Once you have solved your stress disorder problem, the question becomes, “What must I do to keep my problem from coming back?” The answer is that you must do whatever it takes to maintain the balance between your sympathetic and your parasympathetic nervous systems and whatever it takes to continue to hold your body in a relaxed fashion rather than in a tense fashion.
On the basis of my experience I recommend that you continue to practice Autogenic Training at least once a day for twenty minutes or so. We don't really know how long your stress disorder would stay away after you stopped practicing because the research has not yet been done to test the various possibilities. It might be a year, or it might be much less.
We do know that old habits die hard. They are just waiting in the wings, eager to return as soon as they get the chance! It is a good idea not to give them an opportunity to return by continuing to do your practice at least once a day. I would hope that you enjoy doing Autogenic Training so much that you will want to continue practicing it indefinitely.
One thing to remember is that if you don't do your practice at all for as long as two weeks, you might lose the ability to put yourself into an autogenic state quickly. In that case, you would have to start at the beginning with Lesson 1 again.
The other thing which I recommend that you do is practice the Minis to promote constant awareness and control of how you are holding your body. (The Minis are described under Relaxation Therapy.) The Minis eventually become a matter of just checking your tongue, jaw, shoulders, and breathing occasionally to make sure that they are relaxed. It would be a good idea to also do a Mini #2 frequently. This involves simply checking your tongue, jaw, shoulders, and breathing to make sure that they are relaxed and then briefly watching your body breathe by itself—calm, regular, effortless, and automatic.
In addition to trying to be constantly aware of how you are holding your tongue and jaw, it is a good idea to pay special attention to how you are holding your shoulders. Most of us tend to carry them high instead of low. They need to be low so that the shoulder muscle, which also extends up into the neck, can relax. We need to promote a feeling of heaviness in the shoulders. We can even say to ourselves occasionally, “My shoulders are heavy.” One thing to be careful about is chair arms. If you are tall, the arms on chairs probably fit you. But if you are not tall, the chair arms are probably too high for you. If you find that resting your arms on the chair arms raises your shoulders, tempting you to hunch them and hence tense them, it is best not to use the chair arms at all.
Now we come to the end of the course. I hope that you have enjoyed learning and practicing Autogenic Training and the Minis. Most of all I hope that they have made a valuable contribution to your health and pleasure in life. In conclusion I would like to wish you many calm and happy years ahead.
HELP FOR STRESS DISORDERS
By Eleanor Eggers, Ph.D., LP, BCB, (Senior Fellow)