All of us have some degree of stress in our lives. Some of us have a great deal of stress to cope with. In response to this stress most of us develop some degree of chronic low-grade tension. We are usually not aware of this tension. We become so accustomed to it that it feels normal. It is this elevated level of tension throughout the body which causes these stress disorders. Practicing deep relaxation is very effective for correcting the chronic tension situation and thereby eliminating the stress disorders. We can also prevent stress disorders from developing by doing this practice. The major benefits of doing relaxation practice are the elimination and the prevention of stress disorders. However, there are several other important benefits which can be derived in addition.
My patients and those of other professionals in the field have reported important changes in their dispositions and over-all approach to life which have taken place, seemingly automatically. Often they reported that their husbands, wives, other family members, and co-workers had commented on observable changes which had occurred. The comments were that the patients were easier to get along with, were noticeably calmer, less "flappable", less irritable, less depressed, and more optimistic.
The patients often reported that they felt much calmer, more "centered" and "steady", more on an even "keel", more easy-going, and less irritable. They said that they were more "mellow" and more "philosophical" and were better able to cope with life situations without worrying about them. Sometimes they said that they no longer frantically rushed from one task to the next with a "go-go-go" approach, that they were much more inclined to move more slowly but steadily through life. While we were not able to predict exactly what changes would occur to a specific individual, we felt confident that good things would happen to them as a result of doing the practice. People consistently reported that the changes they experienced were beneficial.
Physically Caused Diseases
Sometimes we experience symptoms from physically caused diseases which are increased in severity by chronic low-grade tension. If we decrease the level of tension by practicing deep relaxation, we can sometimes reduce the severity of the symptoms. An example of this is asthma. While asthma is caused by physical problems, such as allergies, the symptoms can sometimes be ameliorated by doing Autogenic Training. This practice treats the stress component which is often involved when a person is ill.
Another example is pain. Very often when people experience pain caused by a physical problem they brace (or tense their muscles) against the pain. This increases the level of pain they feel. If they can learn to relax their muscles instead of tensing them, it reduces the amount of pain they feel.
Another benefit to be derived from practicing Autogenic Training is quick rejuvenation. It does not take the place of sleep; but, if you are feeling tired in the middle of the day and don't have time to take a nap, putting yourself in an autogenic state (a state of deep relaxation) for just a few minutes (perhaps ten to twenty minutes) will revive you and make you feel as if you had had a nap. I frequently use it for this purpose, and I highly recommend it.
Improvement in Immunity
All the body systems function better when the body is relaxed. The immune system is an example. Some people report that they get fewer colds and flu when they practice deep relaxation. It is a wonderful way of helping yourself to be as healthy as you can be. I feel sure that my many years of practicing Autogenic Training has made an important contribution to my good health and longevity.
My Own Experience
I have practiced Autogenic Training for many years, mainly because I enjoy doing it and feel that it does me a lot of good. I started practicing it just because it sounded like a “neat” thing to do. I was not aware of having any stress disorders. However, when I visited my parents after several months of practicing Autogenic Training, my mother commented, “Why, Eleanor, your hands are warm. They have always been cold!” Then I realized that my cold hands were a stress disorder, a symptom of chronic low-grade tension. My nervous system had corrected itself automatically as a result of practicing Autogenic Training for about six months.
I continue to practice it regularly at least once a day and often twice a day for varying amounts of time. I often do it for the purpose of falling asleep easily. It is very helpful in that regard. I also enjoy doing it in the morning soon after I wake up because it is especially effective then. When one is already all nice and warm and cozy, it is very easy to get into a deep state of relaxation quickly. This is what works for me. I recommend it, but a different schedule might work better for you. Each of us needs to find what works best for us.
HELP FOR STRESS DISORDERS
By Eleanor Eggers, Ph.D., LP, BCB, (Senior Fellow)