Things Are Good, Yet I Can’t Seem to Relax. What’s Wrong?

Why can't I relax? First, I want to be clear that I have a good life. I have a pretty wife, a good job that pays the bills, a house, etc. Everything is good. But for a while I've been having a hard time relaxing. I noticed that this got bad when I went on vacation with my wife about two months ago. I saved money from work and we went to Mexico to an all-inclusive resort. But most of the vacation I felt tense and uptight for no apparent reason! Also, a lot of people around me tell me to chill out and enjoy my life. They just don't get it. No matter how hard I try, I can't relax. I think I have been this way for a long time. Nothing is new; I just have a lot of stress. We don't have kids. I'm writing because my wife is getting worried about me now and thinks I need help. Sometimes when I'm stressed, I don't want to do things together. Why can't I relax even when things are good? —Restless
Dear Restless,

Experiencing such discomfort when there is seemingly no reason for the discomfort can be confusing, and even a little scary. You may be comforted to know that it is also quite common. We all have vague feelings of unrest at times, and they often pass just as quickly and mysteriously as they arrived. However, it sounds like this is something that you have been struggling with for a while now, and perhaps it is even intensifying. When these feelings persist, I believe it is a cue that it is time to enlist some support in sorting things out. Partnering with a therapist can provide the supportive relationship and the dedicated time and space to explore this.

Over the years, I’ve had many people come in for therapy with much the same scenario you presented—committed relationship, good job, and stable finances, but unhappy, perpetually anxious, or, as you say, unable to relax. It typically doesn’t take too much probing before we are able to identify one or more areas in someone’s life where there is dissatisfaction. Thoroughly exploring these areas creates an opportunity to develop insight into the source of the unrest. Once there is a deeper understanding of what is actually happening, concrete steps can be taken to address it. Sometimes the solution is less concrete, however. For some, the dilemma is more existential in nature—they are seeking answers to questions about the meaning and purpose of life. In these cases, therapy provides an opportunity to explore these questions while providing the support that may be needed when no definitive answers materialize.

Though I can’t be sure what exactly is causing your unrest, I sense that you have reached a level of frustration that is pushing you to address it. You took the brave step of writing in with your question. I encourage you to continue taking brave steps and find a therapist who can help you sort through what you are experiencing. It might be scary and even painful, but in the end, you just might find yourself able to relax.


Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
  • Leave a Comment
  • Richa

    May 10th, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    When you are not able to relax, it means you are emotionally frustrated… Also, you might not be ready for some crucial work!!

    Thanks for the post… These things tell us what we are lacking when everything is just fine..

    Thanks for sharing the post :)

  • racine

    May 10th, 2013 at 6:12 PM

    Sounds like there is something that is eating away at you on the inside that you must not be ready to face yet. That’s okay but I don’t think that you should hide this from your wife any longer. What if she comes to believe that she is the one causing you this stress and it starts to build a real wedge between the two of you? My advice is that if this marriage is important and feels like it is worth saving then I say that the time is now that you better be getting to a marriage counselor and maybe to someone for some individual therapy as well.

  • beth

    May 10th, 2013 at 11:31 PM

    had this happen to me before.try changing things around.pick up a hobby,do what makes you hobby,maybe change your job and home.try moving things around and see what helps you.all the best!

  • Hannah

    May 11th, 2013 at 7:37 AM

    It looks like you have done the hardest part already, which is acknowledge that there is something going on that you don’t understand. It’s fine that you don’t understand, that happens. but you do need to get to someone who can somehow help you make sense of it all. This is not something that you can ignore, because it is obvious that there are things going on that need to be resolved and I don’t think that you would have posted your question here had you not been somewhat ready to start working on it. I encourage you to seek professional help, because what feels stressful today could begin to feel overwhelming tomorrow and then you might start thinking about things that won’t be good or healthy for anyone.

  • Sally

    May 11th, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    Great remarks! It is natural to experience unrest when their is nothing to be anxious about at the time. As individuals, we tend to awfulize or self sabotage when things are going well. Remember to be easy on yourself, stay in the present and believe that you deserve good things and unrest to come your way!

  • elena

    May 13th, 2013 at 4:06 AM

    has your partner not witnessed that something is up?
    have you thought about what this is doing to the other person in your life? i really think that for your safety and health, you need to seek out some help for you and family

  • Audrey G

    May 14th, 2013 at 12:28 AM

    Practice meditation.When I felt like my life was not heading anywhere, meditation and yoga are what helped me!

  • yvette

    May 25th, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    This seems like a problem I’m experiencing but i have reason to doubt the up time in my life ive been through so much in the past for years things seem to look up but i fear we’ll crash hard and im scared and when i try to explain to my fiance im told im crazy or being selfish something along that line i need toknow im not tried of crying with no understandable support.

  • Anon

    June 9th, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    I’m late giving my advice but that’s someone who has been struggling with ptsd from years of childhood sexual, mental, emotional abuse & finally wound voluntarily in the psyhc ward twice within a month after having a plan worked out to put a shotgun in my mouth but telling my wife at the last minute as I broke down emotionally..PLEASE give yourself a great gift, get help ASAP. Never in my opinion is there a time where it’s ok to say to yourself, maybe I’ll go sometime or just brushing it off and “taking it like a man”’re human, you have feelings, needs for example. When those needs aren’t being filled we tend to look for reasons, typically in a non helpful critical way towards ourself which just makes the situation worse.

    Seek out help, you’re worth it & you can learn to like yourself & stop being your own worst critic, even if it’s subconsciously done which tends to be the case more often than not.

    Heck, it’s four months since I nearly made the biggest mistake of my life. Now, after 4 months, I’m doing things, seeking out adventures, practicing mindfulness, going to thearapy, being much more productive, feeling alive & look forward to life..maybe for the first time in my life.

    Also, anyone who tells you to “chill out” is ignorant & could use a little therapy themselves.

    Take good care & go for the therapy, it saved my life & is helping me do things and go places I never thought possible.

  • Rashmi

    August 26th, 2015 at 12:21 AM

    Dear Sarah,
    The way you addressed this guy is extremely unprofessional. It can create even more stress in the patient before you even open your suggestions box. For me you killed the rapport building opportunity with this guy by addressing him Mr Restless.

  • anon

    November 28th, 2015 at 6:14 PM

    I agree that it probably wasn’t the best idea to address him as such; however, I think you’re being a bit hard on her.

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