Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Confounding Variables

(This blog was originally posted on June 9, 2014)

Photo by Rick Hustead

“Confounding variables” is a concept in statistics where two or more discrete variables can interact in such a way that it is impossible to determine which factor had the greatest impact on the results of the study. Statistics was my least-favorite class in college, but I remain very interested in the way confounding variables affect so many areas of our lives, in “real” life. They impact our work and personal relationships; they influence how we feel physically and emotionally at different times of the day, week, month or year. Everything you see, smell, taste, hear or touch can interact with another factor (or person) to produce a specific response; but that reaction may be completely different in an hour or if one of the stimuli changes.

For example, imagine that you are sitting at your desk at work, about to open your mail. Your colleague peeks over the top of the cubicle divider to invite you to join her for lunch, and the cloying sweet scent of her perfume fills your nostrils. You politely decline the invitation and start to open the first envelop when a wave of nausea rolls over you. Whoa. You skipped breakfast this morning; maybe you are hungrier than you thought, and a low blood-sugar level triggered this symptom. Alternatively, your sensitivity to strong smells, especially to perfumes and colognes, could have made you feel queasy. It’s no wonder that this particular scent set you off, since your ex also used to wear the same brand. Then you notice that the letter you just opened is from a particularly demanding client; he wants to know why his last order still hasn’t arrived. Cue the sense of panic, palpitations, shortness of breath and cold sweat. 

You know that each of these stimuli can induce stress in you. The tricky thing about confounding variables is that you may not be able to identify which one has triggered your reaction at that moment. If you feel overwhelmed by what is going on around you, take a moment or two to do diaphragmatic breathing to help you relax and increase your ability to focus on what is going on inside and around you. (If you feel overwhelmed while you are driving, pull your car over to the side of the road or, even better, into a parking lot so you can concentrate on this exercise.) Once you are feeling calmer, do a quick mental scan of what is going on in your life at that moment that could have triggered the stress reaction or anxiety. If you haven’t eaten in a long time, have a snack or a small meal that contains protein to help regulate you blood-sugar level and alleviate symptoms such as dizziness, irritability and confusion. (If you are experiencing physical symptoms of distress, such as chest pain, seek medical help immediately.) I also recommend to my clients that they do EFT (emotional-freedom technique) or “tapping” to individually address the factors that they believe to be exacerbating their distress. 

Remember that in real life, as in research, it is necessary to identify and separate the factors that influence our unwanted behavior so we can affect the changes we want to make in our lives.


I am currently offering a 10 percent discount on all hypnotherapy for weight-loss/weight-management sessions. This offer is good through April 30, 2017. It is not exchangeable for cash and may not be combined with any other offer. For more information and to set up an appointment, please contact me at (661) 433-9430 or send an e-mail to calminsensehypnosis@yahoo.com
Also: save $250 toward a purchase of 24 sessions or more for personal training with Irvin Burton, CEO and Founder at Tiger Crane Martial Arts & Fitness. You can contact him at Irvin_Burton@yahoo.com or call (661) 993-8621. 

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy®, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.
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