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  • Stressing about ways to relax can trigger further anxiety
  • Forcing yourself to relax creates more anxiety than calmness
  • Pressure from the outside leads to difficulty to relax
References
Relaxing
Relaxing is good for you when you can take a break. Mateusz Dach/ Pexels

Stressing about ways to relax can trigger further anxiety

Regarding our free time, some people like to relax by doing nothing, and others relax by doing something they love or getting active. However, not everyone deals with free time and vacations the same. People who have a hard time planning and deciding might stress out about relaxing and their vacations too much and give themselves anxiety instead.

Stressing out about finding ways to relax and spend free time can increase anxiety, leading to the feeling that gets the title "stresslaxing." Even health experts stress the importance of relaxing properly. They also discuss avoiding or even overcoming the "stresslaxed" feeling[1].

Some people who are experiencing anxiety and similar feelings of stress ore often can recognize that they are not feeling well because of the anxiety or excitement. However, other people unfamiliar with such feelings cannot differentiate the feelings from one another.

Recognizing that you are stressed and need to really relax is a good step when you try to help yourself and heal from burnout or general tiredness. But, as experts note, that is not very effective when finding ways to relax, and de-stressing adds more stress to your life. Feeling "stresslaxed" is not helpful. This might even lead to increased anxiety and create a cycle of worries.

"This term refers to the phenomena or experience of people who are in an anxious or stressed state trying to calm down and feel more relaxed by forcing themselves to take a break or unwind," said Dr. Michael Schirripa, psychiatrist and author, podcast host.
Planning a vacation and relaxing triggers stress. Nappy/ Pexels
Planning a vacation and relaxing triggers stress. Nappy/ Pexels

Forcing yourself to relax creates more anxiety than calmness

People who don't know how to relax or take time off for themselves might stress about their free time more than others. However, this forceful relaxing only creates more anxiety and triggers people to worry about how well or how efficiently they are able to relax[2].

Simply put, when you try to relax but feel more anxious, you get stresslaxed. Deborah Serani, a professor and author, explains that if you already have anxiety or tend to overthink, you might be more likely to experience stresslaxing. Some people with stresslaxing may also have panic attacks on top of feeling stressed and anxious. Others might even feel depressed because they struggle to relax.

Our brains are wired to be alert and cautious, always looking for potential dangers. This is why it can be hard for some people to truly relax, as a part of the brain called the amygdala is always looking for threats.

Not everyone reacts to this the same. For those dealing with anxiety and constant worrying, it can be challenging to control their thoughts and put them aside. Some individuals may keep busy because being calm and having free time can bring up negative thoughts or memories of past traumas.

Anxiety comes from worrying and pushing yourself. Alexander Dummer/ Pexels
Anxiety comes from worrying and pushing yourself. Alexander Dummer/ Pexels

Pressure from the outside leads to difficulty to relax

This seems pretty crazy because relaxation is the key to holidays, vacations, or even summer when everything just happens slower and chillier. Often it can be hard for people to relax because of outside pressures and their feelings. This is why so many of us have anxiety in general.

Work, school, family, and other responsibilities can make people feel like they must always be available and busy, making it seem like they have no time to unwind and take a break. In the past, there were clear boundaries between work and free time, making relaxing easier. However, now, with technology and constant access, it's harder to separate work from leisure.

People more often choose to work from home and run their own businesses from their phones and personal computers at home. Content creators and influencers have become pretty common, and often, they just do all their jobs at home and have no particular work hours. This has led to a mix of work and play, making it challenging to find time to relax[3].

Internally, some people struggle to slow down and relax because they fear being bored or having to face their thoughts and emotions. Not being able to relax properly can lead to health issues like high blood pressure, fatigue, headaches, and difficulty concentrating.

When people can't unwind, it can keep their nervous system heightened, making it harder for them to relax in the future. Practicing intentional relaxation techniques is important to reset the body's stress response and promote overall well-being. This is how you can avoid the long-term consequences of this stress-laxing phenomenon.