Hypnotist Paul McKenna on how to cure coronaphobia – from fear of going to work to stress of going outside


OUR Bounce Back Britain campaign has been helping readers get back on their feet as lockdown eases.

But for many of us, getting out and about, returning to work and using public transport is a daunting prospect.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

Coronaphobia – also known as FOGO  (Fear Of Going Out) – has soared with the  easing of lockdown, with one study finding 54 per cent of people were worried about returning to their job.

Today, exclusively in The Sun, hypnotist Paul McKenna explains that there is a way to “unlock lockdown” – and navigate our new normal without being consumed by anxiety, panic or fear. 

In a two-part plan, the top mind expert will help you combat your corona fears.

  •  For more information on Paul McKenna’s techniques, visit PaulMcKenna.com.

Coronaphobia explained

PAUL SAYS: Coronaphobia finds its roots in something far more deep- seated — a fear of the unknown and loss of control.

It is  where we become prisoners of our own minds, as the fear of the unknown sparks the greatest terror in us all.

Victims have sat at home for months, terrified that germs and disease are everywhere, and have become paralysed by it.

A phobia is an irrational fear — for example, an overwhelming fear of dogs, dentists or lifts.

While it is rational to have some fear of getting the Covid-19 virus, it becomes irrational when you can no longer function in your daily life or get back to work.

The only way people are afraid to go out or return to work is because they have been imagining something bad — they might not even consciously be aware they have been doing it.

The common concern people have, making them anxious and frightened, is that there are germs everywhere.

Or they think: “How am I going to be able to connect with people now that we have to be apart for so long?”

If you are catastrophising all the time and seeing threats everywhere, you are not going to be able to function. 

It can also take the form of feeling awkward about the new norms. So there is a balance to be found between taking all reasonable precautions, including social-distancing, hand-washing and wearing a mask in confined spaces — everyone is familiar with what they should be doing against the potential risk.

Yes, there is risk — but life has risk and if you don’t want any risk at all, stay at home.

Calmly and confidently

But if you want to go out or you have to go back out, let me help you manage your fears.

Some people are frightened to go back to work because they don’t know what kind of world to expect. Others fear having to use public transport. And there is another set of people who have got out of their daily work routine and lost their motivation and drive after sitting on the couch, watching endless TV boxsets.

If you have an overwhelming anxiety at the thought of travel to work, or fear about what the world is going to be like, then my simple techniques can help you navigate the new normal calmly and confidently. 

I cannot take away coronavirus, but I can help you to reduce your anxiety and stress so that it doesn’t overpower you and spoil your life.

Manage your feelings if you freak out

THIS troubleshooting technique is fantastic because it helps you instantly control feelings of anxiety and panic if you feel overwhelmed by the thought of going out.

It is used by all divisions of the American military and they teach it to service personnel for when they are in situations that may seem overwhelming, such as battles.

So if you are about to do your journey to work or use public transport and feel yourself starting to freak out, here’s how to manage your feelings.

Simply putting your hand on your heart moves your attention there and that in turn reduces stress hormones such as cortisol.

Also, people who are tense and stressed do not breathe correctly, and when you breathe properly it affects your neuro-physical state.

Breathe in slowly and out slowly three times in a row.

Remember a time you felt really good — it could be when you fell in love, or were laughing with friends or enjoying a great holiday.

Put yourself back into that moment now. Float into your body, as if you were there, and remember the sounds, smells and feelings you had.

Because the human nervous system does not know the differences between real and vividly imagined experiences, it transports you back there and changes your state.

Now imagine your heart can speak to you.

Ask your heart how you can take better care of yourself in that moment.

You might get an inner sense that tells you to relax if you are doing too much — any number of different things.

You are talking to your inner self — your unconscious mind — when you do that. 

It may come to you as an image, you may hear an internal dialogue or you may get a feeling.

I actually practised this yesterday, and I have to say my inner self does have a sense of humour because sometimes I get a bizarre abstract image — which I get wrapped up in before I understand it. 

But it is very hard to remain stressed once you have done that.

Create the future you want

THE more often we repeat a pattern of behaviour, the stronger it becomes.

When we indulge in negativity over the years, we hardwire ourselves to be negative. One of these patterns is catastrophising about a perceived threat, suffering anxiety or being paralysed by fear. 

When I went through a difficult time following the loss of my father, I used a “negativity fast” all the time.

It will help you create a future you want to move towards, by letting go of irrational fear.

For the rest of the week, you are going to starve yourself of negativity and retrain yourself to be more positive instead.

This process alone will  re-write the operating software of your mind and, as well as helping you now, will also serve you well for the rest of your life. 

Here is how it works

For the next week, when-ever you feel bad about anything, stop what you are doing (as soon as it is safe  to do so) and follow these five easy steps . . . 

1. Ask yourself what you are feeling bad about

Notice what image, sound or words come to mind. By that, I mean literally listen to your inner voice. It might be hard at first but it gets easier with practice. Remember, your emotions are like signals, letting you know when you need to pay extra attention to some aspect of your experience. 

Every feeling in your body is linked to an internal picture or  sound, or by the words that you say to yourself  in your mind.

2. Listen for the message or positive intention of the emotion

Negative emotions are just messengers sent by your mind and body to  let you know it is time to  pay attention to something. For example, if I have a worrying feeling and I stop and notice, what comes to mind is the image of an upcoming meeting. My mind is trying to alert  me to things that might go wrong  in that meeting and make sure I am well prepared.

3. Act on the message

So, in our example, I might make a list of all the things I can do to stop those problems occurring and take action on at least one of them.

4. Turn off the messenger

This is like hanging up the phone or resetting the smoke alarm. When I’ve heeded my mind’s warning, I drain all the colour out of the image, shrink it down to the size of a postage stamp and send  it off into the distance. 

If the picture pops back, it’s because there’s still something you need to be aware of, so find out what it is by repeating this process.

5. Programme your desired future

Finally, imagine events go exactly the way you want them to. In the example of my upcoming meeting, I make a big, bright mental movie of the meeting going perfectly and watch it all the way through to the happy ending.

Get set for success

POWER postures come from a scientific experiment at Harvard University where researchers found that because the mind and body are linked, when you pull certain postures with your body, this affects your mindset for the better.

A group was asked to undergo a gruelling interview.

The only preparation was to do some power postures beforehand.

The most successful, confident and self-assured in the interview were the people who had tried the power postures.

I recommend you do all three of the postures I’ll describe at the start of each day, when you get up. You will engage with your day better, as you are putting yourself into a better physiological state.

If you need a little “top up” you can do them again before a stressful meeting or event.

Find somewhere quiet to do this in advance of that meeting or situation — to empower yourself.

It may seem strange but it works, so try it for yourself.

  1. Point with two fingers to the ceiling, like you are John Travolta dancing to Night Fever in Saturday Night Fever.
  2. Do the Wonder Woman. Put your hands on hips while standing tall, legs slightly apart, for 30 seconds.
  3. Place your hands behind your head, elbows out to the sides for 30 seconds — this can be sitting or standing.

I use this method myself before going on stage or before a key meeting — it’s all about dealing with the anxiety and fear that holds us back.

It may seem odd at first but research proves these postures work.

As you hold each position think only about how it makes you feel. It literally sets your day up for success.

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