STRESS and anxiety are known to negatively impact the immune system, but this can be combated through thought, claims a hypnotherapist.

Darlington-based hypnotherapist Jacqueline Carson believes increased levels of anxiety around employment, health and the community, due to coronavirus, could be putting people more at risk.

"Aside from the practical measures such as washing your hands, there is much we can do with our mind to help prevent contracting the illness," the 54-year-old said.

"We know for example that when we are worried about something, we produce stress hormones such as cortisol.

"When this worry is constant, the immune system is compromised, which then leads to an increased risk of infection.

"Constantly thinking about and worrying about coronavirus is therefore more likely to weaken your immune system so that if you do come into contact with the virus you are more likely to develop the illness."

But with panic buying and fears for vulnerable groups like the elderly or those with preexisting health conditions, it may be difficult to not worry, says Ms Carson, who is concerned that "even children" are showing signs of stress and anxiety due to what they are hearing.

As well as eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep, she recommends hypnosis to ease stress and therefore its impact on the immune system.

"Hypnosis is a natural phenomenon and something which we do naturally many times a day. It’s just like being in a day dream," she said.

"When we are in this trance like state, we can access the subconscious mind and give it positive suggestions.

"We can also use this state to deeply relax and withdraw into ourselves creating a place in our mind where we can be safe, calm and peaceful.

"This reduces our stress levels, lowering our blood pressure and heart rate."

To self hypnotise, according to Ms Carson, a person should get comfortable and stare ahead of them.

"Close your eyes, count to ten, focusing on each number as tension is released while breathing deeply," she said.

"Imagine inside the body, acknowledge how everything keeps working without you thinking about it.

"Now think about the part of your mind that is responsible for your immune system, imagine it with colours and sounds, and then see it being cleaned.

"This part might include an army who go into battle every day fighting off bugs and viruses, using tanks and guns; to others it could be like a giant slaying anything getting in it's way, or a dinosaur stamping on all the little creatures in it's path.

"Lastly, imagine yourself happy and healthy, and reaffirm it through thought."

Hypnosis is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and anyone feeling unwell should follow appropriate government and NHS guidance.