Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Managing Stress with Mindfulness and Related Techniques

1. Four Words: Body, Image, Talk, Feeling

When you feel overwhelmed and its an image that is bothering you,
say the word 'image' about every four seconds to yourself until the
intensity of your experience subsides.

If you are overwhelmed with an emotion, use the word 'feeling'.

If you are overwhelmed by a physical sensation, use the word 'body'.

If you are ruminating and its getting to you, use the word 'talk'.

Why should this simple technique work? When we are experiencing
intensity and it is over the top, whether sensation, emotion, imagery,
or the chatter of rumination, the emotional and arousal centers of the
lower brainstem are very active. Saying the applicable word stimulates
the higher order cognitive centers in the neo-cortex. This naturally
tunes down the over arousal. This technique was shared with me by
one of John Cabot Zinn's colleagues and is used in their stress clinic
for cancer patients.

2. The Ten Second Pause

At the top of every hour take a deep breath, let it out and tell yourself
that these ten seconds exist for the pure pleasure of your being alive.
Why should this work? The breath helps, but more importantly, if the
river of stress in your life is not interrupted, it does not decline, and
it may rise. When you start interrupting it, you are hitting the pause button.
Stopping even if for 10 seconds frequently helps.

3. Visualize for 1 to 3 times a day for 1-3 minutes each time your favorite
relaxing place, perhaps on the beach or wherever you can really let go and
unplug. The more days you do this the better you will feel until you feel
like you are never far away from that experience. Remember, the more
time you rhearse stressful anxious thoughts and worries the more conditioning
you give your body and mind to go in that directions. Changing the
conditioning and the mind and body will follow, and more associations
will form in the brain with these pleasant visualizations and thoughts.

4. Slow breath

We teach people with panic disorders to do controlled breathing. Breathing
3 seconds in and three seconds out is all that is necessary and keep going until
you are thinking more clearly. This breath stabilizes carbon dioxide in the blood
stream and corrects the often shallow and quick breath that they take. It is not necessary
to take huge amounts of air or to stress already sore chest muscles that are common with stress
and anxiety. Breath slowly through the nose unless you are stuffed up. As your muscles
relax your chest will expand exactly as it needs to with no effort on your part.

5. Self Suggestion

Often when we are panicked, anxious, overwhelmed, our mind is triggered by the
body to provide associations for these experiences. That's where the worries and fears and
catastrophic thinking come from. Respond to these emotional and out of proportion reactions
by telling yourself that that's what they are. Take a moment to refocus your mind on some very
happy moment, or moment of success, or other positive experience. Circle back to the
irrational out of proportion thoughts and direct your thoughts to this thought by saying
I have more positive and constructive and important things to think about and do, more
pleasurable and happy and exciting thoughts and experiences to focus on. Thank you
for the fire alarm, but there is no fire. As you continue to cycle back to the more important,
pleasurable, and happy things in your life, your mind is competing with the stressful
thoughts and sensations. Because the positive thoughts and experiences are so much more
compelling and enjoyable, the stress and anxiety loses its hold.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What can Hypnosis Help?

Hypnosis can help with lots of things including
anxiety, depression, habit problems, weight control,
smoking cessation, and pain, to name just a few.
However, the most important thing to understand about
hypnosis is its power as an "adjunct" therapeutic technique
that may increase the effectiveness of other treatments.
So, in a very important sense, hypnosis is a strategic
consideration, rather than a stand alone therapy.

An example of this effect is what I have seen combining
cognitive behavioral methods with sensate focus
exercises, mindfulness, and hypnosis in the treatment
of sexual disorders. Since hypnosis is a natural way
of enhancing a relaxed state of focused attention, it
can be very useful when helping a couple attain the
benefits of sensate focus exercises when they need to
relax and focus on pleasurable experiences.

Geoff Michaelson, Ph.D., is a Fellow of the Academy
of Clinical Sexology, certified as a sex therapist by the
American Board of Sexology, and an Approved
Consultant by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

How Does Coaching Work?

How often do we say, "Someday I'll get around
to..." followed by one of our cherished dreams:
write a novel, find a mate, learn a language,
find a new career, succeed in business, spend
more time with my family, and the list goes on.
While coaching doesn't substitute for counseling
when it comes to serious emotional blocks and
problems, it has helped many people achieve
their goals.

How does it work? By crafting a coaching plan
with a clear set of step by step goals, meeting
and dedicating time to this plan on a regular basis,
creating an accountability that matches the client,
challenging the coaching client and supporting
them in moving outside their comfort zone, very
wonderful things can happen. People may get
past obstacles, procrastination, and uncertainty,
and the fear of acting on what they really want.

The relationship with the coach is another key.
A professional or executive coach is like a partner
on your team who helps you craft your plan, but
you retain all the profits or benefits. The process
is akin to a personal seminar on the most important
things in your life.
Geoff Michaelson, Ph.D. has been a professional
and executive coach since 1995. He was a member
of the Mentor/Coach LLC Trainers Team, coaching
numerous coaches on how to help their clients. He
has coached CEO's and COO's in the financial and
manufacturing sectors, published authors, music
company executives, literary agents, actors, among
many others.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pain Management

Here are 5 tips to managing pain from a psychological

1) Since muscle tension around a pain area can increase
the perception of pain, finding a way to relax despite
the felt pain can help. Everyone is different regarding
what can help in a painful situation. Some strategies:
a) Diaphragmatic breathing( can be taught in minutes}
b) Hypnosis (can be taught for muscle relaxation in a
single session).
c) Mindfulness training (simple techniques taught in minutes)
d) Visualization (designed with individual preferences for
analgesic imagery) . There are many more simple
techniques for relaxation.

2) We have good and bad pain days. Take a break every day
from worry and thinking about symptoms. Call your doctor
if need be and let him/her worry or think about it. Mentally
practice this rest from fear or worry for as long as you want
or can. Its your moment or time to reclaim from pain.

3) Make a practice of focusing your mind on something that
is pleasurable whether or not your pain is significant. Realize
that a pleasure can co-exist with pain. Practice focusing
on the pleasureable sensation whether it involves touch, taste,
sound, sight or any other sense.

4) We sometimes think we know how a day will go depending
on how it starts. Practice letting go of knowing. Your muscles
may let go as well.

5) Watch your self talk. Telling yourself that your pain is horrible
may be true at times and sometimes continuously, but drop the
emotional adjective. "Its a 9 on the scale" is enough. It can
add to a lower sense of self. Our pain can feel bad, but we are
not our pain. It is something we have and we need not feel
bad about ourselves by remembering we are so much more
than the feeling od pain.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Five Most Important Questions About Good Sex

People ask me all the time in my role as a sexologist,
"How can I have good sex?" Their number one question
is simply "What's the most important thing in having good
sex?" Here's the answer: It's all about your capacity to focus
on physical sensation and pleasure. Your body knows how to
become aroused.

Question 2: "If its so natural and simple, why do people have
so many problems?" The answer: Everything else besides sensation
is a distraction.

Question 3:
What are the top distractions? " Performance anxiety is king or
or queen. When people worry about what will happen and how
they perform they tense their muscles and breathe less deeply.
Tense muscles decrease blood flow and this is critical for sex.
When there is less blood flow to the pelvic region it's a kind of
"reverse-Viagra" effect. If they are in a relationship other emotions
from the relationship can enter in and provide distraction.
Interestingly the next most problematic distraction is an over
preoccupation with partner pleasing that dampens personal pleasure.

Question 4: So how do people overcome these problems? The
Gestalt therapist Fritz Perls had a saying: "Lose your mind and
come to your senses". I use a combination of relaxation and
self-hypnotic techniques to enhance muscle relaxation and blood
flow. I teach visualization and mental practice techniques to enhance
the focus on sensation. These are combined with cognitive or thinking
strategies that relieve the individual of irrelevant preoccupations.
Behavioral exercises for partners are used for practice and homework
to enhance their sense of sexual competency and to encourage them
to play and have fun. Then they are more able to put aside distraction.

Question 5: Why not just have people take a pill? Medications don't
work for everyone, some people don't like the side effects, and some
people simply don't want to use medication. The truth is that for some
people medications are a "godsend"when other measures don't work.
There are also situations in which combining medical treatment and
sex therapy may work best. The main point is that people should have
the available options for treatment so they can make informed
choices based on their needs.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hypnosis and Sex Therapy

Hypnosis can be a powerful tool in helping clients with
a variety of sexual problems. First of all there is the issue
of relaxation that has its place in treating erectile dysfunction
(ED) especially when there is performance anxiety involved.
Relaxation enhances blood flow and this is very useful
with ED.

Subjects who are able to alter sensation can apply their
training in self-hypnosis to ejaculatory control problems.
Sexual pain disorders involving muscle contraction and spasm
may respond to hypnotic relaxation along with other sex
therapy techniques.

Masters and Johnson's "Sensate Focus" techniques can
be enhanced with hypnosis since hypnosis involves a
relaxed state of focused attention. Sensate focus
requires focusing on sensation and pleasure during
lovemaking and couple exercises. Combining the
two techniques may assist couples in moving
more quickly through their learning experience.

In addition, the use of mental practice and visualization
as part of sex therapy "reconditioning" can be applied
to arousal and desire disorders as clients explore what
feels pleasurable to them. Hypnosis can help the clients
immerse more deeply in what they are experiencing.

Hypnosis also has its place in encouraging sexual self-esteem
as clients learn to appreciate their sexual selves and identity.

Hypnotizability matters. Some clients are more
talented than others with hypnosis. So, measuring this
ability is part of any initial assessment and treatment plan.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Power of One Word

The Power of One Word (First Published in 2003)
For years I've been telling clients and friends how
one trip to a hypnotherapist busted my writer's block
and helped me finish my dissertation. Eighteen years
later, while preparing a virtual class for book writers,
I discovered the secret magic formula within the
suggestion (or incantation?) that untied my
Gordian knot.

Let me tell you about my block, the single phrase
suggestion, and the secret that went undiscovered
till I meditated on it 18 years later. I never quite
understood how this worked. Now I know the source
of the 'power' within the phrase.

Two years after most of my classmates had finished
their dissertations, I was frozen solid, stuck,
totally blocked. My chair seemed to keep changing things
to the point where I was convinced the work would go on
forever, I would never graduate, and all the years of
sacrifice would go unrewarded. I couldn't write a thing,
dreaded approaching any member of my committee, and was
convinced there was nothing I could do to change things.

I believed the situation was hopeless.

A friend suggested the hypnotherapist. I arrived at the
office very curious about what would happen. The hypnotherapist
spoke to me in a matter of fact way. I offered my lament
about what the chairperson seemed to be doing. I remember
him saying in a very curious way, with a Cheshire smile,
'Isn't it nice that things can change?' I started laughing.
I wasn't consciously aware of why this happened. Something
was different.

He said something else that sounded like the first phrase but
was more personal. I associated to all the good changes that
had occurred in my life and to the wonder of many changes
within the world, such as the change of seasons. Something
was melting. I began to feel a sense of freedom and hope.
The session was over, but something had changed, big time!
What remained obscure was the phrasing of the second
suggestion and why the impact of this one session and two
simple phrases had been so profound.

Within a few short weeks I confronted my chairperson and
refused the direction he was taking. There was a brief,
brutal, intellectual and administrative struggle. He was
replaced and I survived. Within a few months I completed my
work and graduated in the fall of that year. A lot changed
very quickly.

In the ensuing years I repeated the story emphasizing
the phrase 'Isn't it nice things can change.' But some-
thing was missing. It wasn't just 'nice”. Something powerful
had happened. There was something more.

This past week, as I prepared a section of my class on
writer's block, I thought about the session in the hypno-
therapist's office. I was preparing a meditation to be
used in my teleclass as an illustration of a method for
dealing with writers block. I began to meditate on the
words and experiences of 18 years ago. I closed my
eyes and took a deep breath. A visual image of one word
appeared eidetically in my mind's eye: 'YOU'! He had said
or implied, 'Isn't it nice that 'You can change things!'?'

I was indeed the only one who could change my situation.
I had to take a profound action. I confronted my fear and
acted in the situation. What was missing from consciousness
all these years was the awareness that 'You can change
things!'. Having overcome my fears and acted, the writing
was easily completed.

The power to act was always potentially there. The hypno-
therapist helped me unlock my potential by leading me to
the opposite of what my fear of change had locked me into.
The power was within my grasp. He helped me by pointing
out the simple eloquence and power within 'You!'.

So now I have it in spades. The single most powerful word
I know: 'You'! Therein lies the power. It is within you,
each and everyone of us to transform our lives. Not only
are you the block, but also the power to undo it and the
power to complete your work on this planet.

Geoff can be reached at 703-883-1770 (voice) or (e-mail)