In today's performance-oriented society, the topic of relaxation often plays a subordinate role. Yet the body and mind need regular rest periods in order to remain healthy and productive in the long term. Anyone who is constantly under power will sooner or later run out of energy.
The goal is to slow down internally. Many people do not find this easy at first. However, with the help of a few tricks and exercises, you can succeed in regaining your inner balance. Relaxation can be learned. In the following article, we show you how it works.
What is relaxation?
First of all, let's define the term relaxation: Relaxation means a shutdown of the autonomic nervous system. Whenever you are under stress, the latter becomes active. As soon as you relax, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. Your muscles relax and your breathing slows down. Because of the physical deceleration, the psyche also comes to rest.
Relaxation techniques aim to bring about precisely this physical state. Relaxation can also mean the absence of external stressors (stimuli). If you go on holiday, for example, and thus escape the worries of everyday life, you are relaxed. Of course, this is only the case if you can switch off internally.
Why is relaxation so important?
Since the Stone Age, the human organism has not evolved significantly. This means that we still react to stress today in the same way as our ancestors did thousands of years ago. The stressors, of course, are different in nature. Instead of predators, today we fear professional failure, exam situations or interpersonal conflicts.
However, the physical reaction is the same: the release of stress hormones activates our autonomic nervous system to provide us with the resources for fight or flight. Physical strength and alertness increase to a maximum. In the short term, this mechanism is absolutely desirable to master the situation at hand.
After the stressful situation has passed, the autonomic nervous system should calm down again. A feeling of relief and relaxation occurs. The emphasis is on "should". This mechanism is in fact now disturbed in many people. The body remains permanently in a state of arousal. Relaxation after a stressful situation is immensely important for health.
What happens in your body when you don't relax?
Lack of relaxation manifests itself after a short time through a variety of physical symptoms. These include, for example:
- Back pain
- Muscle tension
- Gastrointestinal problems
In the long term, a lack of relaxation - i.e., chronic stress - can cause lead to life-threatening diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. Lack of relaxation also has a negative effect on the immune system. As a result, stressed people are sick more often.
Psychological consequences of lack of relaxation
A healthy psyche also depends on regular relaxation phases. People who never get a chance to rest often struggle with concentration problems, sleep disorders and exhaustion. In addition, permanent tension causes a level of suffering that should not be underestimated. Not being able to relax, even though you want to, can be very stressful.
Thoughts constantly revolve around unfinished tasks or upcoming problems. In extreme cases, this can result in anxiety disorders that require treatment. Not being able to relax also triggers feelings of despair and helplessness. In the worst case, this leads to depression, burn-out or even suicidal thoughts.
5 relaxation methods you should know about
Not every relaxation technique is equally suitable for every person. Fortunately, there are a variety of helpful methods. If in doubt, try several techniques until you find the right relaxation method for you.
You should know the following 5 relaxation methods in any case:
- autogenic training
Autogenic training was conceived at the beginning of the 20th century by the psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz. He found out that people can put themselves into a state of relaxation of their own accord (autogenic). Instructions from outside are not necessary for this.
Autogenic training is based primarily on so-called mantras, which you recite to yourself softly over and over again. These are phrases such as "the heart beats calmly", "the breath flows slowly" or "the right arm is heavy".
Especially patients who suffer from chronic pain due to stress benefit greatly from this method. The more often you practice autogenic training, the faster you will succeed in relaxing.
Meditation is mostly associated with the Far East and praying monks. But meditation has now also established itself as an effective relaxation technique in our latitudes. Body and mind glide gently into a state of complete relaxation. The vegetative nervous system comes to rest. Thoughts are diverted away from current stressors.
There are different ways to meditate. Guided meditations are especially good for beginners. The main thing is that you feel comfortable. Don't put yourself under pressure if you don't feel completely committed to meditation right away. Engage in meditation can. This is a matter of practice and Habit.
Some of the most popular forms of meditation include:
- Zazen - Meditating in the Zen-Buddhism
- Mindfulness meditation (Vipassana)
- Mantra Meditation
- Meditations in Kundalini Yoga
- Transcendental Meditation
- Metta - Meditation (for love and kindness)
- Osho Meditation (dynamic meditation)
Yoga is a millennia-old philosophy from ancient India. A yoga class classically consists of various physical and breathing exercises (asanas and pranayama). Meditative aspects also play a role. The positive effects of yoga on mental health are scientifically well proven.
Through regular yoga sessions you stimulate your body to release more happiness hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. You feel fitter and more balanced. In addition, yoga can reduce blood pressure and thus Prevent heart attack and stroke.
- progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobsen is a tried and tested relaxation method that is used for chronic states of restlessness and anxiety disorders. The procedure is very simple: one after the other, you tense all the muscles of your body and release them again suddenly. You start with the facial muscles and work your way up to the toes.
The aim is to be able to use this relaxation method discreetly in stressful situations at some point and thus to be able to relax practically "at the touch of a button". The effectiveness of progressive muscle relaxation has been demonstrated in be proven in several studies.
- Mindfulness Training
Do you sometimes have the feeling that you are not really aware of yourself and your environment because you are so stressed? Then it would be advisable to try mindfulness training. The latter can be done in different ways. So-called body scans are popular, for example, in which you consciously feel every part of your body.
But a walk in the woods can also serve as effective mindfulness training. Leave your mobile phone at home and concentrate exclusively on your surroundings. What do you see, hear and smell? How does it make you feel? Soak up all sensory impressions and take the time to interpret them.
Another component of mindfulness training is the so-called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). This is a standardized procedure that combines relaxation elements such as breathing techniques and meditation.
5 tips for proper relaxation
Knowledge of relaxation techniques is the first step. Regularity is important for them to have the desired effect. Many sports and health studios now offer relaxation courses. Why not find out more about the providers in your area? Trial sessions are usually available, so you can get a taste of the relaxation techniques.
If you decide to attend an appropriate course, then you should go two to three times a week. In addition to targeted relaxation methods, there are other ways to relax more in everyday life. Combine the following tips with the relaxation methods mentioned above:
1. wellness in everyday life
It doesn't have to be an expensive spa weekend with whirlpool and sauna. You can and should also take the time to pamper your senses in normal everyday life. For example, enjoy a warm bubble bath by candlelight in the evening. Set up your wellness oasis with love. This time belongs only to you! Switch off your mobile phone and enjoy the soothing warmth of the water. Allow yourself to think about nothing.
After your little wellness break you feel strengthened for the challenges of everyday life.
2. endurance sports
Physical activity helps to reduce stress hormones. It's not for nothing that many people go jogging or chop wood when they feel stressed. Give it a try! You'll be amazed at how free your mind is afterwards. Endurance exercise mimics the stone age fight and flight mechanism. Your brain gets the signal that you have averted danger.
As a result, your autonomic nervous system comes to rest. In addition, happiness hormones are released during sport, which relax you.
The human being is a social being. Without physical contact, we would sooner or later wither away physically and emotionally. Therefore: Take your loved ones in your arms as often as possible. Cuddling releases the bonding hormone oxytocin, which dampens the production of stress hormones and provides a feeling of inner balance.
I'm sure you've also noticed that when a loved one takes you in their arms when you're feeling stressed or sad, you immediately feel more relaxed. Massages are also a good way to relax. They can also loosen up tense muscles.
4. gratitude diary
Most of the time, we remember negative situations longer than positive moments. Quite a paradox, isn't it? But you can counteract this by shifting your focus to the positive things in your life. The best way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal. Every evening, write down what you were grateful for this day. grateful you've been.
These can be big things (health, wealth) or small things (cleaning the house, cooking something delicious). Writing them down helps you to clarify all the good things. Whenever you feel stressed or even desperate, take your gratitude diary to hand.
5. change of perspective
Lack of relaxation is often due to stuck perspectives. You have developed the much-cited tunnel vision and no longer know how to solve a particular problem. In this case it can help to change your perspective. Imagine you are someone else (e.g. a person you admire for his or her serenity). How would he or she react in such a situation?
Look at the situation as if you were not emotionally involved. What advice would you give yourself if you were an outsider?
Small relaxation exercise for stress
Breathing exercises have proven to be very effective for acute stress. These are uncomplicated to perform and calm you down within a very short time:
Counting the breaths quickly brings calm and relaxation. Breathe in and out deeply. When you exhale, give the breath a number. As you have to concentrate on this, the stressors fade into the background for a while. The deep inhalation supplies your body with more oxygen, which makes you feel more alert and vital.
You can do the counting exercise lying down or sitting up. If you like, place your hands on your belly. In this way you can feel your abdominal wall rising and falling leisurely.
Small relaxation exercise for everyday life
Did you know that you can relax wonderfully during a hectic working day by simply standing up and walking a few steps? This relaxation exercise is called "walking meditation" and is wonderful for in between. You don't need to plan for long distances: the way from the office to the coffee kitchen or from the living room to the bathroom is perfectly sufficient.
You don't need to do anything other than consciously put one foot in front of the other. Consciously notice where your foot first touches the ground and how it rolls. Pay attention to the floor: How does it feel? Soft or hard? Flat or uneven? Try to feel the muscle groups that are active while walking. How do they feel?
Relaxation in everyday life is important to stay physically and mentally healthy. As you now know, meditation is one of the most effective relaxation methods. Especially as a beginner, however, it may be possible that you need impulses and instructions for meditation. In this case our Greator Meditation Challenge the right thing for you.
In the 5-day challenge, five different meditation instructions ensure maximum relaxation and grounding as well as inner peace. In addition, you will learn all the important basics for your future meditation routine.
Are you curious? Then you will find here for more information.