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Trying Too Hard to Relax? No Worries!

Three ways to chill out.

Key points

  • Trying too hard to relax can backfire as we find ourselves more stressed about our stress.
  • Outlining specific spaces for worry (planning) and other zones for relaxation can help.
  • Tools like time in the present moment, exercise, and signals like comfortable clothing are tools as well.

"No worries." As someone with an immense affinity for worry, that mantra sounded like a paradise to me for some time. Of course, a life without worry is impossible and acutely problematic. Anxieties represent what matters to us, and stark avoidance is ineffective. In fact, in acceptance commitment therapy, experiential avoidance, staying away from things that provoke anxiety if those matter to us, is outlined as a core trap from which to pivot toward acceptance (Hayes, 2019).

Yet, at times, the purpose of anxiety is not so clear, and in focusing on it we are distracted from what matters. This is where I've found a place for a no-worries-style zone.

Trying too hard to relax can be exhausting. Yet, we get caught up in rumination, we miss out. An alternative that I have found is to ride the anxiety with a 'no worries' style.

A no-worries style does not ban anxiety. On the opposite, it assigns anxiety its own space to roam in the time I have dedicated to planning (what some may call worry).

And it has allowed me to reclaim other zones of my own. If anxiety shows up, as she may, I'm not going to work myself up chasing her away. Yet, in these times, I've dedicated myself to relaxation, my goal is to be present in the moment. In those particular moments, worry doesn't have the utility that it does when I'm planning. Those are my no-worries zones.

Here are some creative ways to outline these no-worries zones.

1. Comfortable Clothes. Research shows that how we hold our bodies can affect how we feel. A notorious study found that striking a 'power pose' can encourage confidence and even impact biological markers (Carney et al., 2010). For me, I've tried to associate relaxation with relaxing clothing. If I choose a style that reflects relaxation to me (like a tie-dye shirt or a particular dress), I am signaling to myself that this is a time I've set aside to relax.

2. Swimming. I choose swimming as it's an exercise people associate with fun (and one I also practice), yet, almost any physical activity can be substituted here. Anxiety represents energy, and exercise gives that energy somewhere to go. Note, we aren't trying to rush the anxiety away here but to tap into the physical aspect and give it space to run.

3. Laying in a Hammock. You might laugh here. I once thought laying in a hammock would somehow be both prohibitively expensive and lead me into a cycle of laziness. What a way to reveal my self-limiting attitudes! Yet, nothing symbolizes relaxation like a hammock. For me, taking time to lay in a hammock is a way to practice fifteen minutes of being present, and mindfulness. If you don't have a hammock, no worries: Sitting on the porch, listening to the birds, watching the squirrels or any visit to nature can do the same trick.


I still treasure that mantra, No Worries. And I will say that while I remain naturally anxious, embracing these skills and setting boundaries with my worries has been a turning point toward making the most of my time. No worries is about not fighting with anxiety, but not giving into it either. It's a practice of each of the points of psychological flexibility outlined in acceptance commitment therapy, especially acceptance, contact with the present moment, values clarification, and committed action. It's something I share both with friends and clients. I have gratitude for it.


Hayes, S. (2019). A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters. New York: Avery.

Körner, R., Röseler, L., Schütz, A., & Bushman, B. J. (2022) Dominance and prestige: Meta-analytic review of experimentally induced body position effects on behavioral, self-report, and physiological dependent variables. Psychological Bulletin, 148, 67–85

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