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Are You Afraid to Relax? Learn Why

By Debbie Mandel

Does the mere thought of free time, a vacation, or meditation and deep breathing fill you with anxiety and dread? Why do many of us fear relaxation, taking time out for the self to do nothing at all? While a number of people experience anxiety upon arousal, like the stress of tackling an endless to-do list, others experience anxiety from the flipside Ėrelaxation. Note that some people fall into both categories and can experience anxiety from either arousal or relaxation.

Fear of relaxation would explain why people who sincerely try relaxation therapies, like meditation, visualization and deep breathing, do not experience any improvement in their anxiety. The reason is that they rank high on the relaxation sensitivity index according to Christina Luberto, University of Cincinnati Psychology Department, whose fascinating research tests and identifies the condition. Lubertoís work serves as an eye-opener to understanding why timeless and tried and true stress reduction therapies do not help a certain segment of the population. Clearly, one size does not fit all.

Therefore if leisure triggers anxiety, this would explain why many of us are driven to keep on accomplishing until complete exhaustion. Also, this missing piece of the puzzle explains why we have a hard time unwinding and delegating tasks. Some people rarely take vacation or if they do, it is a short one accompanied by a blackberry.

Could this be you or someone you know?
  • I managed to find some free time tonight, so I will sew my daughterís costume for the play.
  • I donít enjoy massages. I feel trapped when lying on the table. Why did my friends give me this spa gift card?
  • I contract my abs tightly when I want to look attractive; I would never stand relaxed and let it all hang out.
  • I need to have structure when Iím on vacation to see everything on my tour list.
  • I donít like quiet time because I donít want to be alone with my thoughts. I need to distract myself.
  • My therapist gave me meditation and visualization CDís. However, they donít work.
  • When you fail at a task, do you feel like you personally failed because your tasks define who you are?
Whether your anxiety stems from busyness or leisure, the root cause might be a lack of empowerment. You need to constantly show others and prove to yourself: Look what I can do! As a writer and gardener, I have a cure for both anxiety triggers: Creativity.

Hereís why the creative process helps reduce stress and anxiety. Creativity retrains you to accomplish just for the self instead of others. Creativity spurs a joyous leisure where you lose yourself to find yourself again. You donít distract yourself with creativity, you immerse yourself in it. You feel alive with your senses alert in a good way.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: