stress is an important part of any healing program. When an individual
experiences stress, the brain sends messages throughout the body to initiate
the "fight or flight" response. The heart rate increases. Digestive
functions are suppressed so there will be increased blood flow to muscles.
Muscles tense up, getting ready for physical action. Immune function is
These events occur if you are in real physical danger, or if you are having
anxious thoughts about trying events in your life. The body does not know
the difference between real physical danger and the mind in a state of
worry, imagining fearful situations. In each instance the "fight
or flight" mechanism is activated.
When the perception of danger is over the "fight or flight"
mechanism turns off, the body relaxes, the heart rate goes down, blood
pressure goes down, muscles can relax, proper digestion can occur, the
immune system is strengthened.
Problems occur when the stress is chronic, and the body doesn't get an
adequate chance to relax.
Studies show chronic stress can create health problems, and that
it is possible to get relief from these health problems by using relaxation
Herbert Benson reported to the U.S. House of Representatives that an estimated
60 to 90 percent of visits to physicians are prompted by conditions related
to stress. He also reported on a study of patients with insomnia. Before
behavioral and relaxation response treatment, patients took an average
of 78 minutes to fall asleep. Afterwards, the patient average was 19 minutes.
Herbert Benson, MD: Role
of the Mind in Physical Healing and Health before the United States
House of Representatives, Committee on Appropriations, 5 November 1997.
Patients who are about to undergo surgery are frequently anxious
and nervous. Patients who are relaxed before and after an operation are
more likely to do well during surgery and afterwards.
A study of patients undergoing colorectal surgery showed those who used
guided imagery before and after the surgery needed 37% less pain medication
and were able to leave the hospital sooner than the control group.
Healing: Managing an Operation"
Another Study (Reported in Arthritis Today,
Two groups of patients with psoriasis received ultra-violet light
treatment for severe skin lesions.
One group received only the standard ultra-violet light treatment.
The second group also listened to relaxation tapes during the treatment.
The tapes guided the patients to focus on their breath and to visualize
the treatment healing the lesions.
The group that listened to the relaxation tapes healed nearly four times
faster than the group that did not listen to the tapes.
The study was led by Jon Kabut-Zinn, Ph.D, at the Stress Reduction Clinic
of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts
Diane Reibel, Ph.D is director of the Stress Reduction
Program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
She says, "Patients with arthritis consistently report significant pain
relief by the end of the eight-week Mindfulness Meditation-based stress