HELP FOR STRESS DISORDERS
By Eleanor Eggers, Ph.D., LP, BCB, (Senior Fellow)
You have now completed learning how to practice Autogenic Training. Congratulations! I hope you have enjoyed learning it and that you have found it fascinating to discover abilities you didn't know you had. And I hope that you are enjoying feeling the unusual sensations which accompany deep relaxation.
While it is important that you not spend more than a minute repeating each formula in an effort to produce a desired response, it is perfectly all right to dwell on a particular area or come back to it after you have achieved the desired sensation. Then you can repeat the formula to yourself as many times as you like.
At this point saying each formula to yourself just once should be enough to produce a relaxation response and to experience the sensation which accompanies it. Therefore, it would seem to follow that a minute or so should be enough time to go through all the formulas.
However, as you no doubt have discovered, moving from one formula to the next may take a little time because you become so deeply relaxed and passive that you are unable to think! It becomes hard to remember where you are in the sequence and then to remember what you are supposed to say to yourself next. This is all right and actually a sign that you are doing Autogenic Training correctly. Just enjoy being so deeply relaxed and move on to saying the next formula when you can remember what it is.
Remember, the key formulas are the first two, heaviness and warmth. Once you have achieved heaviness and warmth, the rest of the formulas simply serve to deepen the state of relaxation. If you get so deeply relaxed that you don't get around to one or more of the others, that is perfectly all right. If you are having problems with a particular part of your body, such as your abdomen, then you will want to be sure to include the relevant formula. The main thing is to stay in that beautiful state of deep relaxation for a substantial period of time. The amount of time can vary, depending on what feels “right” to you.
After you have been using the background formula of your choice, such as “I am completely calm”, for a few weeks, you will find that saying the formula during stressful situations will have a calming effect. Even an abbreviated version, such as “I'm calm” or just “calm” will have the same effect. As a reminder, the other background formulas are: “I am at peace” and “I am very quiet”. You can invent your own background formulas as long as they are similar to the ones given here.
You will also be able to use any or all of the standard formulas during stressful situations to reduce or eliminate any anxiety you may be feeling. Or you can use them to enhance feelings of relaxation which are already present in the key areas referred to in the formulas.
Now you are ready to embark on your long-term treatment program designed to help you achieve and maintain a balanced nervous system and eliminate and prevent stress disorders. Hopefully, you will look forward each day to doing your Autogenic Training and you will enjoy the experience of feeling so totally relaxed. Some people report that they felt like they were “floating”. Others say that sometimes they were not thinking at all. Everyone has his (her) own unique experience, but people generally say that they very much enjoy practicing Autogenic Training.
People usually report that the degree to which they are able to relax, to “get into it”, varies quite a bit from time to time. If people have something on their minds, some problem, for example, it is harder to get deeply relaxed. Most often, the person is unable to identify the source of the interference. If you do experience occasional difficulties, you do not need to be concerned about it. You just need to know that it happens to everyone and that the depth of your relaxation is bound to vary from session to session for no particular or identifiable reason.
How often should you practice Autogenic Training? The general instruction is that you should practice about twenty minutes twice a day. However, you can now be guided by what your body tells you it wants. Sometimes, you may feel like staying in the autogenic state longer than that. If so, it is all right to do so and not terminate it until you really want to. I would not recommend staying in it for more than an hour, however. Other times, you may get to feeling restless before the twenty minutes is up. If that is the case, it certainly is all right to stop at that time.
During the day, there are sometimes occasions when it is useful to drop into a light autogenic state briefly with or without closing your eyes while you have to wait for something, as in a doctor's waiting room. In doing so you can know that you are doing something which is good for your nervous system and your health in general. Even spending just a few minutes in an autogenic state is beneficial.
Please remember that re-balancing the autonomic nervous system is a gradual process. It has two branches, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic gets activated in response to stress, and the parasympathetic gets activated during relaxation. When we have stress disorders, it is a sign that the body is “stuck” in the sympathetic mode. We can get it “unstuck” by spending sufficient time in the parasympathetic mode. This is what we are doing when we practice Autogenic Training.
Unfortunately, it takes a long time to accomplish this. Our observation is that it takes about two months of practice until you see some improvement in your condition and about six months for your stress disorder to go away completely. The time that it takes for different people's bodies to respond varies, of course.
In any case, you can be sure that you are doing something good for your body by helping it spend some time in the parasympathetic (passive, inactive) mode. Most of us spend far too much time in the sympathetic (active, tense) mode. We need to spend as much time as we can in the parasympathetic mode in order to keep the two in balance.
Happy practicing! I hope that you will enjoy it and find it very helpful. My very best wishes to you for success in overcoming your stress disorders!
I would be very much interested in hearing about your experiences with Autogenic Training. If you feel so inclined, please send me an email. If you have any questions, I will try to answer them. My address is firstname.lastname@example.org