1 - Find your motivation
Find the motivation for tackling your phobia now – maybe you have children and don’t want to pass your fears onto them? Maybe there’s something you really want to do and your fear is stopping you? Maybe you just want the challenge of proving to yourself you can sort this out?
2 - Breathe!
Learn to calm yourself – breathe deeply and slowly. Hyperventilation is a key component of panic. Our bodies are designed so that a build up of carbon dioxide not lack of oxygen is the trigger for us to breathe. If we breathe rapidly this prevents carbon dioxide build up which paradoxically, despite a rapid breathing rate, can leave us gasping for breath…… Simply focusing on controlling your breathing can be a big help.
3 - Focus on something else
When we panic we tend to focus on our internal feelings and as our breathing and heart rate quicken we feed off these these signals, which makes panic almost inevitable. Think past this event, perhaps to something you are doing later, even if that’s just thinking about what you are going to have for dinner.
4 - Use logic to challenge the truth of your automatic negative thoughts
Because our phobias freak us out so much, we then tend to catatrophise about the situation and think things like “if I get in the lift, it will break down”, “I’ll then be stuck” . These negative thoughts put us in a vicious circle, we think them, feel worse and then think of an even worse scenario and before we know it think “When I'm stuck in the lift I’ll run out of air and die”. Hey, put this way lifts are lethal!
To break the cycle use the following three C’s process: Catch - Challenge - Change:
Catch the thought – notice that what you’re having is indeed a negative thought. It's often easier to spot negative thinking in someone else than ourselves, so why not ask a friend to help you here?
Challenge the truth of the negative thought “Is there anything you could do
if the lift broke down?”, “How many people go into lifts each day and don’t get stuck? “Have you ever heard of anyone suffocating in a lift?”
Change the thought with a more positive and realistic thought “Lifts are very safe. In the very unlikely event the lift broke down I could get help using the alarm button. Lifts have air vents so I won’t suffocate.”
Then practice, practice, practice to break the habit of this negative thinking. If you keep going you will retrain your mind to think more positively. Remember your mind is currently really used to thinking negatively about this thing, so it will take perseverance to correct that.
5 - Face your fear - in baby steps
The baby steps is really important here, so you don’t become so anxious you give up. Start by doing something that makes you a bit anxious e.g. if you are afraid of spiders you might be able to look at a picture of a spider. Look at the picture, try and do it long enough for your anxiety to decrease. But if you can’t don’t worry, practice regularly until you can. You can then move onto the next step which might be for example watching a youtube video of a spider. By the way if selecting videos to watch do get a friend to choose one for you, you don’t want to accidently watch a video of a large spider when you were looking for one of a small money spider.
If self-help isn’t enough or you need some additional support then professional help is also available.
Hypnotherapy is a well established treatment option for phobias. Phobias are extremely common and left untreated can get worse or develop into wider phobias.
Debbie Winyard is a hypnotherapist specialising in anxiety including anxiety caused by phobias and is always looking at new ways to help clients overcome their phobias.
Debbie explains why hypnotherapy is a good treatment option
“People who have phobias know that when their phobia kicks in they have no conscious control over their mind and body’s response. Their subconscious mind has decided that what they are phobic about is a danger to them and has responded before the rational, logical part of their mind can step in.
So the fear response comes from the subconscious level and this is why Hypnotherapy is a good option for phobia treatment, as Hypnosis works with the subconscious mind. In the case of phobias the phobic response has become a subconscious habit and hypnotherapy can tackle it by breaking the habit with retraining at a subconscious level.”
Hypnotherapy allows clients who are not yet ready to start facing their fears in the real world to do it safely within hypnosis – using their mind as a kind of rehearsal room if you like. Using this rehearsal room of the mind they can start to embed their new habit of responding positively to whatever they are afraid of, before they tackle it in the real world. So when they practice in real life the new positive response is already in place.
Each client is an individual. Debbie said
“I always consider the most appropriate methods for each client according to what they have told me about their phobia and how it affects them. Some clients are ready to go straight into practising facing their fears within the safety of the therapy room, others need to take it more slowly. The beauty of hypnotherapy is there are many options available. If need-be the client can build up their confidence by peeking at their fears from the safety of the relaxed hypnotic state before moving onto the next stage.”
Some clients are aware of a specific event that triggered their phobia. Hypnotherapy can be effective whether or not you recall where the phobia came from. Hypnotherapy can allow the emotions from any past event that triggered the phobia to be disconnected from the present; so the powerful link between the past fear response and present day situation is severed along with that automatic phobic response.
Debbie is always happy to talk to anyone who is considering hypnotherapy.