All about Stresslaxing — when relaxing becomes stressful

Stresslaxing is stressing out about relaxing. Worrying about many undone tasks while trying to relax can be counterproductive
A woman stressed in bed
Stresslaxing refers to a state where you are burnt out, but are unable to relax as you are stressed. Image courtesy: Freepik
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 4 Jul 2024, 05:22 pm IST
  • 150
Inputs from

Stressing out while trying to force yourself to relax? You are not alone! With a million things running through our heads all the time, even if we manage to grab a few minutes to slow down, our minds are still working at top speed. Stresslaxing, or worrying about the work you have pending, or the undone tasks that await you, while you relax, is actually counterproductive.

Stresslaxing is when we are stressed that we are taking time off to relax and not doing the tasks at hand. A lot of us don’t view relaxation as a means of self-care. Instead, we take that time as spare time and fill it with mental plans on notes about commitments at hand. It might be time to stop this stress-induced free time, and get your mind to relax, right?

What is stresslaxing?

Stresslaxing is a feeling of being stressed because you are relaxing and not working or doing tasks that do make you feel stressed. “It is like going to the beach to relax after a stressful week but thinking of the office work you still have to do. In today’s day and age many of us feel this discomfort about relaxing,” explains psychologist Sheena Sood.

Stresslaxing is all about the anxiety you feel when you are trying to relax. Therefore activities that are supposed to make you relax, like walking on the beach, or closing your eyes and lying down, are getting you all wired up. A study, conducted by Penn State Research, suggests that people who have anxiety resist relaxation and continue to worry during this time. Relaxation techniques can often make them anxious and even fearful.

A shocked woman in bed
Stresslaxing can lead to insomnia. Image courtesy: Freepik

Why does trying to relax cause stress?

Trying to relax does cause stress! Here’s why:

1. Societal demands

Relaxation is seen as a luxury and society demands us to relax only after we are done with all our commitments, says Sood. So, then it becomes hard to relax or try for it, because commitments are never-ending. This culture of continuous productivity can make it very tough for our minds and bodies to relax. A study by the American Psychological Association suggests that efforts are glamourised today, regardless of the output that it brings. This continuous need to put in the effort can lead you to not being able to relax.

2. Burn out

Many of us only relax after we are exhausted or physically the work stress has impacted us. “Now, in this condition, trying to relax is not really what is happening. We are, instead, trying to recover and often guilt-tripping ourselves for not having taken care of ourselves sooner. So, we get stressed about relaxing due to this vicious cycle,” explains Sood. Therefore, trying to relax when you are mentally exhausted can be a bad idea. Trying to relax during meditation can increase stress in these conditions, states this study, published in Nature Human Behaviour.

3. Insomnia

Often trying to relax can cause sleepless nights because we question ourselves- if we deserve to relax and are we being lazy? This self-doubt impacts our sleep to a large extent and makes it tough to give ourselves a break. A study published by Scientific Reports examined brain activity of people suffering from insomnia. There was an increased activity in their prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for planning. Therefore when you are trying too hard to sleep, you can feel stressed.

Why is it hard for some people to relax?

Relaxation is seen as a luxury and you need to earn it, this is the mindset these days. “People have not understood that rest is productive and have only understood that slogging is a form of productivity,” says Sood. Hence, many of us cannot relax. Relaxation is not seen as self-care it is seen as selfish. “How can a parent relax and not keep working for the child? How can you be a good employee without working endless hours? These questions cause self-doubt in people and hence, we find it hard 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 talks about the fear of missing out. It states that people with FOMO resist relaxing and disconnecting from social media.

What are the long-term consequences of stresslaxing?

Long-term consequences of stresslaxing are as follows:

Select Topics of your interest and let us customize your feed.

PERSONALISE NOW

1. Physical illness

If we are always stressed about relaxing our body never gets the needed rest and stress has a direct impact on our health-causing physical illness or making a present illness worse.

2. Insomnia

Not being able to relax means you cannot rest and your sleep is impacted which can lead to the condition of insomnia -where you are sleep deprived and very low on productivity.

3. Mental health issues

No relaxation and stress around relaxation is a recipe for mental health issues like anxiety, depression etc.

A sad and depressed woman on the bed
Stresslaxing, if not resolved, can lead to other mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Image courtesy: Freepik

How to relax easily?

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

  • Remove guilt around relaxation with the help of a professional and understand relaxation is productive.
  • Include self-care activities that feel relaxing in your daily routine-small walks, yoga or even enjoying a cup of coffee are a few examples.
  • Try some mindfulness and grounding -where the present moment is embraced and all little joys of life are absorbed.

Summary

While some people may view relaxation as a time to destress, for many this period of relaxation is stressful. This is what we mean by stresslaxing. It is important to note that people with anxiety are prone to this condition. The other causes include insomnia, societal pressures, as well as stress.

 

 

  • 150
About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

Next Story