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Have you ever tried to relax, only to find yourself overwhelmed with feeling stressed and having negative thoughts? Turns out a lot of us experience this—which is why some have coined it “stresslaxing.”
Even though stresslaxation is a new term, it describes relaxation-induced anxiety, which has been studied for years. This is shown to happen to between 30% and 50% of people when they try to do relaxing things, causing symptoms of stress (such as rapid heartbeat or sweating).
Pretending that a problem doesn’t exist—also known as denial—is one of the least effective coping strategies for stress. In the case of stresslaxing, this might be denying you’re stressed to begin with.
Short periods of denial can actually help us adapt to change. For example, denial can help a person cope with their emotions after experiencing the death of someone close. But when denial is used frequently to deal with daily stressors, it can leave people feeling perpetually stuck in a rut.
Acknowledge that the stress symptoms can be helpful. Your body is trying to alert you that a problem needs fixing, so it’s activating all its physiological resources to help you do this.
Write down your deepest thoughts and feelings associated with your stress. This will help you understand the source of your stress so you can tackle it.
Think outside the box. When we’re stressed, we might think only certain activities (such as meditation or exercise) can help us relax.
Most of us have something we’re passionate about—whether that’s our work or even a hobby. But the reason you’re motivated to do these things is important.
Some people pursue their passion because they want to—whether it’s to improve themselves or learn a new skill. But others may only pursue their passion because they want recognition from other people.
People with certain personality types may be more prone to obsessing over their passion.
Others may simply follow a certain pursuit to get praise from their colleagues or even to prove their worth to friends or family.
When making a decision, some people can’t help but explore all possible options available to them—known as maximizing thoughts. This can even happen when trying to pick something relaxing to do.
Even after picking something, you may instead think about the other options, wondering if something else would’ve helped you feel more relaxed. So instead of relaxing your mind, you’re stressing yourself even more.
Unfortunately, maximizing leads to self-blame regret, no matter what option we choose. It’s also sometimes associated with lower well-being.
Limit the number of decisions you need to make on the day you want to do something relaxing. Or even plan when you’re going to do something relaxing (such as watching a movie or meditating) and how long you’re going to do it for. This may make it easier to relax when the time comes as you’ll know you aren’t putting other things off.
Remember why you’re trying to relax. Your health is important, so remembering this may help you feel less stressed while trying to do a relaxing activity.
Good communicator and coffee specialist. I also have a passion for music.
Stressed by relaxing!
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