Woman checks watch

Time stress

Five ways to reduce leisure stress

Never before have we in Switzerland had so much free time as we do today. And yet, we are more stressed than ever. This was the finding of a study conducted by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute. Time researcher and psychologist Marc Wittmann explains how you can relax.

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1. Create a ritual

It's tempting to think that free time and stress are contradictory. Why are we often stressed, especially in our leisure time? "We have difficulty switching off," explains Marc Wittmann. From Monday to Friday, we find ourselves on a hamster wheel at work. Our minds and bodies are in activity mode - and remain so even after work and even at the weekend because we cannot wind down. Rituals during the transition phase can help. "Personally, I always do yoga when I get home. A short walk has the same effect; if I stroll in a relaxed manner, I go into rest mode." Wittmann recommends walking home - at least part of the way - while perhaps reflecting on your day. By deliberately spending more time on the way home, you're left with less stress at the end.

2. Learn to be lazy

For once, just do nothing! This tip may sound banal, but it isn't that easy to implement in everyday life. "Don't make any plans for the weekend - and certainly no lists," Wittmann advises. Allow boredom to set in - even wallow in it, because this ideally transforms into relaxation when the best ideas come to you. But what if young children throw a spanner in the works and disturb your "dolce far niente"? "Of course, every case is different. But you could try having a lie-in now and again, and letting your children run around on their own." And how will you get the shopping done, clean your home and pay your bills? "It's all a question of moderation. Certain things have to be done. So do the essentials on Saturday and devote Sunday to doing nothing."

3. Be spontaneous

Not enough time for friends? What can you do? "Here's a little homework: call a friend out of the blue and have a ten-minute chat," Wittmann says. It doesn't always have to be a three-hour after-work-drinks session. What if you want to go out with friends or family, perhaps on a hike? That's not easy without prior planning. "There's nothing wrong with great experiences. In fact, in retrospect, a weekend feels longer if you have some new memories to look back on. But don't plan so rigidly that you have to be back at a specific car park at a very specific time. It might be more fun to stop at a pub along the way."

4. Put your phone away

One problem is that our work and leisure times are increasingly merging. Messages from the boss sometimes pop up on our mobile phone even after working hours. And if you work from home, why not spend some time after dinner to quickly prepare something for the next day on your computer? Then there is social media. Wittmann is currently working on a Europe-wide study which shows that most people feel guilty after going on social media. Wittmann's tip is radical: the next time you go for a walk in the forest ("Green is calming"), leave your mobile phone at home. Or at least at home, leave it untouched in another room for a few hours. "Get back into reading a real paper newspaper at the weekend."

5. Enjoy waiting

Are there five people ahead of you at the supermarket checkout? That makes most people impatient. "But what happens when we get angry? We become even more aware of our body, which makes time feel longer. So the wait seems even longer," Wittmann explains. And yet you could change your attitude and joyfully accept the wait. Tell yourself: "Finally, I have five minutes just for me!" "Use this unexpected extra time to observe the people around you or dwell on your own thoughts. This immediately relaxes you."

Study results

60% more free time than 150 years ago

Over the past 150 years, working hours have steadily decreased. We now work half as long as people did in 1870. In the intervening period, leisure time has increased even more - by 61%. Ongoing technological advances and artificial intelligence will reinforce this trend even further in the future.

Almost a third of us are constantly under stress

30% of working-age people (i.e. those aged between 15 and 64) often or almost always suffer from time pressure.

This causes stress

Almost a third of respondents cite obligations towards others as a reason for their leisure stress. Housework comes in second place, mentioned by more than 30%, closely followed by the need to be constantly available. Digital media stress 21% of us. 40% of those who frequently or almost constantly experience time stress aren't satisfied with their lives.

What is good for us

Spending time with family or friends, relaxing, eating, outdoor activities, learning new things, reading and cooking. According to those surveyed, these are the activities that are really meaningful and useful.

More about the study

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