You’ve had a stressful week. Between that work drama that won’t end, your kid’s teacher who won’t stop sending home warning notes and that thing on your back you really really need to see a dermatologist about, you need a break. So, you decide you’re going to have a self-care night. You’re going to stay in, draw a hot bath (with a CBD bath bomb, perhaps?), queue up Heartstopper on Netflix and crack into that bottle of Cabernet you’ve been saving for a rainy day. Gorgeous, right? It should be. The problem is, the second you sink into the tub, your mind is flooded with thoughts of all the things you should be doing instead as well as general anxiety or dread about your lot in life. This phenomenon is called stresslaxation or, more clinically, relaxation-induced anxiety (RIA).
Stresslaxation is a new term for a fairly common feeling—the sense that, even when you’re doing things that are meant to be relaxing, your brain feels an overwhelming sense of stress, which can manifest as excessive sweating, an elevated heartbeat or a number of other physical symptoms.
Read on for more about what stresslaxation is, what it means in relationship to society’s obsession with self-care and how to deal with it if you’re one of the 30 to 50 percent of the population that has experienced it (according to the American Psychological Association).