Dealing with anxiety using anchoring

As a professional hypnotist, my specialty is working with people with anxiety. Between the war in Iraq, $4 a gallon gasoline, and the looming recession, my business is booming. However, not every anxious person has the time, inclination or money to consult a hypnotist. So, if you or someone you know, suffers with anxiety, “fear of the future,” I have some simple suggestions and techniques that can help.

For starters, almost all anxious people fall into a category known as “highly sensitive people.” (HSPs) This phrase was coined by Elaine Arons, Ph.D., in her book, Highly Sensitive People: How to Thrive when the World Overwhelms You. HSPs are more affected by EVERYTHING in their environment: from perfume, to noise, to sleep deprivation, to job stress. As a rule, they need: (1) more sleep– sometimes as much as ten hours extra (2) less stressful jobs or shorter work hours (3) their own special de-stress zone– usually a quiet area in their home (4) reduced caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other toxic chemicals (5) less exposure to toxins of any kind, including toxic people.

Another great resource for anxious people is Edmund Bourne’s book, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. One trait that characterizes anxious people, according to Dr. Bourne, is “what-if-thinking.” An anxious person constantly imagines the worst case scenario. Examples include: “What if I go into work today and they fire me?”, “what if I left the coffee pot on?”, “What if I develop an ulcer from worrying all the time?”

One way that hypnosis can reduce the effects of anxiety is through a technique known as anchoring. While I use anchoring in my private practice, you can learn to use it yourself.

Here’s how it works: with anchoring, we are shifting the “what if” thought process away from “worst-case-scenario” and towards “best-case-scenario.”

I have the anxious person think of the most relaxing, or peaceful experience of their life. Sometimes it’s a favorite vacation. Or it might be something simple, like snuggling up under the blankets in their own bed.

Then I have them choose a most relaxing color and a word that describes how they feel in their relaxing place– calm, safe, peaceful? Next, I have them “anchor” in the place, the color, and the word with lots of deep relaxation and by imagining they are in their peaceful place and seeing or hearing their peaceful word surrounded by the peaceful color. I usually make the image very surreal, since it tends to heighten the effect and make it more memorable. For example, if the place is Hawaii, the color green, and the word relaxing, I might have them imagine the word floating on waves off the shoreline of Maui in giant 10-foot-tall green letters.

So, once the peaceful scenario is locked in, then I have them think about anxiety-producing scenarios. However, every time they start to feel anxious, they immediately “fire the anchor.” In fact, I say something like, “Have the big green wave wash over you, totally relaxing you and washing away all the anxiety, leaving you feeling just as relaxed as you were on your vacation in Hawaii.”

The anxious person would continue to pull up negative scenarios and anchor positive experiences to them until any “anxious” scenario automatically shifts them into “relaxation” mode.

I have seen anxious people completely drop that characteristic in a matter of three weeks. Many show tremendous improvement in just one session.

Feel free to share this idea with anyone currently suffering with anxiety and let me know how you do. Learning to shake “fear of the future” will help anyone live more joyously.

If you want some more simple techniques you can use to reduce anxiety, check out this link: anti-anxiety mini sessions.

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