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Better recovery with mental training

Expert tips


Many people feel stressed at work. We can increase our well-being by learning how our body reacts to different situations. Positive mental fitness helps us find the balance between stress and recovery.

In a large health and work environment survey based on more than 10,000 employees across the country, Previa has taken an in-depth look into stress in Sweden's workplaces. The survey shows that around one third of employees experience high or dangerous levels of stress.

Åsa Miemois is a health developer at Previa and her work involves promoting health in the workplace. A part of her work is about helping employees find strategies to manage their stress and find time to recover.

– If you feel excessive stress, you should put the handbrake on. Even if your employer has provided the conditions for a sustainable working environment, stress can make it difficult to recover. So we have to stop and find strategies to manage our own stress”, says Åsa Miemois.

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Good mental fitness creates an understanding of which everyday activities generate stress and which ones help recovery.

What is mental fitness?

Mental fitness is about the balance between stress and recovery and understanding how everyday life affects us. The impact of stress is important; when we are stressed we have large amounts of adrenaline in our body and we become productive and active. But to feel well, we also need recovery. If we lose this flexibility between stress and recovery, our lives become more difficult to manage in terms of energy.

– Do you have a daily routine with a natural balance or are you always stressed and need to plan for recovery? Good mental fitness creates an understanding of which everyday activities generate stress and which ones help recovery, and we learn to be flexible between them.

Strategies for dealing with stress

Breathing exercises are regularly used in training to switch on the recovery system. Taking control of your breathing, taking deep breaths and letting your brain rest for a few minutes is an effective way of removing stress hormones. The mental element deals with how we can learn to take control of our thoughts, because when we have anxious thoughts we are in a constant state of stress.

– Mental training can help us learn to calm our thoughts. This might be trying to think positively, but perhaps more often it is trying to find acceptance or a neutral feeling about what is worrying or upsetting. This can reduce stress peaks and make recovery easier.  

A good place to start is to look at what times of the day you might be able to use for recovery. For example, you might take five minutes between meetings and at break time, because it is best to take time for recovery several times over the course of the day.

– When we are stressed, we are constantly accumulating stress hormones. If we've been stressed all day, it takes us a while to unwind and for our body to remove the stress hormones. This can make it hard to drift off and it can disturb our sleep because our bodies are running at full speed.” 

Three types of recovery

We can strive to achieve three types of recovery to feel well: sleep, active recovery and passive recovery. Active recovery is creative but undemanding. It replenishes our energy and brings us joy. Passive recovery and sleep allow us to rest.

– If you are overtired, stressed and have low energy, it is easy to become passive, but just resting often does not make us more alert. When we rest physically, we don't usually rest mentally. Thoughts whirl around and anxiety can easily accelerate. In order to recover, our brains also need to rest. This often requires active recovery where the brain is given a different stimulus, focus and a distraction from busy thoughts.

Active recovery means different things to different people. Some people are energised when they are socially active, for others it's exercise, and for a third group it may be making things and being creative. What they all have in common is that active recovery should help us to shift focus away from what is difficult, stressful or worrying.

Strategies for mental fitness


  1. Breathing A large part of mental fitness and recovery is linked to our breathing. Practise taking control of your breathing.
  2. Relaxation and unwinding When we are stressed, we may experience aches and pains. Try to feel the difference in parts of your body when they are tense and relaxed.
  3. Mental training Work with your own thoughts, where they belong and when. Work on acceptance and neutral or positive thoughts.