Are you stressed? These 6 things ensure relaxation!

Ciao stress

If only we were more relaxed, things would be so much easier. Still, most of us fail. Probably because we are often in our own way. 6 factors go into proper recovery. 

Some things can clearly be seen by a majority: the stress thing, for example. According to a survey by Techniker Krankenkasse, 61 per cent of Germans feel stressed, and among those under 40, it is even 75 per cent. It's no wonder that stress relief was once again the most popular New Year's resolution in 2017.
In fact, we try hard to be less stressful. We invest 63 billion in vacation travel, mindfulness and meditation courses are booming, almost three million Germans practice yoga - to name just a few numbers. However, that doesn't change the overall situation: Our stress level even seems to be increasing. In the TK study, well over half said they felt more stressed than they did three years ago. So something seems to be going wrong between us, the stress and its opposite, the recovery. It is high time to think again about both.

Our attitude to stress

Stress is considered our enemy. And in fact, studies bring him in connection with pretty much everything that one would rather not have: from lousy mood, cold, sexual aversion to obesity to depression, dementia, heart attack and cancer. The WHO calls it one of the most significant health threats of our century. That is correct, but also very one-sided.
"First of all, stress is our body's ability to react appropriately to challenges," says Helen Heinemann, founder of the Institute for Burnout Prevention in Hamburg and author of the book "Why stress makes you happy": "In a situation that Stress triggers, the hormones released make us incredibly efficient, alert, concentrated and focused. " It only becomes problematic when these circulate permanently in the body.
However, acute stress does not only pay off in the short term because we can cope with tasks faster and better but also in a long time: Mice that were stressed by being locked up developed cancer later and less severely than their relaxed conspecifics. Apparently, the exposure had roused the body's protective mechanisms. The health benefit of stress has also been proven in humans: women with moderate stress levels had less DNA damage from oxidation than women who reported low exposure. Only in highly exposed women was there a negative effect on the DNA.
This research breaks up the picture of thoroughly lousy stress. And at the same time, studies show that this itself has an influence. In a large US study, the risk of death for people who reported a lot of stress was only increased if they were convinced that focus was a health hazard. Those who, on the other hand, considered it harmless, were doing well despite high stress and even better than people with little or no pressure. Our way of thinking, psychologists speak of the "mindset", turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: What you think about stress, you get too.
But our "mindset" can be changed. In experiments, a short video clip with the relevant information was enough to ensure that people do not see their tension as an inhibiting fear, but as an activation that increases performance. The stress reaction is then more favourable and subsides more quickly. The US psychologist Kelly McGonigal advises in her book "The Upside Of Stress" not to fight stress but to welcome it - or at least to accept it.


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On the one hand, because our body reacts more healthily, on the other hand, because we then feel less powerless and act more. Also, it relieves the burden of giving up the goal of a stress-free life, because unattainable as it is, it only leads to feeling inadequate in addition to the stress experienced.

Make friends instead of enemies.

For a long time, stress research focused solely on the fight or flight response described above. It is mediated by the hormones adrenaline and cortisol and is a survival benefit for our ancestors to cope with threats such as a predator attack. But obviously, there is a second stress response, which the psychologist Shelley Taylor called "tend and befriend", that is, "care and befriend".
Because in stressful situations, the hormone oxytocin also increases and lets animals and humans seek closeness to others to take care of them or to receive support themselves. This contact then increases the oxytocin level even further. "Tend and befriend" is also known as the female stress response, because from an evolutionary point of view, fight or flight is not necessarily the best option for individuals who are pregnant or looking after a toddler, but protecting the community is always the best option.
And: The need to move closer together in difficult times is more than a physical reaction. Anyone who gives in to it and allows the oxytocin level to climb will always have a significant stress buffer. The fight-or-flight answer, on the other hand, often comes to nothing today, because you are no longer facing the sabre-toothed tiger, but the deadline of an important project or the diagnosis of a severe illness.
Oxytocin is namely the opposite of cortisol. It inhibits its release, works against inflammation, protects the blood vessels and promotes the regeneration of body cells stressed by stress. We can and should make targeted use of this effect: "Whenever we come into contact, be it with other people while petting a cat, or when something, the wind on the skin or a nice meal, touches our senses, it becomes oxytocin poured out and our resilience increases ", says Helen Heinemann.
"That is why I am also critical of the current meditation trend. It promotes individualization - everyone sits for himself - while the panacea for stress is the exact opposite: namely, community. Going to the football field with the children, eating ice cream to laugh together - that is much easier and probably more effective than meditating for half an hour. " 

These 6 factors contribute to recovery.

Many of us have wrong ideas about relaxation in our heads, for example, because we mistake it for vacation. "But it mainly serves to recharge resources, we tend not to build new ones. Relaxation, on the other hand, makes us more creative, mentally more flexible, more helpful and more productive," says Christine Syrek, a psychologist at the University of Trier.
In addition to relaxation, five other mechanisms contribute to recovery - and holidays, weekends or after work are always the most relaxing when all six are addressed: What is important is freedom of thought or what is referred to as switching off. Also, a challenge, whereby it's not about top performance, but about moving a bit out of your own comfort zone, for example, by trying new things.
The factor meaning, i.e. doing something important and meaningful to oneself, contributes to recovery, as does solidarity with others - greetings from oxytocin - and self-determination when we can freely decide what and when to do something. "The activities that trigger these six factors vary from person to person," says Syrek.
"So you can't always say that reading is better than watching TV, but it's worse than sport. When it is personally important to me to lie on the sofa, and I have decided to do it because I want to and not because I want to Exhaustion cannot do otherwise, even such passive activities are relaxing. "
It becomes challenging to find the right kind of relaxation for people who, because of all the tasks and duties, no longer notice their needs and feelings. "The best relaxation method, the best tip is useless if you have lost touch with yourself," says Helen Heinemann. "The greater the stress, the more likely it is, the stronger the tunnel vision becomes: You can no longer see a way out and lose sight of yourself." 

And she saw that it was good.

The bigger problem when it comes to recovery is, therefore often: to implement it on time. "Many are convinced: I perform, therefore I am," says Heinemann. Recovery will inevitably always be neglected for these people, and even if they do sport to compensate, they do it with the same performance demands and make it a further stress factor.
Self-esteem is the basis for true relaxation. "To say: I did it well seems to be difficult for people in general - and women in particular," said the expert. To make this clear, she uses the story of creation: "You don't have to be a believer for that; it's about building up. Every day God only does one thing, for example, he separates light from dark. Each time the sentence follows: 'And he saw that it was good. ' He just didn't say: 'There's still so much to do, I'll start with the plants'. "
She also instructs her clients to pause and appreciate them. Every evening they are supposed to write down what was good that day: "Keep your nerves when two children pounded each other. Take a break, drink coffee. One of the eight windows was cleaned. Anything that was left behind or went wrong is hidden," says Heinemann. "Anyone who does this for four weeks learns The way I am, I'm okay. It's not working, but I am the determining factor in my life, and with that, I also determine when I take a break."
Presumably, it is like this: Nobody should start with the goal of embracing stress. For everyone who feels rushed and helpless, this would be another overwhelming challenge. But by being aware of ourselves and taking ourselves seriously, we can set an upward spiral in motion. Because this gradually gives rise to the possibility of returning to a healthy alternation between stress and relaxation, the view widens, new options for action become conceivable and implementable, self-confidence and satisfaction increase.