September 3

Changing States 2 – Anxiety

Preliminary Techniques


In Changing State Part 1 we looked at how you can work with an image to help your client change state. In Part 2, we'll look at how you can work with the energy of anxiety by changing the body.

People who are really anxious are sometimes called “spinny.”  Their minds are spinning all the time and so is their energy.  Anxiety is a common state.  And as a hypnosis practitioner you help clients to change their state. 

With Regression Hypnotherapy you can change the memory of an event by changing how it feels.  That’s because the event that made an impression in mind formed an image.  That’s the memory.  But the memory is not merely a picture.  The memory contains energy which is made of the feelings and emotions associated with the event.  

Anxiety usually has a spin to it because feelings want to move.  The problem is that they’re trapped inside the body so there's nowhere for them to go. What tends to happen with anxiety is that the nervous, fidgety, anxious feeling starts in the gut.  It then moves up the body.  And when it reaches the throat it gets stuck because the energy doesn’t get expressed.  The only place left for it to go is back down into the gut.  So, it stays stuck in the body cycling around and around.

The solution is to stop the spin.

First, have the client create an image of that spinning feeling in the body.  What direction is it moving?  Clockwise or counter-clockwise?  How big is it? Where is it located in terms of space?  Inside or outside the body?

Create a strong image.  Then change it.  You can change it by simply reversing the spin.  Reverse the spin and the image will automatically change.  This can stop anxiety very quickly because changing the image changes how it feels.

This is a Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) technique.  It’s a technique clients can use on their own.  Any time.  Anywhere.  And it will help to put them back in control of how they feel.

  1. Think about something that causes you to feel anxious.
  2. Create an image.
  3. Notice the direction of the spin.
  4. Change the spin.
  5. Notice how much better you feel.


The gentlest way to change state is with a smile.  Thich Nat Hahn and Mantak Chia are spiritual teachers who both teach a meditation practice called “the inner smile.”  Just go inside and imagine that you’re smiling.  This will change your state.

If you smile physically you will trigger feel-good brain hormones. So you can change your state even by pretending to smile.  Better yet – laugh.  Laughter Yoga is based on the premise that voluntary laughter produces just the same benefits as spontaneous laughter.   And the benefits are physical, mental and emotional.


Laughter is a proven healing agent.  Norman Cousins, author of Anatomy of an Illness, used laughter therapy to heal himself of a painful spinal condition - ankylosing spondylitis.

Patch Adams has devoted 40 years to changing America’s health care system by bringing mirth to medicine.  He built a hospital around the healing power of humor called The Gesunheit! Institute.  It was based the idea that laughter, joy, and creativity are an integral part of the healing process.

We have a natural ability to heal.  The body will heal itself – given the right conditions.  So smile.  Laugh.  It changes the body.  Research shows that laughter changes our brain chemistry.  It releases dopamine.  That’s the pleasure hormone.  So you will feel better.  

Even if it’s fake laughter, it still releases tension from the body.  Tension makes pain worse when a person is holding onto a lot of tension blood flow is inhibited.    The red blood cells of the body deliver oxygen to the tissues.  And remove toxins.  So the tissues are not getting the oxygen needed for proper function. When the red blood cells are inhibited from doing their job toxins build up.  This causes pain in the tissues.  (Something to keep in mind if you’re working with clients who are dealing with chronic pain.  e.g., Fibromyalgia)

Change the Body

The simplest way to change the body is to change posture.  A tense, closed-off posture constricts blood flow.  It also constricts breathing which restricts oxygen in the blood.  So, it generates pain which will negatively affect how you feel, overall.

Assume the posture of a happy, confident person – shoulders back and rib-cage lifted.  Take a couple of deep breaths.  And you’ll notice a shift immediately for the better. 

This is a simple state-changing technique you can use with clients.  Use it with a client whose posture is slumped down or closed-off to show them they have some power.  They can quickly change how they feel by changing their posture. This can help to shift them out of that helpless, hopeless, powerless state they’re stuck in.  And get them embracing a greater sense of possibility.  This will give you a more resourceful client for the regression work.

Breathe ….

Just breathing can stop a stress-response very quickly.  That’s because the moment we anticipate pain we stop breathing.  The body tightens up when we hold our breath.  Not-breathing is a threat to survival.  So it automatically generates anxiety because the Subconscious Mind knows if you’re not breathing you’ll die.  Insufficient oxygen is a signal that activates the release of stress hormones like cortisol.  

Excess cortisol:

  • lowers metabolic function
  • inhibits thyroid function
  • impaired cognitive performance
  • suppressed thyroid function
  • blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
  • decreased bone density
  • decrease in muscle tissue
  • higher blood pressure
  • lowered immunity
  • lowered inflammatory responses
  • slowed wound healing
  • increased abdominal fat (associated with heart attacks, stroke, metabolic syndrome)

The problem with chronic stress is that it disrupts every system in the body.  So it can lead to disease.  Because all those destructive stress hormones don’t get a chance to flush out of the system they start to do damage.


People with sleep apnea suffer from sleep deprivation.  Sleep apnea is when a person to stops breathing while asleep.  Remember, not breathing is a serious threat to survival.  The lack of oxygen generates anxiety in order to wake the person up. The problem is, when this is happening repeatedly, throughout the night, over time a person can accrue a substantial sleep deficit which then generates other problems.

The anxiety isn’t the problem.  The anxiety is a symptom of the underlying problem. And the Subconscious Mind is simply fulfilling its Prime Directive - to ensure your survival.  Not getting enough sleep is a much-overlooked problem.  And it can be a major contributor to many of the problems people come to see you about.  Just teaching your clients how to breathe can do much to alleviate the need for the anxiety.  And that will change their state, allowing them to feel better.

Fear of Needles Technique

You can teach this to clients who have a fear of needles.  It’s also effective for people who are anxious about having blood drawn.  Or having an IV inserted.  If they’re going for chemotherapy, or having blood work, and that makes them feel anxious, you can teach them this quick and easy technique.


That’s it.

The tendency is suck it up.  The person holds their breath in anticipation of pain.  And that brings on the stress response because they’re not breathing.  Which generates anxiety.  So teach your client to exhale during the procedure.  And nature will do the rest.

Exhale.  And the breath will naturally flow back in.  This will then bring on the relaxation response and make the whole procedure much easier for the client.

The Simplest (and Oldest) Technique

One of the simplest breathing techniques you can teach your clients is something Tibetan monks have been practicing this technique for centuries.   It’s a 3 step process called Vagal Breathing.

The sympathetic nervous system is what generates the stress response when activated.  And the parasympathetic nervous system is what generates the relaxation response.  So they work together.

The vagal nerve is tied to the parasympathetic nervous system.  When the parasympathetic system is activated it brings on the relaxation response.  This slows heart rate and breathing.  More oxygen flows through the body, so there’s more comfort. Endorphins are being released.  The body relaxes.

This is something you can pace during a relaxation hypnosis induction.  As the body starts to relax a little you will observe the relaxation response coming on.  What’s happening is you are helping to calm down the nervous system of the body. 

Cool, huh?

3-Step Vagal Breathing Process

  1. Breathe into the belly to the count of 5.
  2. Pause at the top of the breath for just a moment.
  3. Then release the breath s-l-o-w-l-y through a small opening in the mouth.

Not only will this activate the parasympathetic nervous system.  It makes breathing a conscious process.  The more conscious a person is the more control they have.  The more control they have the less their anxiety.

So that’s it. You now have four more ways to change a person’s state for the better very quickly.  

  1. Put a new spin on it.  
  2. Smile.
  3. Laugh.
  4. Breathe.  

Simple, right?

Click here for Part 3

About the author 

Wendie Webber

With over thirty years of experience as a healing practitioner, Wendie brings a broad range of skills to her approach to regression to cause hypnosis. She combines a gentle, yet commanding way of presenting with a thorough, clear and systematic approach to helping healing practitioners to make sense of regression hypnotherapy.