Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hypnosis for Stroke Survivors

I just got back from a fantastic, kid-free weekend in Dallas. I went down there to attend a class and as an added bonus I got to take advantage of a rare opportunity to spend some quality time with my brother, getting dressed up and going out to "grown-up" type places.

The class was well worth the trip! The topic was Rewire the Brain Through Hypnosis - The Answer for Stroke Survivors, taught by Don Mottin. Don is well known in the hypnosis profession, and his book about raising children with hypnosis is one of my favorites. He is also a stroke survivor, having suffered a massive stroke in 2003. I jumped at the opportunity not only to learn from someone so respected in my field, but also someone who experienced first-hand the many challenges faced by stroke survivors and was able to overcome so many of them to develop a hypnosis program that not only helps other survivors, but also their caregivers.

So how can hypnosis help a stroke survivor? Many ways. First of all, let's not forget the tremendous power the mind has when it comes to healing the body. The key is to not give up, and often that's what happens when someone suffers a traumatic health-related event such as a stroke. One way that hypnosis helps is by removing negative imprints that accompany the event. An imprint is a message that reaches the core of the subconconscious mind. It can be either positive or negative, and we have hundreds of them. Some give us talents and other prevent us from achieving success in our lives. Imprints are likely to take place during frightening times, during emotional times, and when we're experiencing a high level of stress...does that sound like what a stroke survivor experiences? What happens when they are told, "It's unlikely you'll ever walk/talk/drive/dress/etc. again?" That message turns right into a belief, and they are defeated before they even begin rehabilitation. Imagine what the impact would be if they could believe in their ability to heal, and to appreciate and celebrate even minor improvements. Maybe instead of enduring five or so minutes of physical therapy a day, they become motivated to put in 20 minutes a day.

Then there are the specific areas of the survivors life that are affected which can be helped to improve using hypnosis, such as dealing with anger, reducing fears, memory enhancement, accident prevention, dignity, incontinence, impotence, impulsive behavior, and much more. Stroke survivors often feel like so much of who they were has been stripped away, and really, how much more are they supposed to take? The ability to gain back even a little bit of what had been lost can make a huge difference to their self-esteem and ability to further heal.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Quieting the hamsters in your mind - Sleep tips for children and adults

When I was a kid, I had a very hard time falling asleep at night. I'd toss, turn, count sheep, look at my clock, panic, start to cry, and then wake my mom up to share my misery with her. She would calmly get up, go into the kitchen, and make a cup of special tea called Sleepytime Tea that seemed to have a magical effect on me. I'd be asleep very soon after returning to bed. 

I work with sleep issues in both adults and children fairly frequently in my practice. In addition to the hypnosis work we do, the following are a few tips that I share with my clients that can be helpful in creating the best environment for successful sleep:
  • Stop the "hamsters running on wheels" in your mind. This is what I call it when your mind just jumps from one thought to another to another. Maybe you're worried about something, maybe you're replaying an event or conversation from your day, or maybe your mind is obsessing over something else. Keep a notepad and pen by your bed and when the hamsters start running, write down whatever thought or idea or worry is popping into your mind. Then assign a time the next day to address that thought. You may have several or just one. It doesn't matter how big or insignificant, just write it down and assign a time to think about it the next day. This exercise assures your subconscious that you are acknowledging the thought and will give it the proper attention at a more appropriate time. That way your subconscious can "let go" and help you relax into sleep. The next day look at your list and, if necessary, do what you need to do to address those issues. Sometimes that which seems so worrisome at 2:00 AM is totally insignificant in the light of day.
  • Practice relaxation techniques before bedtime. Take some time to unwind and release the stress and anxiety from the day. I give my clients a free relaxation CD that I recorded with instructions to get into the habit of listening to it every day until they are able to relax on their own. I am happy to email an MP3 version of the recording, so if you'd like one please contact me at
  • Limit the amount of negative information you encounter right before bedtime whether it be the news, television programs, newspapers, magazines, or internet. Too much negativity right before you go to sleep will really keep those hamsters running.
  • Keep your bedroom a place for sleep and bedroom-related activities. You want your mind to associate your bed and bedroom as a place of rest and sleep. Bills, work, studying, TV, computer time, etc., should be done in another room. If that's not possible, then at least do them away from the bed.
  • Keep the clock out of sight. Some people, especially children, can get even more stressed out as they watch the hours pass by still wide awake. "Now I'm only getting four hours of sleep! Oh no, now I'm down to three and a half hours of sleep!"
Tips specifically for children:
  • If your child is worried about being too tired to perform well the next day, reassure your child that as long as he or she is lying still in their beds with their eyes closed their bodies are still resting and it's the next best thing to actually sleeping. This removes some worry about being too tired to function the next day, and it gets them back to bed.
  • If you are concerned about your child's performance the next day due to lack of sleep, keep it to yourself. If your child is already worried about not sleeping, adding your concerns on top of theirs only compounds the problem.
  • Placebos work very well with children. My mom didn't even know about the placebo effect yet she demonstrated it every time she'd make the Sleepytime Tea. Certainly the tea itself had herbs that were calming, but the fact that she presented it as "just as good as taking a sleeping pill" was all I needed to fall asleep quickly after drinking it. I recommend trying this yourself, either with a similar type tea (make sure there's no caffeine in it) or warm milk, which is also known to help induce sleep.
 Additional reminders:
  • Caffeine and other stimulants can have an affect on our sleep. Consider cutting them out earlier in the day.
  • Avoid eating heavy meals close to bedtime. Sometimes the act of digestion can keep you awake.
  • Regular exercise can help deepen sleep. If you work out right before going to bed and find you have problems falling asleep, experiment with working out earlier in the day.
  • Some people feel that alcohol helps them fall asleep. Alcohol does have a sleep-inducing effect, but it's not usually a good sleep, and too much can cause a wake-up effect after a few hours.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I’m back from hiatus with a baby boy to show for it!

Wow I can't believe it's been almost a year since my last post!

I’m so excited to be back. Over the past several months I’ve had many great ideas of topics to share and projects to do. I was very sick for most of my pregnancy and extremely tired. I had many potential complications along the way. Some days I felt as if I was pushing through this pregnancy white-knuckled by sheer will, but in the end everything was just fine. Baby Scott arrived at the end of March, happy and healthy. He and I are both doing very well and for that I am extremely thankful.

I pursued hypnosis in order to help others work through challenges in their lives. During this pregnancy I found myself relying upon some of those techniques to help myself out along the way. Each of the complications I had during pregnancy could have had harmful effects on my baby. I have also experienced a couple of miscarriages in the past. At one doctor appointment early on, my doctor read through my chart, took note of all the potential complications, and made the off-the-cuff remark of “Wow, you only look like you’re a healthy person.” Here’s a hypnotic hint: Be very careful what you say when someone is highly stressed because messages from someone in authority (such as a doctor) go straight into the subconscious. I was already highly aware of my complications and was working on keeping a light, positive attitude but I tell you after that comment I went out to my car and cried for an hour. Then I remembered a technique I use for some clients in my Hypnosis for Fertility sessions. It involves checking in with an “inner assistant" who resides in the womb and watches over the baby growing there. Although I was distraught with fear, worry, anger, and sadness I took a deep breath, put myself into a state of self-hypnosis, and asked my own inner assistant for a report. The image that came to mind was of a sweet-faced woman about 60 or so, with gray hair pulled back in a bun. My inner assistant grinned at me, nodded her head enthusiastically, and gave me a big thumbs-up. I took another deep breath, and decided to cancel out the negative feelings I got from that doctor appointment. I routinely checked in with my inner assistant until I could feel Scott moving around. The last time I checked in with her, she still nodded enthusiastically, grinning, and gave me the thumbs-up. I also noticed that her hair was coming out of her bun, kind of wild, as if she’d been busy chasing around an active little boy!

Compared to pregnancy my labor, delivery, and recovery were a breeze. I have emerged from the new-mommy stupor that comes from sleepless nights and adjusting to having a newborn and a four-year-old and I am ready to roll! As I mentioned earlier, I have a lot of exciting ideas in the works and many topics to discuss.