1. Breathing exercises
Does it drive you up the wall when everyone wants something from you at the same time? Banal everyday situations can be the most stressful. This is where one of the simplest relaxation methods helps: breathing exercises. When we’re stressed, our breaths are fast and shallow. That’s why it’s important to slow down and deepen your breath – to relax the whole body.
How it works:
- Sit with your upper body upright, leaning closely against a backrest. Your abdomen and chest must be able to move freely.
- Let your shoulders and arms hang loosely, keep your feet flat on the floor.
- Breathe through your nose. Extend the exhalation with "ssssss". The quieter the "ssssss", the less air is expelled and the longer the exhalation takes.
- Keep your upper body upright and repeat the exercise ten times.
2. Mindfulness exercises
"Relaxation techniques should fit into your everyday life and meet your personal needs," says Katherina Whinyates, head psychologist at the Schützen Rheinfelden Clinic, where patients include those with burnout. Otherwise any good intention will quickly founder, she says. It’s therefore best to start with small and simple sequences. Also useful are mindfulness exercises. These work very well when the activity that needs to be done anyway – like preparing vegetables, brushing your teeth, ironing shirts – is given your full attention.
3. Progressive muscle relaxation
Easy to fit in is progressive muscle relaxation. Invented by American doctor and psychologist Edmund Jacobson, this method is widely used and often prescribed by experts to combat stress. The principle is that in order to calm down, you first tense groups of muscles one by one, and then consciously relax them again. There is a short version of this method – which is the perfect instant solution when you're at work.
How it works:
- Sit down comfortably and close your eyes.
- Interlace your hands behind your head. Press your head forward and backward at the same time to create tension.
- Raise your legs, spread your toes, tense your abdominal muscles and press outwards.
- Tighten all muscles simultaneously for five seconds. Then say “and now I’m letting go.” After a short break, repeat the exercise, breathe calmly, relax your body – and feel the relief.
4. Autogenic training
Do you have problems switching off and falling asleep? Then autogenic training is worth a try. The method is based on the observation that people can actually put themselves under hypnosis. The exercises regulate your breath, slow down your heart rate, relax your muscles and create a pleasant warm feeling. With regular practice, you will find it increasingly easier to achieve the desired result.
How it works:
- Lie on your back or adopt a comfortable sitting position.
- Shut your eyes.
- Let wandering thoughts pass.
- Focus on your body.
- Say sentences to yourself that induce a feeling of calm, like “my heart is beating calmly” or “my left arm is very heavy”.
- Repeat these phrases several times.
- If you use the exercise during the day and need to be fit again afterwards, it's important to withdraw from this soporific state correctly. Say phrases like “eyes open!” or “arms strong!”. Take deep breaths and a good stretch.
Autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness exercises are easy to learn with books, apps or instructions found online. For Asian relaxation techniques such as yoga, qigong or Five Tibetans, Katherina Whinyates advises professional guidance, since they are largely based on movements and participants therefore run the risk of adopting incorrect positions. But attending one of these courses can be worthwhile as the practices involve many elements that promote relaxation. Besides specific sequences, they also incorporate concentration and meditation exercises – bringing body and mind into harmony.