Why Is It So Hard To Chill Out?

By Debra LeClair Psy.D.

work stress

Most of us know a bunch of good ways to relieve stress and do something positive for our bodies. But just knowing it, doesn’t mean we are going to make room in our days for those healthy activities.  Why is that?  It  is a human tendency to be highly swayed by the current state we are in.  If our world is traveling around us at the speed of sound, and we’re swept up in that wave, then so is our nervous system.  For our brains, it’s very difficult to imagine a different experience.  We lose our ability to conceive what calm feels like because in our brain’s estimation, its like swimming against a rip tide current.  Within a split second the brain decides that the effort is too much to shift gears and that it makes more sense to stay with the frenetic pace.

The same holds true for exercise, (another stress reliever).  First, the alarm clock grabs you out of a dream and then beckons you out onto what you imagine as the icy tundra of floor that leads to some other arctic journey of morning exercise.  Again, the experience may be perceived as so difficult that the mind cannot motivate itself to give it a try.

One way to minimize your present reality being so juxtaposed with your desired state is to put a tiny time limit around your intended goal.  For example, if you are looking to reduce stress, setting the objective to just closing your eyes to focus on your breath for 30 seconds can feel doable.  Here’s the thing, that small change in behavior might be enough for the time being or, now that you got yourself to breathe, you might find that you can go longer with greater ease.   Either way, the idea is that you now have a bridge to get things shifting.