A stressful lifestyle can cause sickness. Learning how to relax is not a luxury, but a must! Do a few relaxation exercises every day. They’ll give you a boost and reduce stress. Eight methods explained simply.
Our everyday lives are highly demanding. Pressure to achieve, deadlines, personal burdens – permanent stress can be harmful for our body and mind.
It is essential for every person to have moments of peace and deep relaxation. If there is no longer a good balance between exertion and relaxation, we are less able to perform and our well-being and health are at risk. This is because, under stress, the body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Without subsequent relaxation, the body cannot break down these hormones. This can result in high blood pressure, digestive problems, tension, chronic headaches, sleep disorders and burnout. Pay attention to the messages your body is sending you.
Targeted relaxation leads to a state of inner peace. This has a positive effect on your concentration and your body. Deep breathing lowers your pulse and blood pressure. Your muscles relax, so more oxygen flows to your organs. The body produces happiness hormones, which help to reduce stress.
Those who internalise relaxation exercises are better able to deal with stress. Stressful situations cannot be avoided – what matters is how we deal with them. Regular relaxation exercises make us calmer, more attentive and resilient.
There are several ways to relax: going for a walk, taking a warm bath, listening to music, enjoying a personal hobby. You can also try out special relaxation techniques that have a lasting soothing effect, such as meditation, yoga, autogenic training and progressive muscle relaxation. And best of all, it’s never too late to learn how to relax. Autogenic training and progressive muscle relaxation are especially suitable for beginners. When doing these two methods, your mind wanders less than when doing meditation.
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It doesn’t matter which relaxation exercise you choose – the important thing is that you actually do it and regularly try to relax. Find out which relaxation technique works best for you and can fit regularly into your everyday life. After all, only practice makes perfect.
Breathing exercises are a simple and effective way to help alleviate the negative effects of shallow breathing and help you relax better. Breathing is an automatic process. But our thoughts and feelings influence our breathing. For example, our breath is restricted when we are experiencing stress, are not getting enough exercise or have bad posture. Possible consequences include headaches, increased fatigue and tension. Breathing exercises train you to be aware of your breath. This has a positive effect on your entire respiratory function and results in better oxygen supply. A natural breathing rhythm also compensates body tension. You can learn and practice breathing exercises in courses.
"My arms and legs feel very heavy." This is how an autogenic training session begins. You relax using the power of your thoughts – without any aids. The aim of this relaxation technique is to be able to relax at will, at any place and any time. It can be performed while reclining or sitting. This makes it easy to integrate the relaxation method into everyday life, at home, on the tram or train, or at work.
The Feldenkrais method aims to promote physical, emotional and mental well-being through improved body awareness and movement. It was invented by Israeli physicist and psychologist Moshé Feldenkrais (1904-1984). His core belief was that thought, feeling, perception and movement are interrelated and influence each other. Adverse movement patterns are detected and adjusted. This relaxation technique is suited to the treatment of conditions such as chronic pain, stress and tension, or simply to improve general well-being. It may be learned independently or as part of a course.
This relaxation technique was developed by Australian actor Frederic Matthias Alexander. He discovered for himself that posture, movement and thought patterns are all interrelated. These patterns should be recognised and positively influenced through self-awareness. This therapy helps with various functional disorders, psychosomatic and stress-related disturbances, breathing and mood problems, chronic pain, illness and the consequences of accidents, and is suitable as an accompanying measure in pregnancy and after birth. The method is also proven as a preventive measure and enhances quality of life.
MBSR stands for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Mindfulness is about remaining in the present moment and being attentive. You learn not to get caught up in your thoughts, make judgements or fall prey to worries or anxiety. Beginners can learn the technique in an eight-week MBSR course. Mindfulness training is suitable for people who are under stress, suffering from acute or chronic illnesses or pain, or affected by psychosomatic troubles (sleep, digestion, etc.), anxiety or mood problems.
The principle of Edmund Jacobson's progressive muscle relaxation technique is simple: certain muscle groups are deliberately tensed for a short time, one after the other, and then released abruptly. After the tension, and with each exercise, the relaxation is perceived more intensively and consciously. Blood pressure drops, the pulse slows and breathing calms down. The technique is relatively easy to learn because it does not require much concentration. It helps with many physical and psychological problems such as stress, pain and sleep disorders.
Meditation is a method of relaxation based on mindfulness and concentration that is thousands of years old. Several meditation techniques exist: physically active forms include yoga and walking meditation, while physically passive forms include mindfulness training (e.g. Vipassana, MBSR) and transcendental meditation. Meditation and mindfulness exercises have a positive effect on our whole body. They allow us to deal better with stress and to experience inner peace and equilibrium. These psychological factors in turn influence bodily functions such as blood pressure and the immune system.
Yoga helps you to find peace using a variety of techniques. This relaxation method combines “asanas” (postures), stretches and breathing exercises. Controlled breathing promotes mindfulness and leads to inner peace. At the same time, deep stretches relax our muscles, ligaments and connective tissues. In short, you’ll become more flexible and calmer.
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That depends entirely on your preferences. When do you feel good? In peace and quiet? Or when you are active? It can also be very inspiring to try out the opposite. New experiences stimulate other senses and regions in your body. In short, try out a few types of relaxation. You will very quickly find out if the method suits you – and if you can incorporate it into your daily life. If so, you won’t have to wait long until you benefit from its positive effects.
Evelyne Dürr (MSc ETH Human Movement Sciences) has been working at Helsana since 2014. As an expert in health management, she is involved in the areas of prevention and health promotion for customers. Evelyne Dürr was on hand to advise and support the editorial team for this article.
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