All about Stresslaxing — when relaxing becomes stressful

Stress relaxation is about stressing yourself out for the sake of relaxing. Worrying about too many tasks while trying to relax can be counterproductive.

Do you find yourself stressing out while trying to force yourself to relax? You’re not alone! With a million things going on in our heads all the time, even if we manage to take a few minutes to relax, our minds are still working at full speed. Relaxing without stress, or worrying about the work you have coming up, or the to-dos waiting for you, while relaxing is actually counterproductive.

Stress relaxation occurs when we get stressed and take time off to relax and not to do the tasks at hand. Many of us don’t consider relaxation as a form of self-care. Instead, we take that time as free time and fill it with mental plans and notes about pending commitments. Maybe it’s time to let go of this stress-induced free time and relax your mind, huh?

What is stress relaxation?

Relaxation stress is a feeling of stress that occurs when one relaxes and does not work or perform tasks that cause stress. “It is like going to the beach to relax after a stressful week but thinking about the office work that still has to be done. Nowadays, many of us feel this discomfort when relaxing,” explains the psychologist. Sheena Sood.

Stress relaxation is based on the anxiety you feel when you try to relax. So activities that are supposed to relax you, like walking on the beach or closing your eyes and lying down, make you nervous. A study by Penn State Researchsuggests that people who suffer from anxiety resist relaxation and continue to worry during this period. Relaxation techniques can often make them feel anxious and even fearful.

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Relaxing can cause insomnia. Image courtesy of Freepik

Why does trying to relax cause stress?

Trying to relax causes stress. Here’s why:

1. Social demands

Relaxation is considered a luxury and society demands that we relax only after we have fulfilled all our commitments, says Sood. So it becomes difficult to relax or try to relax because commitments are eternal. This culture of continuous productivity can make it very difficult for our minds and bodies to relax. A study conducted by the American Psychological Association suggests that effort is glorified these days, regardless of the outcome. This constant need to push yourself can lead to an inability to relax.

2. Exhaustion

Many of us only relax when we are exhausted or when work stress has taken a toll on us physically. “Now, in this condition, trying to relax is not really what we are doing. Instead, we are trying to recover and often feel guilty for not taking care of ourselves earlier. So, we stress about relaxing because of this vicious cycle,” explains Sood. So, trying to relax when you are mentally exhausted can be a bad idea. Trying to relax during meditation can actually increase stress in these conditions, states this study, published in Nature Human behavior.

3. Insomnia

Often, trying to relax can lead to sleepless nights because we wonder if we deserve to relax and if we are being lazy. This doubt greatly affects our sleep and makes it difficult for us to give ourselves a break. A study published by Scientific reports The brain activity of people suffering from insomnia was examined. Increased activity was observed in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for planning. That’s why when you try too hard to sleep, you may feel stressed.

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Why do some people find it difficult to relax?

Relaxation is seen as a luxury that needs to be earned – that’s the current mindset. “People haven’t understood that rest is productive and have only understood that working hard is a form of productivity,” says Sood. As a result, many of us are unable to relax. Relaxation is not seen as a form of self-care, but rather selfishness. “How can a parent relax and not keep working for their child? How can you be a good employee without working endless hours? These questions cause doubt in people and therefore it is difficult for us to relax,” says Sood. There are many reasons for not being able to relax, such as stress, depression and anxiety. Some people even have a negative connotation with relaxation. A study published in Computers in human behavior He talks about the fear of missing out. He says that people with FOMO are reluctant to relax and disconnect from social media.

What are the long-term consequences of stress relaxation?

The long-term consequences of stress relaxation are as follows:

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1. Physical illness

If we are always stressed out about relaxing, our body never gets the rest it needs and stress has a direct impact on our health, causing physical illness or worsening an existing illness.

2. Insomnia

Not being able to relax means you can’t rest and your sleep is affected, which can lead to a state of insomnia, where you are sleep deprived and very low in productivity.

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3. Mental health problems

Lack of relaxation and stress around relaxation is a recipe for mental health issues like anxiety, depression, etc.

Stress relaxation, if not addressed, can lead to other mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Image courtesy of Freepik

How to relax easily?

It is very important to be able to relax in order to rejuvenate yourself. Here are some tips you can follow.

  • Eliminate the guilt around relaxation with the help of a professional and understand that relaxation is productive.
  • Include self-care activities that you find relaxing in your daily routine: short walks, yoga, or even enjoying a cup of coffee are some examples.
  • Try some mindfulness and grounding, where you embrace the present moment and absorb all the little joys in life.


While some people may consider relaxation as a time to de-stress, for many this period of relaxation is stressful. This is what we mean by stress relaxation. It is important to note that people with anxiety are prone to this condition. Other causes include insomnia, social pressures, and stress.

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