WORKPLACE / SEP. 27, 2014
version 3, draft 3

When Relaxation Isn't Relaxing

I’ve written a few times on this blog about the important role taking breaks has on our productivity.  Whether you go for a walk or even mess about on Facebook for a bit, there have been numerous studies highlighting the benefits this has on both our emotional wellbeing and our productivity at work.

It’s easy to think therefore that all breaks are positive, and it doesn’t really matter what we do, as long as we do something.

A new study suggests that this line of thought, comforting though it may be, is actually not right at all, and that some forms of relaxation aren’t really that beneficial at all. What’s more, some of our most popular forms of relaxation fall into this category.

When relaxation isn’t very relaxing

The study saw 500 or so people from Germany and Switzerland asked about their methods for relaxation. Each participant was asked both for the amount of work they’d undertaken that day, how tired it had made them, and whether they’d engaged in watching television or playing video games as a means of unwinding at the end of the day.

They were then asked whether they felt any pangs of guilt or shame at any point during the day, and whether they thought that their methods of relaxing had been very effective in recharging their batteries.

The results are fascinating. It emerged that watching the television or playing some video games is not effective at all at refreshing you, especially if you are very stressed out after your day at work.

What’s more, the participants who reported the highest levels of stress, also revealed that they felt the most shame and guilt at using such methods as a way to unwind. They also didn’t believe it to be particularly effective either.

This is particularly worrying as it is often the most stressed amongst us that resort to watching the television or engaging in other electronic means of relaxation.

The findings provide a contrast to previous studies that have suggested that relatively mindless activities can be beneficial when it comes to relaxation. Alas, it appears that this is not the case when you are particularly stressed out.

“We are beginning to better understand that media use can have beneficial effects for people’s well-being through media-induced recovery. Our present study is an important step towards a deeper understanding of this. It demonstrates that in real life the relationship between media use and well-being is complicated and that the use of media may conflict with other, less pleasurable but more important duties and goals in everyday life,” the research team revealed.

How do you relax?

So what does this mean for your own methods of relaxation?  One obvious one is being a little less harsh on yourself if you sit down in front of the telly at the end of a day. Relaxation doesn’t have to involve anything too cerebral to be effective, and we shouldn’t feel bad about relaxing in the way we find most effective.

I must say, that personally I find exercise my most effective method of relaxation, but I think the key takeaway is that whatever method you use, you have to be comfortable with doing whatever it takes to unwind.

How do you usually relax at the end of your working day? Which method do you find works most effectively for you?  Let me know in the comments.



Image: istock

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