typically defined as the way the body responds when it perceives something as dangerous. It is essentially a survival mechanism, wherein the body is programmed to watch over its own health and wellbeing by avoiding dangerous situations.
But while the medical definition of stress may be relatively straightforward, it’s a far more complex issue in the real world. It’s also something that affects people in very different ways and to very different extents. While some struggle chronically and continuously, others rarely feel stressed at all on a day-to-day basis.
In any case, there are countless medical and non-medical approaches to the management of mental health issues like excessive stress. While patients may sometimes be prescribed courses of medication to help keep them in a relaxed state, it’s a comparatively rare course of action.
Instead, issues like these are normally addressed with a personalized course of treatment with a professional counselor, psychotherapist, or hypnotherapist. Increasingly, hypnotherapy is becoming the treatment of choice for millions who struggle with stress and anxiety on a daily basis.
As for what makes hypnotherapy such a popular choice, hypnosis can be beneficial in a number of ways that go beyond the capabilities of more conventional treatments:
1. The fact that hypnosis almost always excludes the use of conventional pharmaceuticals makes it a preferable option for those who would prefer not to take prescription drugs.
2. Many people believe that by taking more direct control over their subconscious mind, they subsequently take control of various aspects of their lives in pursuit of positive change.
3. While conventional meds and most traditional forms of treatment often prove ineffective, many experts believe that almost anyone can be trained to benefit from hypnosis.
4. Even where hypnosis for mental health issues proves ineffective, there is absolutely no risk of dangerous or detrimental side effects.
5. Those who master the art of self-hypnosis for stress can put themselves into a hypnotic state anytime they need to do so, without the intervention of a professional therapist.
6. The potential benefits of hypnosis as a form of relaxation therapy transcend everyday stress and anxiety reduction and can be used to combat a long list of mental health issues.
Rather than seeking to ‘cure’ any condition in the conventional sense, hypnotherapy aims to help people take control over their thoughts, behaviors, and fears. Experts believe that if you can train your brain to focus on something other than the issues that are causing you stress and upset at the time, your body and mind will benefit on a level that goes beyond the effects of conventional medications for similar conditions.
Does Self-Hypnosis for Stress Management Really Work?
The fact that different people respond to hypnosis in different ways makes it difficult for a formal scientific conclusion to be reached. Nevertheless, extensively trained medical professionals worldwide now regularly use (or recommend) the hypnosis technique to help and support their patients.
If nothing else, anecdotal evidence supporting the potential benefits of hypnotherapy is overwhelming. Millions of people have experienced the extent to which entering into a trance-like state can help them cope with a wide variety of issues – ultimately enjoying a better quality of life as a result.
Understandably, the potential effectiveness of self-hypnosis is also a topic of widespread debate. While there is little doubt as to the potential benefits of hypnotherapy in the conventional sense, being able to hypnotize yourself to come to terms with stress and anxiety is another issue entirely.
Advocates of self-hypnosis believe that in order to make it work, the individual in question must focus heavily on the following:
1. Motivation. It is impossible to successfully hypnotize yourself if you are not completely motivated to do so and have a specific outcome in mind.
2. Belief. You must also firmly believe in the benefits of hypnosis and your ability to enter into a hypnotic state on your own, or it isn’t going to happen.
3. Relaxation: Self-hypnosis is dependent on entering into a state of total relaxation in the right setting and surroundings.
4. Concentration: The ability to focus and concentrate without being distracted is also pivotal to achieve the desired results.
5. Practice: The overwhelming majority of people will need to practice the process several times, before successfully achieving the desired state of mind. Practice makes perfect.
Self-hypnosis is something anyone can try and there is no shortage of YouTube tutorial videos to check out. Some of which are far more effective and convincing than others, so don’t be too discouraged if you are unsuccessful at first.
The Bottom Line…
At the risk of rounding off rather ambiguously, there really is no straightforward bottom line when it comes to hypnosis. As with all forms of therapy aimed at the treatment of mental health issues, different techniques work in different ways for different people.
Nevertheless, hypnotherapy has been a tried and trusted option for generations, helping millions achieve goals that may otherwise have proved impossible. It is also 100% risk-free with no adverse side effects to worry about, so is considered safe for the vast majority of people to try out.