Many modern therapies or self help treatments for various psychological issues involve some form of relaxation. It could be meditation, visualisation, mindfulness, tai chi or yoga. These things are helpful for many people but not for everyone. Some people are actually afraid of relaxing and experience an increase in discomfort or anxiety.
People who are afraid of relaxing may -
find massage makes them uneasy
dislike the sensation of their muscles relaxing
feel very uncomfortable when doing slow deep breathing
simply be uncomfortable when experiencing any variation from their normal level of arousal (whether it be relaxation or an increase in stimulation)
worry excessively that things won't get done if they take time out to relax
get anxious when experiencing deep self awareness
fear being alone with their inner thoughts
be unable to relax because they fear losing control
People who are afraid to relax may get anxious at the thought of having a holiday because they are away from the regular structure of work. It is claimed some get as anxious about unstructured time as others get about being required to stand up and give a speech to a large number of people.
There are those who fear being labelled lazy if they aren't busy all the time. Some don't want to deal with problematic emotions and working continuously is a way to avoid facing them.
Some people find once they get into a relaxed state they fall asleep immediately. Others manage to relax but once they are in a relaxed state will suddenly panic. In either of these situations the therapist is unable to do the mental exercises planned as treatment.
Sometimes therapists need to find alternative treatment not based on relaxation. Try another approach if you are attempting self help and methods involving relaxation don't work for you. Walking or participating in creative pursuits such as art therapy help some. Writing down negative thoughts or participating in a therapy based on laughter is helpful for others.
Everyone is different and there isn't a 'one size fits all' solution to stress, phobias and other conditions where relaxation helps some. If one form of therapy or treatment is unsuccessful look around for something else.
Hi Janet, thanks for your input. I am better at relaxing now than I was a few years back. Even so, I sometimes feel guilty. At times I find myself thinking about things that need to be done instead of fully relaxing. However, I do enjoy a massage and am comfortable with deep breathing and the feeling of my muscles relaxing.
I enjoyed this article. I find it difficult to find the time to relax. Even when I am
reading a book or whatever, my mind is busy! I then feel guilty for taking time out. This article really made me think. Thank-you.
I really like it that this article is 'outside the square' in the sense that normally people think because relaxation is generally advocated, it must be good for all. This article brings home the reality that one approach is indeed not for all, and the fact that you wrote it will help many feel more 'at home' with their own self-help techniques.
Thanks for your comments Jussie. The more I read, talk to others and just think, the more I realise we are all so different and what works for one person may not work for the next person. What works for an individual at some point in their life may cease to work later. I try to avoid blanket statements like 'everyone will benefit from....' because it's not true. It can be hard to come to grips with the fact something I might find helpful could be the opposite for another person.