Anxiety: Can't live with it and–based on how often it keeps us up at night or grabs on to us before an important moment–can't live without it. Anxiety affects approximately 40 million people and reels its ugly head in a number of different ways from a common phobia, like spiders or flying, to full blown panic attacks. Everything from being stressed out by social situations to having OCD to suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder is classified as anxiety and, collectively, it's is the most common mental disorder experienced by Americans. So, it's pretty safe to say, you've probably experienced it at least once in your life and, if so, you're in good company. Even celebs get anxious.
VIDEO: The Climb: The Panel on Failure & Success
Still though, anxiety can be crippling; it can hold us back socially, professionally, and emotionally. So, a treatment or at least an effective management strategy is crucial. So, when world-renowned hypnotherapist Richard Barker got in touch with InStyle to discuss hypnosis and how it can benefit our lives, it got us thinking. If hypnosis works in the mind to help smokers quit, increase motivation for weight loss, and even encourage a more positive outlook on life, could it also cure or at least curb anxiety?
According to Barker, yes.
"All anxiety is first created with a thought in the mind which is then transferred into an emotion, an action, and an end result," he explains. "When you think something, the mind asks itself 'What does my memory bank say about that particular thought and how should I respond to it?'"
In the case of anxiety, he explains, the mind will tell you, based on your habits and behaviors, that you should react by feeling fearful, which might include sweating and an increased heartbeat. "Hypnosis can break and even remove this cycle by replacing the data," he says. "The mind searches and finds the replacement script, one of a calmer reaction."
So, for example, if you suffer from social anxiety, it may be because of something that happened to you in your past at a social event or with a friend that triggered embarrassment or fear. You might not remember it (or you definitely will), but it can still be a catalyst for anxiety you might face when you get an invite to a friend's wedding or even just a night out with your girls. During a consultation, a hypnotherapist will discuss your anxiety with you, put you under, so to speak, and work through hypnosis in your subconscious to unlearn the programming that tells your mind to believe the fear of social interaction. Barker will record the session to give to the client to listen to daily for approximately 30 days and will follow up with him or her regularly to check in on progress. Here's an example of a full recording on how to program happier thoughts.
If your first inclination is to be anxious about being put into a hypnotic trance, you're not alone. And Barker has heard it all. "There's a number of misconceptions about hypnosis, like that it's mind control or even dangerous," he says. "Hypnosis is really a guided sense of relaxation that involves taking an individual into a heightened sense of awareness and suggestibility where positive changes can be made." Think more mantras and self-visualization and less clock swinging and getting sleepy.
If that doesn't quell your fears, it might help you to know that you can actually hypnotize yourself. "The practice of self-hypnosis is very popular and once its mastered can be used personally to make changes for the better in all aspects of life," Barker explains.
Hypnosis, in general, can be used as a positive coping mechanism that can at its best relieve you of anxiety or bad habits and offer you a more relaxed state of being. "In a crazy world, we're able to self-reflect and improve through hypnosis," says Barker. "We can keep the hypnosis in our mind even through tough times because we are able to own our own thoughts."