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Five Reasons You Can’t Relax

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There’s nothing as maddening as being told ‘just relax!’ when you’re stressed out.

It often achieves the opposite effect than the person saying it intended. If you’re on the receiving end of this seemingly well intentioned advice, your mind will most probably start checking off all the reasons why you cannot relax.

It is not entirely your fault.

There are plenty of stressful things happening in our lives all the time. Research shows that we are an increasingly stressed country, with crisis and catastrophic events currently happening in the world at an all-time high.

On a personal level, there are plenty of plausible reasons why you’re unable to relax even when given a chance. But sometimes it’s difficult to look inward and understand why you feel the way you do.

So we’ve outlined five reasons why you probably just can’t seem to relax and are in a constant state of stress and anxiety.

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Here’s why you can’t relax:

1. You are watching too much news

While it is essential to be in the know about current events, consuming too much news leads to adverse psychological effects.

Nowadays TV news is plagued with all that is wrong in the world and rarely brings good news. These impressions carry on to how you interpret events in your own life.

If you’ve noticed, most newscasters emotionalize the bulletins by giving you the worst case scenario and rarely offer any upside or solutions.

With 24-hour news cycles, we’ve seen a rise in panels that dissect news stories. When their segment is over, you are often left feeling hopeless. These emotions then spill over into your life.

Watching damning content has been proven to cause people to talk about their problems all the time and blow their worries out of proportion.

The solution:

If you can, watch the news once a day or on a needs basis. Equally, make a conscious effort to watch news or features that uplift your mood.

A wholesome TV series, an inspirational book or an online channel with funny content are some of the ways you can counter the negative news you consume. There’s even an entire site dedicated to only publishing positive news stories.

Empathy is an important trait to have, but don’t let it weigh you down. Instead, turn that emotion into actions that contribute positively to your well being.

2. You’re spending too much time on your phone

Your phone is a handy gadget, but it could be the reason you’re stressing out.

Many research studies have shown that people who are attached to their phones suffer from anxiety when they cannot access their phones. You’ve probably felt that feeling before of being detached from your phone.

If the first and last thing you do on any day is checking your phone, then chances are the state of relaxation wont come to you easily.

Another reason why you probably can’t relax is spending too much time on social media.

Most people use social media to highlight their wins in life. Using this as a benchmark for what your life should be is problematic.

You’ll be anxious, questioning yourself as to why you aren’t where someone else is. This comparison will cause you to  worry about your accomplishments and what you haven’t done with your life, which leads to stress.

The solution:

Develop a habit of not checking your phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Power down an hour before bed and leave your phone in a different room.

If you find this difficult, customize who’s calls qualify as urgent and keep the rest on silent. Also, remember that what you see on social media is not an accurate representation of someone’s life.

Try not to compare your journey to others—that only leads to anxiety. No two paths are the same.

3. You are too busy

A lot of us associate being busy with being productive. In a fast-paced society, it’s all about how much you can get done in a day, especially if you have more than one job.

We all work with the goal to get ahead in life. We want to make more money to be able to have all the things we desire in life.

We also operate on a time-is-money mindset, so taking time off implies that we are losing money. We view time off as a waste.

In your mind, clocking long hours seems worth it because you will get more leisure time when you are rich or when you retire. So you store away “relaxation” as something to do in the distant future.

And that might work for some people, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

For some people, when you prioritize other things over relaxation, it’s going to bite back in the form of anxiety or stress.

The solution:

Even with bills to pay, you can find ways to fit in some relaxation time without feeling like you’re wasting time. The quickest way to free up some space is, for a week, take an inventory of how you spend your time.

Don’t leave anything out, including that time your friend made you make an out-of-the-way trip to pick something for them on your way home.

Once you’ve identified where your time goes, learn to prioritize. Anything that does not add value, money or personal benefits, learn to say no to them.

With your new found time, pick up something that’ll help you relax. A good nap, massage, trip to the spa or even a cooking class. Whatever helps you relax and wind down.

4. You equate your work with your self-worth

If this is the case, you fall into the category of nearly half of the people in America who equate their self-worth to their career.

If it’s going well, you are over the moon. If it’s not, you have a hard time coping with life because you’ve let it dictate the person you are.

When you feel that your career is not going how you want it to, or if you’re not where you want to be in life, you’ll tend to be anxious.

Time not spent working or thinking about work begins to feel like a waste of time. When things stop working out, you will more than likely quit your job and look for something that aligns better with your values and who you are.

The solution:

There are two ways to approach this. Firstly, take the time to find out how you can improve how you work.

Whether it’s becoming proactive, applying for an additional course, setting goals or understanding how your role fits into the bigger picture, do all you can to gain job satisfaction.

Secondly, realize that your career does not define who you are.

Focus and grow other aspects of your life. Build stronger relationships, pick up a hobby, and study a random course you’ve always wanted to take—create a life outside your workplace. When you know that your job doesn’t define you, you’ll be able to relax a bit more.

5. You just don’t know how to relax

Not knowing how to relax probably sounds odd if relaxation comes naturally to you. But for some people, the idea of relaxing isn’t as effortless.

Creating time to relax and not enjoying it can be frustrating. Have you ever had a day off or gone on holiday but you’re still not relaxed?

If you are always anxious even when things are going fine, then this might be a sign of a deeper problem.

The solution:

Take some time to analyze your thoughts and behaviors. You can either do so by journaling, talking to a friend or seeing a counselor or therapist.

Find out what issues are affecting your ability to relax and work through them. Learn deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness and other proven methods to ease your anxiety or stress.

Relaxing doesn’t have to mean sipping a cold drink by the beach. It just means being able to tune out stress and anxiety.

It means not being tense all the time about how things were, are, or will be. Relaxing helps you refresh and come more equipped to deal with each day as it comes.

Life won’t always be a bed of roses, so make finding pockets of time to unwind and relax a priority. Not just for your health, but your sanity as well.

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Additional Resources

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About the author

I'm an avid reader and love anything to do with mindfulness and mental health!

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