How does stress make you ill?
The body’s normal response to stress causes the sympathetic nervous system to react as though there was an immediate physical threat. This is called the ‘fight or flight’ response. It causes a rise in blood pressure, thickening of the blood (to help the blood clot faster in anticipation of any wounding), narrowing of the field of vision, psychological ‘tunnel vision’ (to stop you being distracted), a rise in heart rate, release of adrenalin, nor-adrenalin and cortisol into the bloodstream, the slowing or emptying of the digestive system, tensing of the muscles, and so on. While these bodily effects are very useful in dealing with a temporary physical threat (such as a landslide or a tiger), when the threat is on ongoing complex situation (such as job or relationship difficulties) the chronic physiological effects of the stress response become very detrimental to health over the long term. What was helpful to us as cavemen is now making us ill.
How can Autogenic Therapy benefit my health?
Autogenic Therapy teaches you how to switch OFF your sympathetic nervous system’s stress response, and to switch ON your para-sympathetic nervous system. The para-sympathetic system has deeply powerful ‘rest, repair and recuperative’ capacities. Only when the mind and body are completely passive can your brain really restore itself.
In a busy office the cleaners do not come in to do their work until after everyone has gone home. Similarly, your body’s resources are not fully utilised to repair itself until all your physical and mental tasks stop. Even if you are trying to rest but find yourself mulling things over, this is a ‘task’ for your mind and keeps your sympathetic nervous system active. It is not easy to stop all thinking, so Autogenic Therapy is designed to help you put your mind into a passive state. It does this with a series of mental exercises that lead your mind and body gently into a deeply resting state. This is not the same as being in a trance because you remain completely alert. In this very passive state your para-sympathetic system is automatically switched on and your body heals itself with awesome efficiency.
Which illnesses can be helped with Autogenic Therapy?
All stress-related illnesses can improve with regular practice of the Autogenic Technique. The following is a list of the documented disorders that have been demonstrated to benefit from it:
Irregular heartbeats, ischaemic heart disease, angina, recovery from myocardial infarction, high blood pressure, excessive blushing, cardioneurosis (excessive worry about the heart function).
Asthma, hyperventilation syndrome, nervous cough, recurrent chest infections.
Food allergies, indigestion, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, some biliary disorders, ulcerative colitis.
Rheumatoid arthritis, arthralgia, degenerative joint disease, low-back syndrome, pain-tension syndromes.
Hormonal, metabolic and endocrine diseases
Diabetes, thyroid disorders, some forms of infertility, premenstrual syndrome, some auto-immune disorders.
Bladder problems, some problems in pregnancy, sexual dysfunction.
Headache, migraine, tremors, facial spasm, neuralgia, phantom limb pains, brain injuries, epilepsy, some symptoms of cerebral palsy.
Anxiety, mild to moderate depression, insomnia and sleep disorders, tranquilliser addiction, behavioural problems, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), unresolved grief, eating disorders, distress of chronic illness, some chronic fatigue states.
Journal of Holistic medicine 1985; 1(2): p142-147
K. S. Kermani, Stress, emotions, autogenic training and aids,British Journal of Holistic medicine 1987; 2: p203-215
Dr Johannes Schultz & Dr Wolfgang Luthe, Autogenic Therapy Vols 1 – 6, Grune & Stratton, New York, 1969