During this past 1-2 weeks I considered putting up a sign on our front door that says the words “unclean” as was customary in the days of leprosy. Both my children have had chest infections and croup. We have been to Poole and Bournemouth hospitals, had ambulances at our home, used nebulisers, inhalers, steroids, humidifiers and the house has resonated not-so-sweetly to the sound of hacking coughs, crying and sleep-deprivation.
It is the season for it apparently. Oh, the joys of parenthood! I struggle to see my two favourite, precious little darlings covered in snot with bright red cheeks and sour expressions on their faces.
It did not just stop there though, they both kindly shared their bugs with me and the antibiotics, lemsips and so on just were not cutting it. I thumbed through the books, I explored the research and not many people have thought about conducting research about the application of hypnosis in dealing with moderate chesty coughs in grown-up whinge-bags, or man-flu.
I revisited some of my previous stuff I have recorded and written about in the past (you can follow the links to these things too). I used self-hypnosis for relieving a sore throat, used the chicken soup styled self-hypnosis session, the placebo hypnotic tablet, and the breathing airways self-hypnosis method and I used relaxation skills to soothe my anxiety about it all (which I am sure was aggravating matters) – but I needed something for my chesty cough.
My existing knowledge and research led me to explore the research about using hypnosis for asthma and bronchial asthma in particular. It did tend to suggest that anxiety would aggravate the issue Karajgi et al., 1990; Hasler et al., 2005), so anyone dealing with similar issues can know that relaxation skills, and especially hypnotic relaxation are going to serve you well. Asthma bears some similarities to my experience because a shared characteristic is that there is wheezing and an increase in mucus production that sits on the chest.
The research showed that hypnosis helped when patients were trained to manage fear (Maher-Loughnan et al., 1962) but that was not wholly relevant to me. However, pulmonary functioning and other symptoms were also aided in some studies (Ben-Zvi et al., 1982; Ewer & Stewart, 1986) and so I wanted to look at methodologies used in studies. I felt like I really had struck gold when I read that Anbar (2004) actually showed a methodology within research for alleviating symptoms of a habitual cough with self-hypnosis, another study showed hypnosis helping to control coughs (Elkins & Carter, 1986) another study showed that hypnotic suggestions could influence respiration (Agosti & Camerota, 1965) so I explored further given these encouraging studies.
What my own investigation led me to use for myself, was a number of mental imagery techniques and cognitive strategies that I used within self-hypnosis sessions repeatedly prior to sleeping at night. It provided some very welcome relief and so I thought I’d share that methodology here with you today.
7 Steps To Relieve a Chesty Cough With Self-Hypnosis:
Make sure you are sat or lying down in a comfortable position. I recommend that if you are lying down, that you have a plump pillow propping you up slightly which will lend itself well to easing your cough during this session.
Before starting, have a good idea of the kind of ideal reaction you’d have to a miracle inhaler/drug. With that in mind, in a place where you’ll be undisturbed for this session, move on to the following steps.
Step One: Induce hypnosis. You can do so by any means you desire or know of. You can use the process in my science of self-hypnosis book, use the free audio at this website to practice or have a look at the following articles as and when you need them; they are basic processes to help you establish the hypnotic mindset:
Once you have induced hypnosis, move on to step two.
Step Two: You are now going to use relaxation as a deepener of your ongoing hypnosis experience, which will also settle you and inherently lessen the sensation to cough. The aim is to also neutralise any concern, anxiety or worry about the chesty cough. We’ll relax in a very conducive and relevant way…
Start to engage in diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm is the muscle that can be found between the chest and the abdomen; when you contract that muscle it causes your abdomen to expand and pushes air upward into the lungs.
Tune into the area of your abdomen and breathe from there. As you inhale through your nose, your abdomen should rise higher than your chest. Make it easier to do so by imagining that happening as you breathe. By breathing from the diaphragm, you pull air deep into the lungs. Then, exhale through the mouth and repeat.
Some breathing experts and tutors in this technique recommend exhaling for a count of 8 and inhaling for a count of 7. You can do that for a few breaths, but then simply breathe with comfort from the abdomen.
When you feel you have established a rhythm doing this, tell yourself that each breath takes you deeper into hypnosis and move on to step three.
Step Three: Now engage your imagination, make the following suggested imagery as vivid as possible.
In front of you imagine an inhaler, or a nebulizer (with a face mask sort of thingy) with a miracle medication that it is ready to dispense. Anticipate pumping those special healthy fumes. Just see the details of it, get it right in your imagination and then press it, or turn it on and let the medication affect you accordingly.
Vividly imagine breathing the medication into your lungs and chest area. Imagine the effects that you require; lessening of that tickly sensation, the chest area loosening, soothing the area and so on.
You might imagine the journey of the healthy vapour entering your lungs and spreading through your chest area. You might imagine it as a healthy colour that is healing or transforming the former colour of the area; importantly, do whatever is right for you to establish the beneficial effects of inhaling this medication.
Take some time, engage your imagination, let it all deepen your experience of hypnosis as you absorb yourself further, then when you have notable changes in sensations, move on to the next step.
Step Four: Imagine seeing yourself coping effectively with the cough, or even being free of it. This is going to start to convince you of the ongoing effects of the session.
Perhaps you imagine seeing yourself sleeping soundly, free from the cough. Perhaps you imagine seeing yourself going about a daily activity free from the cough. Pick a situation from your life and imagine being there, coping well, or being free of the cough. See yourself being relaxed, at ease and free of unwanted symptoms. With this vividly in your mind, move on to the next step.
Step Five: Use a progressive cognition or affirmation and let it dominate your internal dialogue for a while. Some examples are as follows: “my chest is easing” or “I feel soothed” or “I enjoy this relief” or “my chest feels good” and so on. Use whatever words you feel most comfortable with.
Repeat the words in an assured fashion, convincing yourself in a gentle way. Do not grasp at the outcome you want, just convince yourself of the outcome as you repeat these words.
Do this for a couple of minutes, let the repetition take you deeper into hypnosis (by focusing you further and relaxing you as you repeat the words) and then move on to the next step.
Step Six: Revisit the inhaler/nebuliser… Continue breathing from it and enjoy the soothing sensation for as long as you like.
Tell yourself that with each breath you go deeper into hypnosis, are more absorbed and focused on the process and are deriving more relief from it.
Whenever you have enjoyed this for a good period of time, tell yourself that the benefits and relief remains with you after this session has ended and move on to the final step.
Step Seven: Exit hypnosis. Count from one to five if you follow my self-hypnosis protocol from my books, or simply open your eyes (or drift off to sleep if doing this before bed) and reorient yourself accordingly.
There you have it. I think in combination with any medication or formal medical advice, it is nice to get your mind working with the body to help it along. If you use a range of (afore mentioned) interventions as well repeating this session, I think you’ll gain greatly as I have done.
I have an incredibly busy few days ahead now as I teach, lecture and organise school events, but will be back blogging and writing next week as we move towards the festive season in earnest.
Agosti, E., & Camerota, G. (1965) Some effects of hypnotic suggestion on respiratory function. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 13: 149-156.
Anbar, R. D. & Hall, H. R. (2004) Childhood habit cough treated with self-hypnosis. Journal of Pediatrics, 144: 213-217.
Ben-Zvi, Z., Spohn, W. A., Young, S. H. and Kattan, M. (1982) Hypnosis for exercise-induced asthma. The American Review of Respiratory Disease, 125: 392-295.
Elkins, G. R., & Carter, B. D. (1986) Hypnotherapy in the treatment of childhood psychogenic coughing: a case report. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 29: 59-63.
Ewer, T. C. & Stewart, D. E. (1986) Improvement in bronchial hyper-responsiveness in patients with moderate asthma after treatment with a hypnotic technique: A randomized controlled trial. British Medical Journal, 293: 1129-1132.
Hasler, G., Gergen, P. J., Kleinbaum, D. G., Ajdacic, V., Gamma, A., Eich, D. et al (2005) Asthma and panic in young adults: a 20-year prospective community study. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 171: 1224-1230.
Karajgi, B., Rifkin, A., & Doddi, S. (1990) The prevalence of anxiety disorders in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. American Journal of Psychiatry, 147: 200-201.
Maher-Loughnan, G. P. Mason, A. A., MacDonald, N. & Fry, L. (1962) Controlled trial of hypnosis in the symptomatic treatment of asthma. British Medical Journal, 5301: 371-376.