Relaxing Makes You Uncomfortable? It Can Be Relaxation Induced Anxiety + Ways To Stop It
After a particularly rough day at work, you come home, take a warm bath, and get ready to relax. Yet, the moment you feel your body relaxing, you’re hit with an unexpected wave of anxiety. Instead of feeling relaxed, you feel more anxious.
If this scenario sounds familiar then it can be relaxation-induced anxiety you’re dealing with. Were you aware that almost 15% of people with chronic anxiety are more likely to experience relaxation-induced anxiety? While it’s not an official condition, it is still considered one of the ways anxiety can manifest.
Anxiety and the inability to relax come together when your efforts at relaxation cause more distress. I mean, one moment you may be sitting calmly on your couch and the next, you’ll be having a minor anxiety attack about something that happened hours ago.
But what exactly is relaxation-induced anxiety? What causes RIA? And How to stop relaxation-induced anxiety?
Let’s take a look!
What Is Relaxation-Induced Anxiety?
Relaxation-induced anxiety is the inability to relax during activities such as meditation, socializing, or simply doing nothing. This kind of inability to relax can eventually cause heightened sensations that you experience during stressful situations aka increased heart rate, muscle tension, etc.
For people who experience relaxation-induced anxiety, the sensations brought on by relaxing activities such as decreased heart rate, deep or calm breathing, etc can only stimulate the feelings of anxiety.
Of course, this experience can be quite frustrating as the activities meant to bring you relaxation from stress are causing you more stress. It can be a vicious cycle of never-ending stress and anxiety.
You Are Not The Only One!
Did you know that the term, “relaxation-induced anxiety” first popped up in the 1980s? Christina Luberto from the University of Cincinnati has developed an index, known as the Relaxation Sensitivity Index, to determine what triggers such feelings of anxiety.
In the Index, you can find statements such as,
- “I worry that if I relax, other people will think I’m lazy.”
- “I don’t like to relax because it makes me feel out of control.”
- “It scares me when my breathing becomes deeper.”
Relaxation-induced anxiety is identified when you experience symptoms of anxiety. During RIA, you can relax (albeit through atypical means such as cleaning the house, cooking, etc) but not for long. Once you begin to feel relaxed, your symptoms of anxiety will be triggered.
Relaxation-induced anxiety is a fear of relaxation, explains Luberto. The relaxation-induced anxiety symptoms can look a lot like the classic symptoms of anxiety such as:
- Restlessness or feeling tense
- Increased heart rate
- Hyperventilation or shortness of breath
- Sweating or trembling
- Muscle aches
So what about the treatment? What is relaxation-induced anxiety treatment?
How To Stop Relaxation-Induced Anxiety?
According to Luberto, if you’re struggling with relaxation-induced anxiety then you may benefit from treatment such as exposure therapy. Facing your fears in a controlled environment can help you take back control over your fear or inability to relax. The only change here would be that instead of facing spiders or heights, you’ll be facing relaxation activities.
Other tips to stop relaxation-induced anxiety:
1.Try Grounding Exercises
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
You don’t have to do everything all at once. Because sensory overload is a thing that can also increase the symptoms of relaxation-induced anxiety. When you’re struggling with RIA, you’re more likely to associate with the feelings of losing control. To avoid this major trigger, try to relax for 5-10 minutes at a time. You will experience relaxation and as soon as you feel the anxiety kicking in, stop!
3.Try Loving Kindness
I know that meditation may not work well with you but try loving-kindness. When you practice this technique, you allow yourself to foster a sense of forgiveness and compassion. You don’t have to meditate during this practice. All you need to do is focus on a memory you love, repeat a positive mantra, and let the feelings of warmth embrace you. Remember, compassion is key.
Another way to stop relaxation-induced anxiety from ruining your downtime, you can try to incorporate rewards. When you set rewards for yourself such as, “I’ll go buy those concert tickets once I get through this relaxing experience, safely” Rewards can help reinforce healthy habits.
5.Try Seeking Professional Help
When anxiety seems to be running your daily life, stopping you from relaxing fully, it’s best to seek professional help. With effective treatments like talk therapy and exposure therapy, you can learn to counter your symptoms of relaxation-induced anxiety and move on.
Trust me, unplugging and unwinding is one of the major parts of a happy, healthy life. The way stress and anxiety are so common these days, we need our little paradise of relaxation where we are free from our stressors.
In the end, it’s up to you how you choose to counter your relaxation-induced anxiety. Remember, it’s all about mindfulness. Incorporate mindfulness in your life because when you’re aware of your thoughts, feelings, and sensation, you can easily deal with and stop relaxation-induced anxiety.
Try to take it slow and relax on your own terms. Relaxation is an important part of life so don’t let your anxiety ruin it.
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