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Self hypnosis for Insomnia and Anxiety

What is self hypnosis?

Self hypnosis is the ability to become deeply relaxed at all times – not just when you are with your hypnotherapist. You could say that self hypnosis is simply teaching yourself to relax on demand. There are a number of way to achieve a state of deep relaxation – listening to CDs or using different relaxation techniques. Following your first hypnotherapy session you will be given CDs to listen to. These are voice recordings, containing suggestions that you feel comfortable and relaxed. Together with this, there are breathing exercises and relaxation techniques which will teach you to feel very relaxed. For most anxiety based problems, this ability to become relaxed is, on its own, enough to help you to feel better. Sometimes you may feel you also need specific suggestions to help you make the changes you want to make. These suggestions – sometimes called affirmations – can either be given to you on a your own personalized CD, or written down , and will form part of your self hypnosis routine.

What is the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy?

This confuses many people. They are broadly the same thing and many people use the words interchangeably – but strictly speaking, hypnosis describes a state of deep relaxation, with the hypnotherapist using suggestions and visualisation about relaxation and calm to help you feel totally relaxed. In hypnotherapy, you are in a state of hypnosis – in other words, very deep relaxation – and then specific suggestions are made to you about making changes to your thoughts, beliefs and behaviour. In both hypnosis and hypnotherapy, however, you remain fully in control at all times.

Perhaps the easiest way to understand the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy is to say that being in hypnosis – being very relaxed – is what enables you to undergo hypnotherapy – listening to suggestions to help you make changes to your thoughts and behaviours.

Relaxation – hypnosis – helps with your general state of mind, too, allowing you to see things in perspective and to ignore (or at least find less troubling) those events and people who may usually make you feel tense and anxious.

The deeper the level of relaxation you achieve, the better the results of the hypnotherapy. This is thought to be because when your mind and body are relaxed, the critical part of your conscious mind is very relaxed, and much more open to suggestion than when you are in your usual alert state. Being in hypnosis means that your barriers are down – this is how hypnosis gets its undeserved reputation for making people do things they do not want to do. However this is just not possible. You cannot be made to do anything which you strongly disagree with, or which is against your beliefs – if such suggestions were made to you, you would in fact immediately stop feeling so relaxed because you would wonder why something unpleasant was being suggested. You would become suspicious, your guard would go back up, and you would no longer be in hypnosis.

If your problem is anxiety related then learning to relax and to go into hypnosis will itself be a great help. Anxiety is one way of describing those unpleasant feelings you get when you can’t stop thinking about something. It doesn’t have to be something terrible, like the loss of a job, or illness, or financial problems – it can be anything at all which keeps going round in your head – a conversation you just had, or even something as simple as “I can’t get to sleep”, or a list of things you need to do tomorrow. If you are anxious about something in particular, then the specific suggestions made during hypnotherapy can help you to change the way you think about that thing. And if you are generally anxious and find it hard to switch off, hypnosis and relaxation will teach you how! Relaxation and anxiety are mutually exclusive. You can teach yourself to feel relaxed; and to switch off from those thoughts which make you anxious.

How do self hypnosis and relaxation help insomnia?

If you have difficulty sleeping, you should also read the specific page about insomnia. Insomnia is a form of anxiety – the inability to switch off from things. Relaxation is the opposite of anxiety and it’s impossible to be both relaxed and anxious at the same time. If you learn to allow yourself to relax and switch off, then sleep will come naturally to you.

Breathing techniques to help you sleep.

If you cannot fall asleep, or if waking in the night is a problem, there are a number of relaxation techniques using breathing which will help you sleep. These methods focus on the outwards breath. When you breathe in, you can’t help but tense the muscles in the chest and abdomen. When you breathe out, those muscles can’t help but relax. The outwards breath is the relaxing part of breathing. All of these breathing exercises are based around focusing on the out breath, making it almost a sigh – try and make your counting or repetitions of words (as explained in the next two paragraphs) fit around your breathing and not the other way round, or it will take much longer to relax! It takes practice but will definitely work if you keep at it.

Breathing and counting – try breathing out at the same time as counting from one to twenty, one number on each out breath/sigh, starting again once you reach twenty. You may find this is too easy and your thoughts drift off – if you feel you need something a little more difficult, you can try counting backwards in 3s from 100. Don’t worry if you find your thoughts drifting off towards other things – this is natural – but as soon as you realise you have done this, start counting again. It is tempting to think that it will help you to “just think things through” but it is precisely this which is keeping you awake!

Breathing and repetitions – alternatively, try repeating the same word on each out breath/sigh – choose any word or phrase you wish – popular choices are peace, calm, quiet, sleep – but you can choose anything.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Another method is – starting with your feet and working upwards – IMAGINE you are tensing each part of your body in turn for ten seconds or so, and then relax that part of the body, thinking about how soft, loose, relaxed and comfortable it feels, for a further ten seconds. Then move on to the next part of the body. This technique works because when you merely imagine moving a muscle in a particular way, your brain still sends a weak version of that instruction to move to the part of the body you are thinking of (this can be demonstrated to you in the session – in technical terms it is known as the “ideo motor response” and is a well recognised neurophysiological phenomenon) – so the muscles you imagine tensing WILLtense, slightly. You will have noticed when you have exercised or exerted yourself in the past that you feel very tired and relaxed afterwards; it is a physiological fact that muscles which have been tensed are afterwards capable of deeper relaxation than they would otherwise be. This technique allows you to feel the benefit of relaxing a muscle after tensing it (becuase when you imagined tensing it, it will have tensed, albeit very slightly) but without the effort of actually physically tensing the muscles. This is a very old technique, often used in yoga, and it really does work.

You don’t need to know the correct names of the muscles; in fact you don’t have to call them anything at all – you can just picture the part of the body. Start with the left foot, then lower left leg, then muscles around the knees, upper legs, then repeat the previous steps with the right leg, pelvis, stomach and chest, arms (one at a time), shoulders and back of neck, and finally the facial muscles. By the time you reach the head, you feel physically extremely relaxed; mentally, too, you will have switched off from your worries and repetitive thoughts because you will have been focusing on the simple act of tensing and relaxing the muscles.

Another breathing exercise

You could also try “lengthening the exhalation” – just making sure that the outwards breath is longer than the inhalation. You can try imaging that the inwards breath is travelling in through your fingers, through your arms and shoulders and into your chest; as you breathe out imagine the breath travelling from the top of your chest down to your feet. This is really easy to do.

Sleep Hygiene and the Twenty Minute Rule

Sleep hygiene is a set of rules which ensure you will get a good night’s sleep. These are set out in more detail on the insomnia page. Particularly useful for many people is the “20 minute rule” – getting up after 20 minutes if you haven’t fallen asleep (no matter how difficult it may seem!) Often, the mere fact that you have told yourself that you are getting up in 20 minutes if you’re not asleep by then means that you relax more easily – you don’t try so hard to fall asleep – and this in fact helps you to fall asleep. Basically, sleep should involve NO EFFORT – so if you are trying to get to sleep then in effect you are making an effort to make no effort – which is obviously a contradiction. The harder you try, the more difficult it is. So – stop trying; tell yourself that you are getting up in twenty minutes if you’re not asleep by then. This takes the pressure off and more often than not you will find yourself drifting off. Remember all the times you’ve managed to fall asleep just before the alarm goes off? It’s not because you’re tired – you’ve been tired all night; it’s simple because you’ve stopped trying so hard to sleep.

Just experiment with these, follow the sleep hygiene rules, and find what works best for you. The fact is that it is anxiety which is keeping you awake, and it is a physiologically impossibility to be both relaxed and anxious at the same time. So, by turning your thoughts away from things which make you anxious, and towards something monotonous – counting, breathing, relaxing muscles in turn, etc – you will find that you cannot help but become relaxed. And then it will be impossible for you to feel anxious.

All of these exercises which help you to sleep will also put you in the right state of mind to repeat your affirmations – those suggestions about how you want to change.
Whichever relaxation technique you have used, when you feel sufficiently relaxed – usually after 5 or 10 minutes – then repeat the statements which together we’ll agree on – these statements are the thoughts which you want to become second nature.

Find a hypnotherapist in south Manchester

The therapists at Manchester Hypnotherapy have fifteen years of experience in treating insomnia, anxiety and teaching self hypnosis. If you want to find a hypnotherapist in south Manchester to treat insomnia, then look at any of the independent websites which list and give reviews of hypnotherapists (for examplewww.freeindex.co.uk – Google also displays reviews) and you will see the excellent results which Pam and her team have achieved. Pam’s record in treating insomnia is second to none. If you would like further information about hypnotherapy in Manchester, for insomnia, self esteemanxiety or any other problem, please call us on 07779 575816 for a free, no obligation, confidential chat, or email pam@pamnewbury.co.uk