How Astronauts de-stress


“Houston, we have a problem…and we’re coping fine.”

Some think that people with mental health issues can’t handle stress. In fact, NOBODY can handle stress…until they’ve learned how. It’s not your health condition, but your learning and practice, that determines your ability to de-stress. People with anxiety problems can acquire stress management skills which are SUPERIOR to the general population. How? The way that astronauts do!

In April, a small group from Flourish Australia Inclusion attended a webinar on Uncovering the innovative secrets of NASA’s training approach with autogenic training presented by Helen Gibbons via the NSW Business Chamber.

NASA selects only the highest achievers to become astronauts, but they aren’t superhuman and can succumb to stress like anyone else. The difference is they learn ways of dealing with it. One of their techniques is Autogenic Training. This involves taking conscious control of your own stress responses. The first female American astronaut, Dr Patricia Cowings of the AMES research establishment, introduced it into astronaut training.

After periods of intense mental effort, we need a period of deliberate “winding down” in order to return quickly to optimum performance. An optimal cycle is 90 to 120 minutes of activity followed by 20 minutes of winding down. You can still function if you go beyond 120 minutes without a break, but your performance will begin to deteriorate until you won’t be able to concentrate at all.

Want to hear something strange? Some of our group thought that the practical exercises in Helen’s webinar were eerily similar to things we’d learned in hospitals or from psychologists! How were we to know we were being secretly prepared for space flight?!

You can learn more about the Autogenic Training Institute here:


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