Improve Stress-Related Illness
April 2010

Stress-related Illnesses


The word psychosomatic, meaning that symptoms in the body have their source in the mind, has a blaming and shameful underlying meaning in common usage; ie the persons with illness are causing it themselves. However people are more and more realising that there is really no mind/body split. The mind extends via pathways and nerve cells, right throughout the body. Our thoughts directly affect our body. So when we are distressed, unhappy, holding anger, carrying learnt reactions/fears from past experiences, this is expressed in our bodies. These negative states are a source of stress, and stress is something that we feel is external to us, and that we can have some control over. Stress and perhaps an unhealthy lifestyle combined with genetic tendencies such as a gene for a certain type of illness, can result in that illness occurring. Thus stress-related illness is a better term which more accurately describes this type of illness.


There is a long list of illnesses that are thought to be stress-related. All mental illnesses are usually made worse by stress, and most have their source in genetic and environmental factors. Stress-related physical illnesses include the following: rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel, lupus, cancer, high blood pressure, asthma, chronic pain, headaches, insomnia, atopic dermatitis, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue. Many other medical disorders are made worse by stress.


If we look at external stressors, such as the demands of a busy lifestyle, a difficult job, or an unpleasant person or situation, the obvious solution is to remove the stressors from your life. However this is not always possible. One helpful technique is to practice self hypnosis at times when you are at your lowest ebb during the day. This can greatly improve your ability to cope with the situations and pressure that you deal with.


Internal stressors, such as negative self talk, interpretting events in a negative way, low self esteem, fear related to past events, inability to express anger, and performance anxiety can be addressed by allowing the mind to explore the situation under hypnosis. This technique works on the basis that anyone can use their mind creatively to resolve issues and come up with their own solutions. This is explained in detail in the book, "The Symptom Path to Enlightenment" by Ernest Rossi, a student of Milton Erikson, the originator of indirect hypnosis techniques. Essentially the subconscious mind, largely responsible for our automatic behaviours anyway, can provide us with the information needed to understand any mental block affecting our physical body and to decide what to do about it. This may simply be an internal change in one's attitude toward it. The ideas accessed this way are acted on depending on whether they fit with common sense and the person's values.  They can transform people's lives (see Improving Health).


Learning the relaxation response, sleep hygiene, effective breathing, positive self talk, keeping diaries, conflict resolution, pleasant activities, also help a great deal. Good breathing is particularly important


Some breathing medical experts say that correct diaphragmatic breathing will improve many physical and mental illnesses. About 20% of the population shallowly with their upper chest. This is an anxious way of breathing. The air in the lungs is not fully exchanged and the air in the lower lung tends to remain there and stagnate, inviting infection and triggering asthma. The supply of oxygen to the brain is compromised and sluggishness and depression can result. Diaphragmatic breathing involves dropping the diaphragm, the large muscle across the abdomen supporting the lungs, and also expanding the stomach area to allow the lungs to expand fully. This can be learnt by practising for a minute or so night and morning for 2-3 weeks. Once the breathing style has become natural during the day, a change in breathing to shallow breathing is a great way for you to know that you are becoming anxious, and to know to do something about it. Changing your breathing back to diaphragmatic, and changing your thought patterns can assist you in reducing your anxiety.