8. Learn the Six Themes of Autogenics

The verbal suggestions of autogenics are designed specifically to reverse the body’s stress response. The suggestions have six themes:

1. Heaviness, which promotes relaxation of the voluntary muscles of the limbs, reversing the tension in the limbs typical of the stress response

2. Warmth, which opens the blood vessels in your arms and legs, reversing the flow of blood to the center of the body typical of the stress response

3. Regular heartbeat, which helps to normalize the heart rate, reversing the quickened heart rate characteristic of the stress response

4. Regular breathing, which helps to normalize breath rate, reversing the quickened breath rate characteristic of the stress response

5. Relaxation and warming of the abdomen, which reverses the flow away from the digestive system typical of the stress response

6. Cooling of the head, which reverses the flow of blood to the brain typical of the stress response

In other words, all the major symptoms of stress in the body caused by the release of stress hormones are systematically targeted and reversed through the suggestions in autogenic training.

9. Do It Yourself

You can do autogenic training on your own. Simply find a quiet place to relax where you are unlikely to be bothered, get comfortable and warm, turn down the lights, and sit or lie comfortably, then focus on each of the six areas in the following manner, repeating the verbal suggestions listed and concentrating on what you are saying to yourself and on the named area. Don’t force yourself to concentrate, however. Keep your attitude passive and accepting.

10. Make a Tape

You can put these suggestions onto an audiotape, or you can memorize them. Repeat each phrase slowly four times before moving on to the next phrase:

1. My right arm is heavy.

2. My left arm is heavy.

3. My right leg is heavy.

4. My left leg is heavy.

5. My right arm is warm.

6. My left arm is warm.

7. My right leg is warm.

8. My left leg is warm.

9. My arms are heavy and warm.

10. My legs are heavy and warm.

11. My heartbeat is slow and easy.

12. My heart feels calm.

13. My breathing is slow and easy.

14. My breathing feels calm.

15. My stomach is warm.

16. My stomach is relaxed.

17. My forehead is cool.

18. My scalp is relaxed.

19. My whole body is calm.

20. My whole body is relaxed.

21. I am calm and relaxed.

Voilà! Good-bye stress response.

11. Are You Passive, Aggressive, or Passive-Aggressive?

Some people tend to deal with stress passively, letting things happen to them without trying to control the situation. Others tend to be aggressive, taking their stressful situations forcefully in hand. The passive-aggressive among us forcefully control stress in a seemingly passive manner, by inflicting guilty feelings upon people or by subtly implying what they want while acting as though they don’t care either way.

Each of these habitual methods of dealing with stress has its damaging effects.

12. If You’re Passive

For the passive stress manager, stress can begin to feel like an uncontrollable force. While maintaining a passive attitude is sometimes recommended for effectively managing the stressful changes inherent in life, too much passivity can engender a feeling of hopelessness. If you give up, if you are not in control at all, then what good is it to try to live the way you want to live? If you are a hapless leaf being blown randomly about by the wind, what importance do you have? For the naturally passive, assertiveness training is in order. Chakra meditation can be an effective way to regain control over the things you really can control.

13. If You’re Aggressive

For the aggressive stress manager, stress can begin to feel like a formidable foe to be vanquished, and while a gung-ho attitude can certainly be helpful in some situations, eventually it is physically and mentally exhausting. It also puts you on the defensive. You begin to feel as though fate is conspiring against you, throwing you one challenge after another, and that if you don’t excel, you’ll be a great big failure. For the naturally aggressive, meditation can be a healing tool as well as an enlightening experience into the nature of reality. Learning to accept rather than attack is a valuable stress management skill for aggressive types.

14. If You’re Passive-Aggressive

For the passive-aggressive stress manager, stress is something to subvert with trickery. Even if you don’t fully realize it, you don’t handle stress directly. You manipulate your circumstances underhandedly so that you can get what you need without feeling as though you’ve behaved inappropriately. This, too, can be an effective way to deal with certain kinds of stress. Sometimes the stress in life is best nuzzled into submission with flowers and candy. But sometimes, the passive-aggressive way is simply indirect and therefore wholly ineffective. A direct acknowledgment of the stress you have and direct action to purge it from your life might be much simpler.

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