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Do you find it helpful when people tell you to relax?


Jenny in Florida
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Genuine question, I promise. I'm trying to decide whether I'm just irredeemable or whether this advice is more generally considered not especially helpful.

As I've been dealing with some health stuff (on top of life stuff), I've had a number of people suggest to me in various ways that I should "take care of myself" or "try to relax" or take various more specific actions to achieve relaxation. My immediate reaction whenever I hear those suggestions is a fierce urge to either scream at the person or strangle him/her. And, given that I consider myself a pacifist, I find that reaction upsetting, to say the least.

Once I fight down that urge, the next thing that springs to mind is the list of reasons why I have either no interest in or no time to or no access to any of the suggested, supposedly relaxing activities. And that just makes me feel angrier and more stressed.

Please understand: I know that this advice is offered from the best of all possible motivations, that people really want to say something helpful. I'm not attacking or blaming or trying to be negative or ungrateful.

But I am wondering if it's just me that reacts this way? Am I, as usual, the weird one?

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If people tell me to relax I do not like it unless it is dh telling me, because usually he is finding ways to help me relax if he realizes I need to.  But if people are reminding me to take care of myself that doesn't bother me at all.  I don't see those two things as similar at all. And from my experience people make up way too many excuses as to why they can't take care of themselves,so a reminder or suggestions on how to will always be welcome from me.

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Not particularly. However, I have found it helpful (sometimes) when a friend or dh reminds me of why I shouldn't worry so much (because I "pre"-worry and think out every possible outcome of a situation beforehand). As in, I don't know yet that it is the worst-case scenario, and if it is, we will deal with it then, etc.

Edited by Jaybee
to take out a space
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No, you are not the only one. Lots of people try to give me well meaning advice or what they consider to be comforting words to some very complicated situations I have going on in my life right now and I really just want to scream and throw things when they do it too. It is not particularly helpful to me and it just feels like a platitude they are throwing out there because they don't know what else to say but feel like they should say something. In a way, it makes me feel even more alone in my struggles even though I know that was not their intention.

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Luckily friends know relax is not in my vocabulary. I am a workaholic and an energizer bunny. My form of relaxation is food and coffee. Seriously though, close friends would just ask me out for coffee and cake if they think I am too stressed and need to relax. 

Even the medical team that treats me doesn’t tell me to relax. However people telling me to take care of myself is more often just reminding me to remember to take care of myself while homeschooling my teens, a gentle reminder to put on my own oxygen mask first.

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Only if it's my husband shooing me away from a chore and telling me I should get some rest/relax while he handles whatever.  That's helpful.  He's not only encouraging me to relax, he's taking something off my plate to create the space for me to relax.  

Rando people who aren't making the space for me to relax in any practical way?  No.  

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No, I hate it when people tell me to relax.  I find it mostly a meaningless platitude. 

It's even worse when my husband shoos me away from a chore and tells me to sit and read, because he has a million chores that only he can do, so it annoys the hell out of me when he decides to do something I'm capable of doing.  I want to say "I would be able to relax a lot better if you'd let me do my things and you go do  your own things." But I know he is trying to help.

Edited by marbel
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depends who - and how they say it.  some people are calming, and other's just make the cortisol go higher.

I did see a good comment.

dont' take criticism from someone from whom you wouldn't seek advice.

 

(incl. 'calming down".)

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Yeah I don’t really like it, either. I also can appreciate that the person means to be helpful and doesn’t know what else to say, but still. 

When I was waiting on my biopsy results, I didn’t like when people said, “It’s probably nothing.” Again, I appreciate that this was their way of saying, basically, “I wish you well,” but it wasn’t my favorite thing to hear. If intuition is worth anything - and I think it is - I did not ever in my early journey think it was “nothing.” I knew it was “something.” So, while it didn’t make me mad at the person, per se, I didn’t really like it when people offered this intended reassurance. 

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Not helpful in the least UNLESS the person is prepared to roll up his/her sleeves and do something practical to make relaxation possible. In fact, that kind of advice just ramps up my stress level because so often it is just a throwaway comment that only serves to make the speaker feel better. If I'm not taking time to relax, it's because there is far too much on my plate. (Gee...thanks for that ever-so-insightful suggestion.) Telling me to relax does nothing to free up that schedule/mental space to make relaxation possible.

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36 minutes ago, Quill said:

Yeah I don’t really like it, either. I also can appreciate that the person means to be helpful and doesn’t know what else to say, but still. 

When I was waiting on my biopsy results, I didn’t like when people said, “It’s probably nothing.” Again, I appreciate that this was their way of saying, basically, “I wish you well,” but it wasn’t my favorite thing to hear. If intuition is worth anything - and I think it is - I did not ever in my early journey think it was “nothing.” I knew it was “something.” So, while it didn’t make me mad at the person, per se, I didn’t really like it when people offered this intended reassurance. 

I remember losing it on a family member while waiting for biopsy results. No one would let me talk about my nagging concerns even though I was trying to stay positive. One day I'd had my fill of the "Don't worry. I know it's going to be fine" comments, and  I snapped, "No! You don't know that. The doctors wouldn't be biopsying it if it was known there was nothing to worry about." I tend think these kinds of comments are less about the person dealing with the issue and more about the person speaking wanting to reassure himself/herself or at least feel that they've done something "helpful."

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I don't like it.  When people say that to me, it's usually people who really have no idea what they're talking about.  Like when I was going through infertility and people said to just relax.  They meant that if I weren't so worried about it, I'd get pregnant.  Right.  

Similar emotions get stirred up when people say, "You look so tired!" when I'm actually feeling great.

The only exception would be my dh.  He knows me so well, that if he were to tell me to just relax, I'd know that it really is because I'm over-reacting about something and need to take a step back.

 

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Hahahahahaha. No. Not helpful, and you're not weird.

When I couldn't conceive, people genuinely thought they were being helpful when they told me to "just relax." Because as we all know, relaxation cures endometriosis. 🙂 And, again, when my milk supply was insufficient, all I *really* needed to do was just RELAX and drink more water. 

People mean well but a lot of the time they just don't THINK. If it's in your ability to do so, you can try to show them more grace than they are showing you. 😉 

Hugs. ❤️

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Ok, so I'm terrible at relaxing, but it does help to take a vacation. Maybe if you go on vacation, you'll find what relaxes you and then be able to come home and do it more? 

We took a little vacation to the lake this summer and I was so bored (it was a really boring place) that I ended up doing dot to dots. I had eyed them for ages but didn't realize they had snazzy books for adults. 

Edited by PeterPan
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5 hours ago, PeterPan said:

Ok, so I'm terrible at relaxing, but it does help to take a vacation. Maybe if you go on vacation, you'll find what relaxes you and then be able to come home and do it more? 

We took a little vacation to the lake this summer and I was so bored (it was a really boring place) that I ended up doing dot to dots. I had eyed them for ages but didn't realize they had snazzy books for adults. 

Dot to dots, paint by numbers - we’re revisiting all the childhood crafts around here. 

I bet there’s a grown-up version of Play Dough...

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2 hours ago, Quill said:

grown-up version of Play Dough...

Either Sculpey our Thinking Putty, depending on your mood.

I find the generic "Just relax" comments laughable in a bitter, almost hysterical, slightly mocking way. It is never followed with anything particularly actionable. It is more useful when it is me telling myself to relax because then the two of me can have a convetsation about what might actually help.

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No,  not really. That's a one way friendship. I think it's just a way for people to not have to empathize or actually try to help in a situation where they could practically help. It's kind of selfish, "If you relax, I don't have to do anything to help you." Sometimes we just can't relax, because if we do, the results could make things worse/harder/more complicated than they are now. That's not to say I'm a "doom & gloom" person, I just know that some seasons of life are busier than others, some are harder than others and people have varying tolerances for what they are able to handle at any given time. Friends should provide a listening ear to us when we talk, as we do for them. The dearest friends are the ones that will show up with pizza, a movie for the kids along with some bath salts, a good book and good tea, and send me upstairs to refresh myself while taking care of the kids. Those friends are few and far between, if you have one, cherish her.

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This is a really good question.  For me personally, it is a positive.  In my mind I'm thinking, "well if other people don't think this is worth panicking or jumping off a bridge, maybe it isn't that bad."  That said, I am not sure other people feel the same.

Sometimes I will tell a person "you need to calm down."  Because it is obvious that rational thought is not happening until they calm down.  They may not like it, but it may be what they need to hear.

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It seriously pisses me off when I’m told to relax. No exceptions. Not exactly logical, but there is is. I understand intellectually that people are just trying to be nice and helpful, but I have an extreme negative response (which I do not share). 🙂

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1 hour ago, TechWife said:

No,  not really. That's a one way friendship. I think it's just a way for people to not have to empathize or actually try to help in a situation where they could practically help. It's kind of selfish, "If you relax, I don't have to do anything to help you." Sometimes we just can't relax, because if we do, the results could make things worse/harder/more complicated than they are now. That's not to say I'm a "doom & gloom" person, I just know that some seasons of life are busier than others, some are harder than others and people have varying tolerances for what they are able to handle at any given time. Friends should provide a listening ear to us when we talk, as we do for them. The dearest friends are the ones that will show up with pizza, a movie for the kids along with some bath salts, a good book and good tea, and send me upstairs to refresh myself while taking care of the kids. Those friends are few and far between, if you have one, cherish her.

Yeeeeessss.

That was how I discovered who was the fair-weather of my friends. The genuine friends were not trying to hurry me through my rough spot. The fair-weather wanted me to be instantly better, move on, move forward, do something to cheer myself, just BE BETTER, dangit. Ugh. That was so sucky. 

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It's so infuriating the proper way to describe it might be rage.  And I'm usually a very calm and even-tempered person.

Unless DH is telling me it's okay to go sit with my laptop or take a bath because he will handle whatever fiasco the kids have gotten themselves into while I can relax, it's completely inappropriate for another adult to tell an adult to relax.

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Someone's intention might be good, but it's condescending and demeaning. Unless someone is saying something like "If I take X off your plate right now, maybe it would give you a little more space ..." or handing you a gift card to a spa.  Really obnoxious thing for one adult to say to another going through a difficult time.

And I hope Peter Pan just doesn't know/remember your back story.  

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2 minutes ago, Carol in Cal. said:

Why yes, either yeast bread dough or Fimo.

Mmm...I have starter getting happy right now for both pizza dough tonight and two loaves of sourdough bread...

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Only when DH says it and generally because he's backing it up with a lot more words of comfort. And really, he's the one I save all my freaking out for. I don't think anyone else in recent history has told me to relax. Maybe my kids, and it's not helpful when they say it.

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I'm thinking back to when I was going through really, really bad stuff, like making the decision to remove my mom from life support, or while we were in the process of getting/getting used to DH's stage IV cancer diagnosis. There were a lot of comments people made during those times that certainly weren't helpful. But I tried my best to view them in the best light possible. I think most people really do mean well, and w/o a doubt I've said some totally tactless or clueless things in my life, and no doubt I will in the future, and I hope whenever it happens the person will extend some grace to me. So someone advising me to relax even when really bad carp is going on -- no, that's not something that I find helpful, but neither do I find it aggravating, and certainly not infuriating.

I suspect Peter Pan doesn't know Jenny's backstory. This is a busy forum, it's hard to keep up with everyone all the time. 

Edited by Pawz4me
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19 hours ago, LucyStoner said:

Only if it's my husband shooing me away from a chore and telling me I should get some rest/relax while he handles whatever.  That's helpful.  He's not only encouraging me to relax, he's taking something off my plate to create the space for me to relax.  

Rando people who aren't making the space for me to relax in any practical way?  No.  

Yes. This.  My  husband is the best at this.  He is so wonderful.  But in general 'just relax' is not a helpful thing to say to people.

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Telling someone to relax is so offensive that there are memes about it. It really bothers me too. Your reaction is normal. I do not think anyone who actually cares or is empathizing with your situation would tell you to relax.  Unless of course it is the masseuse who is walking you to the table or the bar tender giving you your drink. But in all seriousness, the statement "you just need to relax" is quite offensive.

Edited by Janeway
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10 hours ago, FuzzyCatz said:

Someone's intention might be good, but it's condescending and demeaning. Unless someone is saying something like "If I take X off your plate right now, maybe it would give you a little more space ..." or handing you a gift card to a spa.  Really obnoxious thing for one adult to say to another going through a difficult time.

And I hope Peter Pan just doesn't know/remember your back story.  

 

By the way, I totally wasn't offended or upset by Peter Pan's comment. I thought it was rather funny.

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