Stress – We wear it like a badge of honor. Much like we wear our busy badges – because you know that person in your circle they’re so busy and stressed out it must mean they’re up to great things. WRONG.
Often, we hear people bragging about how little sleep their running on, or how many hours they worked this week, and that we’re too damn busy to even entertain the idea of a vacation.
We live in a fast-paced and increasingly stressful society. There’s no doubt about it. But here’s the kicker:
How much of this stress is self-imposed?
Do you welcome stress into your life because, well, that’s how you operate?
Have yourself creating more stressful situations in your life because you thrive and are on top of your game when you’re stressed?
Is feeling stressed just a “normal” way of living?
Do you stress out when there’s nothing to stress about?
I know from first-hand experience that after working over a decade in the legal profession, stress was a daily affair. If you weren’t stressed, you didn’t have enough work or you weren’t being productive.
The stress mentality we find in our workplaces, our homes, and our families – is literally draining our life force.
What about a moment for pause and reflection? Or moments of stillness? But wait! If you’re not doing more, trying to be the best version of yourself or improving some area in your life – well then, you’re just lazy and have way too much time on your hands.
The concept of go, go, go and do more is causing a majority of our stress. But at times, many of us without even realizing it are inviting stress into our lives because we are addicted to it.
Still with me?
Let’s back track and look at a very basic and simple definition of stress:
A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances
Now let’s look at what addiction is in this context, and I’m not talking about the type of addiction that requires medical care and subsequent treatment – I’m talking about everyday addiction -specific, learned and habitual behaviors we routinely engage in:
When a person engages in an activity that can be pleasurable, but the continuation becomes compulsive and detrimental to one’s emotional, physical and psychological well-being.
Please keep in mind, when we hear the word addiction we often think of someone detoxing from a certain drug or suffering the symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol. But in all reality we all have an addictive behavior or quality to us.
But before we get too sidetracked – Addiction to Stress is a real thing.
And if we just pause for a moment and think of stress in our own lives and the people around us, it can be easy to notice and perhaps even identify that some stress is invited, welcomed and entertained in this chaotic society we live in.
Here’s How to Tell if You’re Addicted to Stress:
It’s important to understand why you do what you do – take a moment for introspection and see where it leads you.
Think of something you do every day or frequent enough that you may suspect you are addicted to.
Next: Ask yourself these questions:
Does this make my life better?
Am I doing this one activity – even though it’s harming me?
Maybe you know deep down that you are addicted to a certain thing in your life; maybe you’re still on the fence or resistant to identifying an addiction in your own life. (Keep in mind: where there is resistance – there are red flags to be mindful of.)
Trust me I get it.
Stress and addiction naturally go hand in hand. However, the notion that we invite stress into our lives and perhaps we’re even addicted to a certain level of stress isn’t that widely accepted.
But I beg to differ – just think of those projects you leave to the last minute – the “it’s crunch time” type of mentality. It’s a vicious cycle – the stress addiction is often what fuels us when we have completely depleted ourselves.
Your Body On Stress
When we think of stress – we may picture a mom frantically chasing her kids around the grocery store or we may think of a time where we burned the midnight oil to meet a deadline.
Keep in mind: Stress is a biological process that evolved to help us survive.
When we are faced with a dangerous situation – like a saber tooth tiger that is very hungry – our good ole’ stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline kick in and help us flee, fight or do whatever we need to do to survive the situation.
But when our bodies encounter a dangerous situation – like a saber tooth tiger – the hormones that are released in our body, cortisol and adrenaline, can linger in our bodies for quite some time – unless we have a tool to literally “shake off” the stress response.
Think of it like this: You’re walking in the woods and you see a deer in the distance. If a deer detects your presence you will immediately see the animal tense up, their eyes dilate, the ears and tail raise and breathing rates increase. But as soon as that deer no longer perceives you as a threat, you can watch them do a wonderful thing – they literally “shake”. They give a full body shake – it’s a way for them to reset their body to acknowledge that they are no longer in a dangerous situation – therefore giving their bodies permission to continue on and to stop producing stress hormones.
We are chronically stressed more than ever. We are literally hooked up to an IV line that is slowly dripping cortisol and adrenaline into our systems. We no longer have the opportunities to “shake off” stress (that is until you cultivate a mindful practice for this) – we are constantly exposed to a continuous flow of these hormones.
Just like any addiction – eventually what is flowing in your IV line won’t be enough. We will naturally seek a bigger fix and rush of these hormones.
So, what do you do if you suspect you’re addicted to stress – or if you simply want to reduce your overall stress levels? It’s not that difficult – but it requires that you be committed to self-care. Self-care is the antidote to a stress addiction.
Here’s How to Start Breaking the Addiction to Stress:
You know that nagging voice in your head – the one that tells you that you’re not good enough, or don’t try something like that and so on. Name that little booger – would you?
Studies suggest that when we name that self-criticizing voice in our heads that we’re better able to take an observer point of view to self-criticism rather than engage with it.
Electronics – your computer, iPad, phone, television – just to name a few. Unplug them and shut them down. Give your mind a break!
Ask yourself – is the world going to end if I don’t check my social media right now or for the rest of the day? What about email or even watching television? Our electronic devices we use every day assault our senses and overload our minds with a lot of useless information.
Take a break.
3. Ditch Toxicity
Maybe you have a certain group of people you hang out with and these folks tend to be negative or maybe even toxic when it comes to your self-worth. My suggestion is simple and powerful: Ditch them.
You’re better off alone with your badass self versus hanging out with people who are negative and unsupportive of you.
If you know anything about me – this is one thing you should know – I exercise every day. I’m not talking heart pounding, on your knees until you puke working out every day – but what I am consistent with is moving my body every day. We’re humans – we are meant to MOVE.
Remember those nasty stress hormones mentioned above – turns out when you work out your body releases a flood of endorphins and these wonderful little gems help replace those stress hormones.
This may be one of the hardest things to do when you’re feeling stressed . Some of us may even find this approach laughable in a stressful moment. But this is exactly what you must do.
However you choose to relax (yoga, meditation, a nap, reading, going on a walk, painting…) do it and do more of it.
6. Put yourself on the top of your to-do list
Last but not least, put yourself on the TOP of your to-do list. You know all those other items on your to-do list and daily calendars won’t get done if you’re not working or functioning properly. With this logic in mind – it only makes sense to prioritize your self-care.
Stress robs you of your identity – it tells you to do more all the time. It’s time to put the brakes on this addiction and urgency to go, go, go. Take a proactive approach to managing your stress and the relationship you have with it – try one of the tips above and start slow. Change doesn’t happen overnight – but when you keep your self-worth and health in mind – self-imposed stress can easily be kicked to the curb.