What relaxes people the most
Tips for relaxation: "Incorporate relaxation islands into everyday life"
It doesn't always have to be a long journey: You can also find relaxation in everyday life. Christiane Wendel spoke to the psychologist Cornelia Baltscheit about this. She is a qualified psychologist at the Immanuel Hospital in Berlin-Wannsee, honorary vice-president of the Rheuma-Liga Berlin and, among other things, a self-management trainer.
Ms. Baltscheit, many people are constantly under time pressure - be it at work or privately. Smartphones and the Internet are now used by many around the clock. Are stress and the feeling of being exhausted just part of our modern life?
It shouldn't, because in the last 20 years the number of sick days of employees has more than tripled, mainly due to mental illness. We are all exposed to a huge flood of information every day. Due to the constant availability, but also due to the possibility of teleworking, the boundary between work and leisure is increasingly dissolving. Many people also fear that they might be missing out on something if they are not always online. However, studies show that this constant flood of information reduces concentration and working memory performance. Schoolchildren are also no longer capable of learning if they are constantly busy with the smartphone. Our brain is overwhelmed because it cannot process the flood of information sufficiently. The consequences are stress reactions and exhaustion. The problem is not the digital media, but how we deal with them.
What can individuals do to keep stress from getting out of hand?
Slow down, take breaks and incorporate small breaks into everyday life. Rest ensures that the stress level drops and the brain is relieved. In my conversations with patients, I often find out that most of the working people no longer take a lunch break at all, or are still available or busy with their cell phones. Small moments of rest and conscious offline times are important for our performance. Everyone should ask themselves whether they always have to be available, whether all information via smartphone, internet, television is really necessary? It is better to switch off all stimuli again and again, to relax, to take a walk, to come to rest.
Most people experience the greatest relaxation on vacation. How can you support the recovery process during the holidays?
Vacation means relaxation for body and mind. If work stress and external control are switched off for a longer period of time, we can again become more conscious of ourselves, our stress hormones drop. On vacation we act as we like and can do what we want. We can achieve this if we do not take any work with us, are not permanently available for work, do not plan the trip too tightly and sometimes leave the smartphone switched off. Many rheumatism sufferers report that they experience less pain on vacation.
Why is that?
If everyday stress disappears, stress hormones break down and the immune system can work better again. But climatic conditions on vacation can also have a positive effect on pain. Positive feelings and distractions on vacation, for example through new experiences, also reduce the perception of pain.
So does our brain relax when we are busy with other things than in everyday life?
Our brain is stimulated differently in self-determined leisure time than in everyday stress. If you try something new without pressure to perform and in a self-determined manner, this is no further burden, but relaxation. By the way, it doesn't always have to be a vacation. It can also be achieved through small things in everyday life, for example with a walk or consciously listening to music. Consciously taking time for something that is good for you can switch off work and everyday stress.
Does that mean that small distractions in everyday life also help us to relax?
Yes, that's why it is important to incorporate such relaxation islands into everyday life and to give them a permanent place in our everyday life, as natural as brushing your teeth.
And when our head is clear, this creates space for new thoughts that otherwise have no place in everyday life. It promotes our creativity, for example for hobbies. Those who practice a hobby treat themselves to a mini vacation, so to speak.
Let's say I don't have a hobby at all. How can you find one?
Hobbies are positive, fun and bring joy. They are important to distract yourself from the physical condition as well. We can use our senses wonderfully to find out what we enjoy. For example, if I have a keen sense of taste, I can make cooking a hobby. I can invite friends and I don't even have to leave the apartment when I feel bad. To find out what suits me well, I can ask myself what I loved doing as a child. Has it just been spilled and can I revive it? Do I have interests that I have not yet implemented? What are my skills, what suits me? If I try new things, I should definitely deal with them several times. Impatience or perfectionism can get in the way of us. The most important aspect of a hobby is always that I like it, that it inspires me and that it is fun.
Offers from the associations
Can relaxation be used specifically to deal with pain?
Stress and pain have similar processing paths in the brain. With relaxation we can therefore "kill two birds with one stone". Methods that alternate between tension and relaxation are ideal. One method that is very easy to learn is progressive muscle relaxation. In this method, muscle tension and relaxation alternate. That trains the perception, because I feel faster when the tension builds up and can actively counter it.
Autogenic training often causes difficulties at the beginning because many cannot initially imagine the formulations used. It takes longer to learn this method. Imagination journeys and imagination exercises activate positive feelings and can distract from pain.
Mindfulness procedures are very topical at the moment. I concentrate on the body, the breathing, the feelings, my thoughts without evaluating them. Tai chi, qigong, and yoga are active and effective methods that can be especially effective for people who are better able to relax through exercise. When doing relaxation exercises, it is important that I can adopt a comfortable posture and that I am undisturbed. Otherwise the “here and now” distracts me from relaxation too quickly.
Where and how best to learn a relaxation method?
For those affected with physical limitations, courses in the adult education center or in the fitness studio are only partially suitable because the course leaders usually have no experience with rheumatic limitations. A good point of contact is the local rheumatism league, which often also offers relaxation courses. You also have the opportunity to try out and learn procedures as part of a rehabilitation measure. I think the “Rheuma-Auszeit” app of the Rheuma-Liga is very successful. Exercises from progressive muscle relaxation and fantasy journeys are integrated there. It can be used anywhere and in any state of health.
Can offers from the Internet help?
In the case of online offers, there is no personal support and support from the trainer. It is certainly suitable for methods that are easy to learn - with the advantage that the exercises are available even when I cannot attend a course.
Should I integrate relaxation exercises into everyday life, is it enough if I use them when stress and pain are greatest?
Daily implementation is useful for learning. By practicing regularly, you will be able to switch to relaxation mode more quickly. Regular use of a relaxation procedure also means successfully relieving everyday stress.
App "Rheumatism Time Out"
The "Rheuma-Auszeit" app from the German Rheumatism League is an everyday companion for people with rheumatism. It offers you practical recommendations. Among other things, there are movement and relaxation exercises and thought journeys in the app.
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