STRESS caused by fear of coronavirus can be conquered, says hypnotist Paul McKenna.
One in five people report suffering from what mental health experts have called Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome, with 40 per cent avoiding touching things in public spaces and 23 per cent shunning public places.
But with Paul’s stress-busting methods, you can feel at ease again.
Paul said: “Millions of us have got used to boundaries that were enforced by lockdown. It is a challenge to break them, which can trigger stress and fear.
“Firstly, we have uncertainty, which creates anxiety. We know from studies of what people are most frightened of, the unknown is always in the top ten and ranks almost as highly as death.
“Because there hasn’t been a visible end point to this pandemic, goalposts have moved and dates have changed, that has disrupted people’s ability to make plans.
“Secondly, the effect of the uncertainty is that it strips away people’s motivation. This is compounded by perceptions of constant threat that we have been spoon-fed for 16 months in the form of negative information on Covid deaths, variants and lockdowns, as well as perceived threats from Russia, China or even terrorists.
“Thirdly, if other people around you are stressed, then you will be infected too.”
But Paul believes it can be conquered.
He said: “The first step is to recognise that the perceived attacks our nervous system is protecting us from by triggering feelings of stress and anxiety are largely imaginary.
“If you stop for a moment and think about something you have been stressed about, chances are there is no imminent, physical danger involved — just discomfort.
“You can turn negative thought patterns into positive ones.”
Here, Paul reveals in his own words the techniques that will alleviate stress and anxiety triggered by the pandemic.
HOW BIG IS YOUR PROBLEM?
THE first thing I do for anyone suffering from anxiety and stress is ask: How big is the problem you are stressed about?
If you were to draw a line on the floor from one side of the room to the other, representing your entire life, how big is your problem now in the context of that?
Sometimes just a simple re-contextualising creates a shift in perspective.
Next, I’d like you to answer some questions as honestly as you can. When you interrogate something, it shifts you out of the mindset of being consumed by it.
- Write down something that could be positive about your problem. I’m not trying to solve it, but there will be a positive. For example, if someone is overweight they are not undernourished.
- What is not yet the way you want it to be?
- What are you willing to do to get the result that you want?
- What are you willing to stop doing to get the result that you want?
- How could you motivate yourself to do the things you want to do?
- What can you do today?
TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR MIND
THE main trigger for the stress response is NOT what happens, but rather your perception of what happens.
But you can learn to control your perceptions, and in doing so to control your stress.
Read through each step first so you know exactly what to do.
- Think about something you have been finding stressful. Bring it to mind and picture it now. It may be the pandemic, it may be something from the past that still bothers you or something you have been worrying about in the future. You may see it as a few pictures or a mini-video – a film of something happening or people watching you and talking. It doesn’t matter what sort of picture or video it is – just see it in your mind’s eye.
- As you notice what image or images come to mind, float out of yourself so you can see the back of your head. Pull back from that image and float as far away from you as you can so you can see yourself way over there, still in it.
- Drain all the colour out of the image or film and make it black and white, faint and transparent. This process reduces the intensity of the feelings the images in your mind were creating.
LISTEN TO YOUR HEART
THE heart is like a second brain. There are approximately the same number of communication connections to the heart as there is to the brain. So when we place our hand on our heart and put our attention there, we reduce cortisol, the stress hormone.
Use this exercise any time you are experiencing a stressful feeling in your body or an overly busy mind.
!Become aware that you are experiencing a stressful feeling in your body or that your mind is racing.
- Put your hand on your heart and focus your energy into this area. Take at least three slow and gentle breaths into your heart, maintaining your focus on the feeling of your hand in the centre of your chest.
- Now, recall a time when you felt really, really good – a time you felt love, joy or real happiness. Return to that memory as if you are back there again. See what you saw, hear what you heard and feel how good you felt.
- As you imagine this good feeling in your body, imagine your heart could speak to you. Ask your heart how you could take better care of yourself in this moment and this situation.
- Listen to what your heart says in answer to your question and act on it as soon as you can.
LOOK THROUGH SOMEONE ELSE’S EYES
THINK about someone who is a really good problem solver. It could be someone like Albert Einstein, or even your Aunty Dot.
I want you to shut your eyes and imagine they are standing before you. Now step into them and see the world through their eyes.
Look again at the challenges around Covid and the world. Do you feel any differently about the problem now you are seeing it through someone else’s eyes?
THE CALM ANCHOR
THIS exercise brings feelings of calm literally to your fingertips.
Before you do it, read through each step so you know exactly what to do.
- Remember a time when you felt really, really calm – at peace and in control. Return to that moment now, seeing what you saw, hearing what you heard and feeling how good you felt. (If you can’t remember a time, imagine how wonderful it would be to be totally at peace – if you had all the comfort and self-control you could ever need).
- As you keep running through this experience in your mind, make the colours brighter and richer, the sounds sharper and feelings stronger. Now squeeze the thumb and middle finger of your right hand together. You are associating this particular pressure in this particular place with this particular emotion. Run through this memory several times until you have a lovely sense of inner peace and calm.
- Now go through this relaxing memory at least five more times while continuing to squeeze your thumb and middle finger together to really lock in these good feelings. You will know you have done it enough when all you need to do is squeeze your fingers together and you can easily remember the feelings of calm and relaxation spreading through your body.
- Next, think about a situation that in the past you would have found mildly stressful. Once again, squeeze your thumb and middle finger together. Feel that calm feeling spreading through your body and imagine taking it with you into that stressful situation. Imagine everything going perfectly, exactly the way you want. See what you’ll see, hear what you’ll hear and feel how good it feels to be so much calmer and in control in this situation.
- Now, still squeezing your thumb and finger together, remember that calm feeling of being in control and once again imagine being in that situation that seemed to be stressful. This time imagine a few challenges occurring and notice yourself handling them perfectly. See what you’ll see, hear what you’ll hear and feel how good it feels to be much calmer and in control in this situation.
- Stop and think about that situation now. Notice the difference from only a few minutes ago. You should feel less stressed and more in control. If you don’t, repeat until you do.
THE NINE SQUARE GRID
THIS is one of my favourite techniques for destroying desperation and creating resilience.
In your mind, or on a piece of paper or your computer, create a grid of nine squares, above.
Keep the bottom, middle square free. In the eight other squares put people you love, things you feel proud of, undertakings that you have achieved, and times you have been affirmed in your life.
Now think about your anxiety, stress or problem and put it in the bottom middle square. You can put in “fear of Covid-19”.
Suddenly, in the context of all the good stuff that has happened in your life, you can see it for what it is and it doesn’t seem quite so overwhelming.
READER APP OFFER
THE Sun has teamed up with Paul McKenna to offer you a big discount on his hugely successful confidence app.
For the next 72 hours, you will be able to buy I Can Make You Confident for just £4.99 – usual price £7.99.
The app is available to download at the reduced price from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store or by simply using this QR code, pictured.
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