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How to Respond When Someone Says “Just Relax”

By Kerry Weiss
Reviewed by Susan Ko, Ph.D.
May 22, 2023

Have you ever been stressed out or dealt with anxious feelings and been told to “calm down,” “chill out,” or “just relax”? Although others may be well-intentioned with this advice, it isn’t just unhelpful—it can be harmful.

Anxious feelings don’t really have an on-off switch, says Paul Donahue, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist and director of Child Development Associates in Scarsdale, New York. What’s more? “Simply imploring people to ‘just relax’ invalidates their experience,” he says.

This type of advice can make someone feel weak for not being able to stop their anxious thoughts, says Supatra Tovar, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist based in Pasadena, California.