For Some, Relaxation Triggers Anxiety

For many people, relaxation is a welcome respite from the stress and demands of daily life. But for some, relaxation can trigger feelings of anxiety. This phenomenon, known as paradoxical relaxation, can be caused by a range of factors, from physical to psychological. Understanding what causes this response and how to manage it can help people suffering from paradoxical relaxation to enjoy the relaxation they need.

What is Paradoxical Relaxation?

Paradoxical relaxation is a phenomenon in which relaxation activities, such as yoga, meditation, or massage, trigger feelings of anxiety instead of relaxation. It is a surprisingly common experience, and can be caused by a range of physical and psychological factors.

Physical Causes of Paradoxical Relaxation

Paradoxical relaxation can have physical causes, such as an overstimulated nervous system or an imbalance in hormones. People who are overstimulated may find that relaxation activities can increase their level of arousal, leading to feelings of anxiety. An imbalance in hormones, such as cortisol, can also cause feelings of anxiety when trying to relax.

Psychological Causes of Paradoxical Relaxation

Paradoxical relaxation can also have psychological causes. People who are prone to anxiety may find that relaxation activities trigger feelings of anxiety, as they are afraid of letting go of control. People who have experienced trauma may also find relaxation activities triggering, as they may be reminded of their traumatic experiences.

Managing Paradoxical Relaxation

The first step in managing paradoxical relaxation is to identify the underlying cause. If the cause is physical, such as an overstimulated nervous system, then relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and massage can help to reduce arousal levels. If the cause is psychological, then cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help to identify and address the underlying thoughts and beliefs that are causing the anxiety.

Alternative Relaxation Techniques

If relaxation activities are triggering feelings of anxiety, then it is important to find alternative relaxation techniques that are more suitable. For example, activities such as walking, listening to music, or journaling can be calming and can help to reduce feelings of anxiety.

Conclusion

For some people, relaxation activities can trigger feelings of anxiety instead of relaxation. This phenomenon, known as paradoxical relaxation, can be caused by a range of physical and psychological factors. Understanding the underlying cause of paradoxical relaxation and finding suitable relaxation activities can help people to manage their anxiety and enjoy the relaxation they need.

FAQs

What is relaxation anxiety?

Relaxation anxiety is a type of anxiety that is triggered when one attempts to relax, either through activities such as yoga, meditation, or other calming activities. It is a form of anticipatory anxiety, where the person becomes anxious in anticipation of the activity itself.

What are some symptoms of relaxation anxiety?

Symptoms of relaxation anxiety can include feelings of unease, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, and physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, and muscle tension.

How can someone manage relaxation anxiety?

Managing relaxation anxiety can involve a combination of self-care activities such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and progressive muscle relaxation. It can also be helpful to speak to a mental health professional for additional support.


References

Barlow, D. H., Allen, L. B., & Choate, M. L. (2004). Toward a unified treatment for emotional disorders. Behavior Therapy, 35(2), 205-230.
Borkovec, T. D., & Costello, E. (1993). Efficacy of applied relaxation and cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 61(6), 611-619.
Craske, M. G., & Barlow, D. H. (2006). Mastery of your anxiety and panic: Workbook (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.