White coat syndrome, or white coat hypertension, is when blood pressure is higher when taken in a medical setting. Luckily, there are some really great ways to help that experience shrink back down and feel safer.
Hypnosis can help you reverse a stressful visit, and give you a nice tool or two to work with in the active moments. It’s very empowering to find new ways to think about and deal with situations that feel out of your control, so let’s discuss a few things you can do to relax and feel better!
What you practice becomes your programming. Practicing good things helps WAY more than practicing hard things!
Here are a few tips to work with:
BEFOREHAND: *Find a power pose that means deep relaxation and safety, and use it. It can be subtle. It might be hands on the hips, shoulders squared, a fixed gaze, a smile, an open hand, a hand on the heart, or any other pose that helps to remind you how safe and powerful you are.
*Ask if they’ll let you take your own BP at home, or if they have a practice cuff. Sometimes places like Walgreens have blood pressure machines you can work with too. Just be gentle and forgiving with yourself as you practice, and think of it as a chance to expand and grow into a new understanding, doing better each time.
*If you’ve had a bad visit in the past, spend some time imagining the care provider doing something silly. Removing providers from a place of absolute authority can help your mammal mind take back its own authority.
*Imagine the techs or nurses with warm smiles and soft hands, wishing you success. Luckily, this is easy to do with our pleasant and kind Dar a Luz staff.
*Find a mantra, and remember to use the rules of good affirmations: Present-tense, positive (say “gentle squeeze” and “safe” and “slow, easy heart beat,” etc.), and powerful. Some good examples: “I’ve got this!” “My calm smile reminds me that I’m safe.” “This is easy for me, because I easily relax.” “I’m cool and calm.” “Focusing on my breathing calms me.” “I love getting gentle arm hugs. I’m wide open to kindness.” “Quiet and calm. Soft and warm. Open and easy.” “Thank you.” “I’m safe. My body is safe. I’m safe.” “I persist.” “I always find my way.”
*Practice a lot. Have someone squeeze your arm and make a sound while you practice. Laugh about it. *If you’re going to use visualizations below, practice them beforehand so you’re just visiting a familiar scenario.
IN THE MOMENT: *Before having your blood pressure taken, ask for time beforehand to relax. Play a song you like. Have someone hold your hand and focus on the touch and warmth and safety while you smile. Find another place to be and really be there!
*Remember to take deep, deep breaths that fully fill your lungs… hold, and blow out like you’re blowing through a straw. Do this a couple of times in moments when you’re alert about being activated.
*Focus on the feel of the floor and chair beneath you, holding and cradling you, supporting you. Find all of the places that feel supported right now, and sink into them.
*Draw up strength from the earth with every breath and repeat, “I am safe, so safe, right now, right here. Safe. Calm. Easy.” Smile.
*Keep a moist mouth, the entire time. (Moist mouth is a pool of liquid saliva on the tongue: the opposite of a stress-induced dry mouth.)
*Use your Let Go Trigger, and your Partner Trigger, if applicable.
*Slap a big beautiful smile on your face before, during and after.
*Use your power pose. It can be subtle—see above.
*Use your mantra—see above.
*Visualize happy places and good things. Think about taking a cozy nap with a baby or soft pet, all snuggled up. Soft and safe and warm, deep, easy breaths.
*See a wide stream beside you, flowing by easily. Notice a couple of rocks and twigs narrowing the path, and clear them out. Calm flowing water. Hear it, smell it, see it, feel it.
*Think of the blood pressure cuff as a friend’s hand, giving you a squeeze to let you know they are right there. Smile and be grateful for the support.
*You can even imagine something silly like a beat poet, rocking and swaying with black sunglasses and a martini, saying stuff like, “Keep it chill, just let it flow, ride the wave, man… yeah baby.” Stupid funny stuff can totally help.
*Think about the reward you’re going to give yourself after. See below.
AFTER: *Start thinking of this situation as a great teacher instead of a “syndrome.” You’re so lucky you got to learn so much!
*Give yourself a reward for a job well done! It can be something little or big. Focus on kindness and reward — animal trainers know that rewarding small steps is the secret to big steps.
*Be kind and forgiving with yourself about each aspect of the experience. Be proud of yourself for trying. Know that being human means stumbling sometimes, and that it’s always okay to simply do your best.
*Feel grateful for small kindnesses, and focus on those. Focusing on successes can be a wonderful way to expand your memories of the experience.
*Nod, emphatically giving yourself a “yes” head movement, when you’re thinking of past experiences (instead of mentally or physically wincing). Start to forgive yourself for the past, understanding that it’s okay to show emotion, to ask for help, and to make mistakes.
*Think ahead to the future, when you’re all better and your confidence soars. You are looking forward to looking back on these times.
Remember you MUST practice beforehand to have access to these feelings and images when you need them! What we practice becomes our reality. Let us know how these tips work for you!
As always, if you feel your situation could use some extra support, please reach out. We’re happy to help. And remember that blood pressure is a valuable measurement, especially in pregnancy, so please seek help if you find that your blood pressure really is higher than it should be.
Laura Wood teaches Dar a Luz’s birth hypnosis class, Blissborn.