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When Resting Stresses You Out

Por: Dr. Roch, El 5 marzo, 2024

For the first time in 10 years, I find myself on sick leave with the possibility of resting and taking a 7-day break to recover from surgery. However, in my head, there are not thoughts of peace, but of anxiety, accompanied by a reflection: What am I doing here, lying down, when I could be finishing all the essential tasks I have to complete this week? Has this happened to you?

Well, this is called “stresslaxing,” where rest generates stress. Also known as “recovery stress” or “leisure stress,” it manifests in people in the form of anxiety or internal dissatisfaction when relaxing or taking time off. This is a personal effect that we provoke due to the belief we have that demands us to always be active or productive. Taking a break seems like a waste of time or a decrease in productivity.

This could be the reason why Mexicans do not take vacations voluntarily. According to a report by Expedia, 77% of working adults in Mexico declare that they need vacations, however, only 28% declare that they will take them in 2023. Could it be that Mexican employees experience “stresslaxing”?

What are the characteristics of this phenomenon?

  1. The person experiences anxiety or discomfort when feeling like they are wasting time relaxing or taking time for themselves since they are not working on what causes them stress and have a lot of pending tasks to complete.
  2. They feel that leisure activities are harmful to themselves since they should be using the time for productive activities. For example, instead of reading novels, they should be reading scientific books related to their profession.
  3. They avoid social gatherings if there is no productive purpose involved. They are more interested in networking relationships than in empty social gatherings that leave no long-term benefit.
  4. They feel a sense of guilt or failure for not doing something that contributes to their personal development, such as learning or enhancing their knowledge. They feel like they are not doing anything valuable.
  5. They fear doing something that reduces their level of revolution, dynamics, or potential. They are afraid that by relaxing, they will lose the rhythm of the results obtained. They prefer activities like going for a run rather than just resting at home watching a movie.
  6. They engage in low-impact activities, such as mindfulness, yoga, or meditation, out of fear of stopping. Many times they are living on autopilot and struggle to get out of their comfort zone, even if they are not necessarily in a good state.
  7. They tend to ruminate on the activities they have pending and cannot enjoy the present moment. They are always thinking about the future, avoiding being present in the now. So when they rest, they are actually mentally at work.

Why do we feel this way? In this reality, it is not only the person who is constantly under work demand and a fast-paced productivity rhythm. It is also society and life as we know it, demanding us to be on autopilot to meet the expectations of success placed upon us.

Here are some tips to solve it:

Know yourself and recognize when anxiety is trapping you, to make it conscious by verbalizing it, either out loud or in your internal dialogue, and this will allow you to control it.

Do activities at your own pace, without exceeding the speed or demand. Stay productive to avoid having to redo any processes. Do not invest more time than necessary in your activities and focus to avoid loss of productivity.

Make a list of things you can enjoy and their purpose. This will allow you to have focused alternatives that justify these leisure or fun spaces for you and do not cause you remorse.

Disconnect from day-to-day life and make way for free time and rest, which are absolutely necessary to recover and return to work with more energy.

Disconnect from reality with activities that you like and that make you feel fulfilled, which are not related to work, but demand a lot of energy. If you are channeling your energy properly, you will not feel guilty.

Practice conscious breathing. Just breathe calmly and give yourself the opportunity to focus. It is normal for thoughts to assault you, but do not fight them. Just observe them and see where they take you, then let them go.

Thank you for reading, Dr. Roch.

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