The art of serenity in stressful times

10. December 2021

Do you know this situation? You have the feeling that it is difficult to break the wheel of constant “doing” and not be constantly guided by your calendar and your to-do list. Maybe friends are already starting to say to you: “You should be less stressed, take a little more time, take it easy”. They know it’s true, but either there isn’t time to relax or it doesn’t work.

I’ve been in this situation so many times. At home on the sofa after work, ready to relax. But my head was often so full of thought circles that “relaxing” didn’t feel good. Often times I would start checking my emails, going on social media, or continuing to work on my to-do list. Which made the whole situation worse.

It is important to understand that when your “inside” is very fast, your sympathetic nervous system (activation system) is on and looking for things to make you even faster. Often we are not even aware of it.

Imagine you are in a car on a German autobahn and driving 200km / h. After doing this for a long time, it feels completely normal. However, if you stop at a gas station, get out of the car and watch the cars go by on the freeway, you may notice how fast you were actually driving.

What makes our need to constantly perform even more difficult are thoughts like “I have to be valuable,” “I have to be strong,” “There’s no time to relax,” or “I don’t deserve to be alone take that would be selfish “. We often don’t allow ourselves to relax and slow down.

This may work for a few months or years, but at some point our body will no longer be able to take it. It may start with sleeping problems or slight pain in the body, the feeling of being easily irritated or a general feeling of overwhelm. If you still don’t listen, illness can arise.

Relaxation is a learnable skill. To continue the metaphor above, imagine that you never stopped your car and just sped through it. At some point your gasoline would be empty. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of taking breaks. This can be weekends or holidays. However, I find it more effective to take mini-breaks during the day.

For example, a mindful mini-pause can consist of closing your eyes and taking 10 conscious breaths. When you breathe slowly and consciously, your mind slows down and relaxes.


Here are 5 more ideas for mindful mini-breaks:


Self-Care Permission: Give yourself permission not to do anything for even 1 minute. This is the prerequisite for relaxation. If you don’t, you won’t be able to slow down even if you lie on the sofa for hours.

Meditation: By training your mind to focus on where you want it, you prevent stress and keep your brain vital. It is scientifically proven that meditation leads to less cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body. It also trains your concentration and attention spans, which is definitely helpful in a world of constant distraction.

Body scan: Lie or sit down, close your eyes and start feeling your different body parts one by one. Do this in great detail, starting with your toes, your ankles, your lower legs, etc. Try to take out any judgment and just be open to how these body parts feel. It can also help to visualize inhaling into these parts of the body. Take at least 15 minutes to do this.

Instead of having lunch with your coworkers, take a walk: fresh air and the outdoors are free and quick tools to help you relax. Try to mute your phone and take in your surroundings as you slowly walk.

Practice in saying no: This may be the hardest, but it is important to set boundaries as you work. Let’s be honest, there are meetings during which you don’t feel like you can really contribute. Often they are not well organized and do not have a clear division of tasks. Set a limit per day. This can consist of declining a meeting in a friendly but determined way, leaving early to give yourself 10 minutes to walk to the next meeting, or stop checking your email after a certain time in the day.