Stress is usually thought of as a negative and destructive force in our lives, which can eventually lead to our physical or mental breakdown. The word is itself ambiguous as it is neither bad nor good. We need it for our normal daily activity, but if stress or the stress response becomes prolonged, real problems can occur. We all react to stress in different ways. Some people have mental, physical, emotional or behavioural symptoms or a combination of these.
What is stress
What happens in our bodies when we get stressed?
||Fight/flight mode - stress
Sympathetic nervous system dominance
Heart rate increases
Mouth dries up
Jaws and teeth are clenched
Distresses facial complexion
Breathing becomes shallow and fast
Blood vessels close
Increased white blood cells
Blood sugar increases
Blood pressure increases
Stomach butterflies/digestive system suspended
If you stay in this state for a prolonged period it will lead to exhaustion and depression.
||Rest and digest - relaxed
Parasympathetic nervous system dominance
Heart rates decreases
Breathing deepens and slows
Salivation returns to normal
Facial muscles relax
Pupils return to normal
Blood vessels return to normal
Blood pressure reduces
Blood sugar reduces
Production of white blood cells inhibited
Sweat glands close
Digestion returns to normal
Restful and calm feelings
The stress response is healthy in itself. A completely stress-free life would be mind-numbing and tedious. Too little stress is unhealthy, but too much stress is very bad for our physical and psychological health. The key issue is to learn the difference between the healthy pressure of a challenge, and excessive stress which causes distress and eventually, disease. Everyone's stress level is different - what is challenging and motivating for one might be overwhelming for another.
You can learn to be aware of your own stress response and then to neutralise it. Through Autogenic Training, you can learn to reduce the intensity of the body's stress response, and replace it with a calmer physiological state in which self- healing naturally begins to occur.
What is illness
Medicine has progressed at an astonishing speed in the 21st Century, but many of us feel ambivalent and distrustful towards the 'omnipotence' of medical science. When we are ill emotional problems can turn into real, bodily illnesses. The symptoms are physical manifestations of psychological conflicts. The body is never ill or healthy - it is only the information of the mind being expressed in the body.
The congruence of mind and body is called 'health'. There is a disturbance in harmony on the information level when we are ill and it is expressed in the body. The symptom is an information carrier that calls us to pay attention to it. If we feel unwell, we might want to ask ourselves two questions: what do we need? And what is wrong? An ill person's mind always needs something.
If we do not view our symptoms as an enemy that needs to be destroyed but instead as a partner that might be able to help in finding what we need, then we can communicate with ourselves in an honest way.