Grace Gavilanes is the writer-editor of Vital Proteins’ Lively blog. Here, she recounts the time she tried hypnosis to help alleviate her anxiety.
I’ve battled anxiety for a very, very long time. I vividly remember breaking out in hives and tripping over my words in a stutter when it came time to give a presentation in the first grade. First grade! Can you believe that? Looking back now, I see and appreciate how much of a champ 6-year-old me was for bravely presenting the “my favorite animal” project I had worked so hard on.
I didn’t get a proper diagnosis until I had a candid conversation with my therapist close to two decades later. But I knew long before that one-on-one. I felt it, both literally and figuratively, and there was no denying it.
A year or two after that meeting, I was given the opportunity to speak with a hypnotist. I was a writer-editor at my former job, too, and regularly covered health and wellness. This hypnotist was offering me two free sessions to experience the alleged life-altering effects of her practice. I was skeptical but curious. Considering my longtime fascination with psychics, séances and tarot card readers, I accepted the virtual invite.
Her name was Grace Smith, a world-renowned hypnotist who's helped people quit smoking, curb cravings and, yes, alleviate anxiety through hypnosis.
Up until our virtual meeting, I was mostly expecting to fall asleep halfway through our session. Questions came to mind: would I end up losing full control? Would I start barking like a dog? Would this even work?
I rushed home from the office on the evening of our scheduled phone call. I went to my room, turned off the lights and settled into bed to call her. I kept my eyes closed during our conversation.
The first few minutes consisted of Grace telling me what to expect from our session. She assured me I wouldn’t feel like I’d lose control. But also stressed that hypnosis only works if the participant is willing and is ready to really focus on his or her aforementioned goals. I told Grace about feeling anxious at work – both in terms of public speaking and workload – and how I wanted to improve my approach to those situations.
And so, it began. Grace’s soothing voice immediately put me at ease. She counted down from 10 to 1, all while saying, “you’re falling deeper and deeper” with each decreasing number. At the end of the countdown, she snapped her fingers. Then she asked me about where I felt safest (my childhood bedroom), my favorite color (green!) and had me recount a regular day at the office. I was tasked with walking her through my day as the new-and-improved me. She helped set the scene whenever my voice would begin to trail off. I don’t think the word “anxiety” was ever mentioned during our phone call. The session focused on promoting confidence and feeling comfortable in a very fast-paced work setting. (I previously worked at an entertainment news publication.) I felt relaxed as our first session came to an end. I experienced similar feelings in my second session, which took place a week later.
I would describe my hypnosis experience as personalized, guided meditations because that’s what it reminded me of. I knew exactly where I was and remembered what we spoke about. I didn’t lose control. In fact, I was always in control. I felt as if my mind was freed of any negative, unnecessary thoughts. The mind, Grace reminded me, is a powerful thing.
I’d be lying if I said my anxiety was cured following my second session with Grace. It wasn’t, and there’s a good chance it will never fully disappear. But I did and do feel different. I’m now able to take a step back, take a deeper breath and calmly revisit a high-stress situation without feeling entirely hopeless. I also began incorporating Grace’s hypnosis sessions to my evenings by listening to different recordings on her Grace Space Hypnosis app ($11 per month).
I’m still in awe of people who can give 15-minute presentations in front of 50+ people without feeling like they’re about to faint. It’s something I aspire to do one day. Hypnosis taught me that anxiety will always be a part of me. I’m learning to embrace it but I’m also actively working toward freeing its (now) occasionally-tight hold on my personal and professional life. Good news: it gets easier every time I press play.