What is Sophrology? How to relax in the 21st Century.

What is Sophrology? How to relax in the 21st Century.

Do you feel tired all of the time? Maybe you’re stressed, anxious, or find it hard to concentrate. Sophrology might help. This relatively modern relaxation technique is popular in mainland Europe; so much so it’s recommended and covered by health insurance companies across France and Switzerland. It's only a matter of time before it lands on our shores.

Sophrology is the New Mindfulness

Sophrology is the New Mindfulness

Feeling stressed, anxious, burnt out? Time to pause Headspace and allow us to introduce a technique from the 1960s instead.

Sophrology, A Definite Advantage for Chemotherapy Patients

Sophrology techniques are used to recover calm and reduce fears by means of simple exercises, easy to reproduce. An observational study conducted at Institut Curie in Paris, France and published in the journal Soins has just confirmed the advantage of these techniques for patients undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Patients have been availing of this support at Institut Curie since 2007. Chemotherapy treatments are aggressive and cause anxiety, tiredness and more or less debilitating side effects. Over time, they mark the life of patients, sometimes taking over completely. This is often a difficult and destabilising period when habits change. Fear of the side effects and their long-lasting nature is present with an impression of loss of control. "The Hospital Group at Institut Curie has been offering sophrology sessions since 2007", explains Chantal Barré, sophrology nurse at Institut Curie, "to meet the needs expressed by patients and patients suffering from cancer or by the care team.

For 4 years (2007-2011), several tens of patients thus accepted to participate in the study. For reasons of uniformity of the group studied, only patients undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer with no metastasis, or 41 patients aged from 26 to 66 (average age 51). "I was crippled by anxiety for the first time in my life", says Aline, treated for breast cancer. Relearning life's essentials, breathing calmly, feeling your body - this is what I felt from the first sophrology session alone with the sophrology nurse." (1). Some 22 women availed of sophrology sessions during their cancer treatment while 19 started at the end of chemotherapy and as a result, continued with the sessions after their treatment. "This support is offered as a priority to those patients who need it the most", explains Dr Sylvie Dolbeault, psychiatrist and head of the Psycho-oncology unit.

Two groups were formed for separate analysis. In the first, a significant improvement in the anxiety scale and in the quality of life index was observed between the start and end of the sophrology support. A net improvement was seen in total function but no significant difference was noted regarding the symptoms of tiredness and insomnia. Nausea dropped significantly however. On average, patients gave a score of 8.5/10 to the overall help provided by the sophrology techniques.

  • The 19 women who continued sophrology after their chemotherapy noted a drop in their anxiety, insomnia and nausea. As a result, their overall quality of life was enhanced. 17 out of the 19 women graded the help offered by sophrology; the resulting average score was 8.37/10.

While prudence is required as this study is only observational, the results are encouraging nevertheless. They corroborate the positive feedback from patients that carers often give. Not only does the activity offer patients an opportunity to take an active role in their treatment, but the positive results also enable them to better accept it and get involved. These results further support Institut Curie's policy of improving patients' quality of life.

Source: study published in the journal Soins no. 800 - November 2015, Elsevier

Text: Nathalie Oudar

Copyright: Alexandre Lescure/Institut Curie

Mathilde Regnault


Too much stress linked to Alzheimer's, warns new study

Evidence from a major review of published research suggests that chronic stress and anxiety damage key brain regions involved in emotional responses, thinking and memory.

Lead author Dr Linda Mah, from the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto, Canada, said: "Pathological anxiety and chronic stress are associated with structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which may account for the increased risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and dementia."

The review paper, published in the journal 'Current Opinion in Psychiatry', pooled findings from a number of recent studies of stress and fear conditioning in animals, and people undergoing brain scans.

Dr Mah's team looked specifically at neural circuits linked to fear and anxiety in three brain regions, the amygdala, PFC, and hippocampus.

A see-saw pattern was seen in response to chronic stress with the amygdala, associated with emotional responses, becoming over-active and the PFC under-active.

The PFC contains "thinking" areas of the brain that help to regulate emotional responses by appraising them in a rational way.

Temporary episodes of anxiety, fear and stress - experienced before an exam or job interview, for instance - are part of normal life.

But the scientists point out that when such acute emotional reactions become chronic they can "wreak havoc" on immune, metabolic and cardiovascular systems, and damage the brain.