Ask the expert: How can I overcome my phobia post-lockdown?

The pandemic has brought a great deal with it, including grief, anxiety and a fatigue that’s hard to shift. For some, it’s also exacerbated phobias. Whether you have a driving phobia that’s been made worse by not driving during lockdown or a fear of needles you suddenly need to tackle, know that you’re not alone.

Here we talk to hypnotherapist, psychotherapist and coach Anne Millne-Riley to learn more about phobias post-lockdown and how hypnotherapy can help.

Understanding phobias

I feel like my phobia has gotten worse during the pandemic, is there a reason for this? 

You are not alone! We have spent many months isolated from families, friends and normal life, and many of us have developed a controlled environment where we feel less vulnerable to Covid-19. We have created coping strategies to help us to feel more in control and the isolation has often resulted in being able to avoid the things that frighten us. 

Avoidance increases the potency of phobias. This is because the challenges we routinely faced in the outside world prior to the pandemic helped to build our resilience to overcome the things we fear. The loosening of restrictions and a return to some ‘normality’ may be bringing people back into situations where they must again confront their fears, creating feelings of vulnerability.

I have a needle phobia and I’m scared of getting vaccinated. Can you share any techniques to help me cope?

Try to focus on the reason you are getting vaccinated – to keep yourself and those you love safe. Arrive early and spend a little time slowing your breathing down. Let your arms and shoulders feel limp and breathe in slow, elongated breaths. When your breathing slows, your heart rate drops leaving you feeling calmer.

When you feel a little more relaxed, begin to queue and, when it’s your turn, sit down slowly and again let any tightness or tension leave your arms and shoulders. Continue to breathe slowly, look away from the arm that is being vaccinated and continue to work on your breathing. Then afterwards, congratulate yourself!

Hypnotherapy for phobias

How does hypnotherapy for phobias help?

Phobias can originate from events in the long distant past, the roots of which are stored in your subconscious mind. Hypnotherapy allows the practitioner to relax the client and we are then able to work with the subconscious to reprogramme thoughts and feelings.

Most clients understand how irrational their phobias might appear, but travelling back through memories to understand how the phobia began can help us to normalise feelings. The suggestions put to the client during a trance state can help them accept their situation, focus on a more rational approach and help them let go of the fear.

Your hypnotherapist can suggest more positive outcomes or help you to rehearse psychologically, managing your phobias without the fear.

Can you explain what self-hypnosis is and how this can help with phobias? 

Have you ever got lost in a fascinating film or book and lost track of time? This focussed trance-like state is the natural phenomenon of hypnosis. Self-hypnosis describes the process of becoming highly focussed and absorbed in that natural state whilst giving yourself positive suggestions about the changes you wish to make. Whether this is simply about relaxing fully or changing a habit or fear, your subconscious mind is able to rehearse positive change and prepare the mind to take action. 

For example, if you fear flying, you might imagine flying to your favourite holiday destination, feeling in control and calm and enjoying the experience. Focussing on the feelings of enjoying a flight and having a wonderful holiday can help you to put aside the earlier fearful habits.

Top tips for those struggling with phobias

  1. Understand that phobias are common and can be fixed. Millions of people experience phobic reactions to things, but the great news is that you can change these fears and reactions.
  1. If you feel able, try some immersion therapy. I had a client who feared frogs and gradually over time tackled her fear by looking at photos of frogs, then some video footage and then finally the real thing. She was able to accustom herself to how they looked and moved whilst controlling her breathing and gradually overcoming her fear.
  1. Help is out there! If you feel it is time to tackle your phobia, see a hypnotherapist who can work with you to overcome your fears. Phobias can be easily addressed through hypnotherapy in a surprisingly short time!

This article was originally published in Happiful Magazine (August 2021). You can order print copies online, or read the e-magazine for free on the Happiful app

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Written by Katherine
Kat is a Content Producer for Memiah and writer for Hypnotherapy Directory and Happiful magazine.
Written by Katherine
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