Anxiety: How Forcing Yourself to Chill Out Can Lead to 'Stresslaxing'

Stressing about relaxation can worsen anxiety, leading to a counterproductive state known as “stresslaxed.” This term refers to the phenomenon where individuals trying to relax experience increased anxiety due to forcing themselves to unwind. The clinical term for this is relaxation-induced anxiety.

Chronic stress can lead to several health risks, including high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and other physical ailments. To avoid or overcome “stresslaxed,” health experts suggest finding ways to manage stress effectively. People who struggle with generalized anxiety, overthinking, panic attacks, or depression may be more prone to experiencing stresslaxed.

One reason for the difficulty in relaxing is the brain’s resistance to forced relaxation, particularly the amyggdala, which is always on the lookout for potential dangers. People may also find it hard to relax due to external pressures, such as work, family, and other commitments, or internal dynamics, such as feeling the need to stay active or fearing that relaxation might bring up negative thoughts or memories.

To help manage stress and improve relaxation, experts suggest setting boundaries between work and home life, practicing the Benson Relaxation Method, focusing on a “done” list instead of a to-do list, engaging in 5-minute meditation, and using the “5,4,3,2,1 Technique” to ground oneself and reduce anxiety. It’s important to remember that relaxation is an active process that requires practice to fully experience its beneficial effects.

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