Ask the expert: How can I switch off and relax?
There’s a lot going on in the world at the moment and, with the news cycle feeling relentless at times, it’s no surprise many of us are finding it hard to switch off. If you find your mind constantly whirring and relaxation just out of reach, read on.
Here, we ask hypnotherapist Fiona Vitel for her thoughts on easing stress, switching off and getting the relaxation you need.
With everything that’s happening right now, I’m struggling to relax. Do you have any suggestions to help me switch off?
For most of us, we have never experienced or even considered we would have to deal with long periods of isolation that is outside our control. Or so we think. Perhaps we don’t have control over a pandemic, but we do have within our own sphere of influence. Our mind and breath are the best places to start.
Switch off all devices, make yourself comfortable either sitting up straight or lying down and take your focus to your breathing. Breathe in and out to a ratio of 4:6 while repeating a word like “calm”, “relax”, or “peace”. Do this until your breathing feels even and rhythmic and the body/mind has responded to your command.
Listening to soothing music, doodling or using colouring-in books, going for a walk, doing gentle yoga or sleeping can all help you to relax. Remember – you get to choose how you respond. You have more control than you think!
I’m feeling stressed a lot these days and I’m finding it hard to cope. Is this something hypnotherapy can help with?
Stress and anxiety can feel overwhelmingly hard to cope with during difficult times. That’s why so many people seek help and hypnotherapy is one of the fastest and most effective ways of regaining a sense of balance. The “fight or flight” response is identified, the root cause understood and then this is contrasted with the physical and emotional changes of the relaxation response.
Healing images, positive suggestions and other concepts are offered to the subconscious to act upon rather than allowing the limiting beliefs that create fear and discord to be the driving force. Hypnotherapy helps to strengthen right thinking by overriding negative conditioning.
The subconscious is, after all, the servant and the master! It can’t tell the difference between what is real or unreal and, therefore, gives us a great opportunity to programme something new and true. Coping skills are increased, making way for life-changing self-management.
Falling asleep is hard at the moment, my mind is constantly whirring. Do you have any advice to help me fall asleep?
Other than good nutrition and regular exercise is the importance of deep and rejuvenating sleep. During times like these, it can be easy to slip into the habit of snoozing during the day and arising late in the morning. When there is mind chatter going on, then it’s time to take action to silence it.
The “monkey mind”, as it’s frequently called, brings on doubt, fear, distraction and depression. I address this more fully in my hypnotherapy sessions but there are some ways you can address it by shifting your focus to reading, listening to soothing relaxation music, breathwork, and meditation.
A warm lavender-scented bath works wonders as does a herbal tea or warm milky drink before bedtime. Make sure the temperature of your bedroom is comfortable. And finally, stop using devices like TV, phones and tablets at least an hour before sleep time.
I’m finding myself scrolling on social media a lot even though it’s overwhelming. Do you have any tips to help me digitally disconnect?
We are in a human world where everything has sped up and shrunk down. We are now plugged into a huge global nervous system that both unites and divides us. For better or worse we are advancing our collective consciousness and declining into mental, emotional and physical health disorders.
If you are one of the people who have a modicum of control then you will know that abstinence for periods of time from social media and leaving your device at home when you know nothing is urgent is a good and beneficial thing.
But, if you are one of the 99% of people who are continually checking and rechecking your device, spending vast amounts of time on it and experiencing the mental, emotional and physical health problems from this addiction, then it's time to stop. Get outside, exercise, read a book, cook. Chat with friends. Discover art. Get active!
A friend recommended I try self-hypnosis to help with relaxation – is this the same as meditation?
Meditation is a practice to get focused in the present moment and sustain stillness. Self-hypnosis aims to go deeper into a trance-like state and from there you become more open to powerful suggestions which can make changes in any area of one’s life. You still get to enjoy the feeling of calm and relaxation with both approaches.
Top tips for those struggling to switch off:
There are so many variants to switching off mentally but the ones I think are good to start with are:
1. Move away from your computer, phone or whatever activity it is that’s taking all of your attention and take a short walk outside or simply move to a window and watch the world outside for a while. A different sensory experience helps to make a change to how you process emotions and will hopefully have benefits such as relaxation.
2. Practice meditation and deep breathing techniques.
3. Use self-hypnosis to calm and relax the autonomic nervous system and use picture imagery to transport yourself to other realms, be it nature or whatever your fabulous imagination can conjure. Immerse yourself while listening to relaxation music that you can find on YouTube.
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