Are You Addicted to Stress? How to Tell and What to Do About It
I’m sure you are aware we live in a society that encourages stressful living through the notion that busyness = worthiness.
While that may or may not ring true for you, let’s face it, we’re living in stressful times in a stressful world.
Stress is a normal part of life and your body is designed to experience and react to stress.
Stress brings out your sympathetic “fight or flight” response, and once activated, your body pumps hormones such as the stress hormone cortisol, adrenaline, and even dopamine, the feel good hormone.
While not all stress is bad, we get into trouble when we generate increased stress by overworking, over scheduling, over worrying, and over doing. Our stress response becomes habitual and we then become addicted to that heightened stressful state.
It becomes a problem when you live in a chronic state of stress and cortisol and adrenaline remain in your system for a prolonged period of time. This wreaks havoc on your system, resulting in long-term physical and mental problems, including depression, heart disease, and weight gain.
Plus, when cortisol remains at high levels, it alters its effectiveness to regulate both our inflammatory and immune responses by decreasing tissue sensitivity to cortisol.
Consequently, our immune cells become insensitive to cortisol's regulatory effect resulting in uncontrolled inflammation that may advance the development and progression of many diseases.
What are some common signs and symptoms of stress?
blood sugar dysregulation
high blood pressure
increased heart rate
While not officially a clinical diagnosis, stress addiction is a pattern of seeking out stressful situations. This can happen even when you are feeling overwhelmed; you find yourself wanting to stop but you’re caught in a vicious cycle.
These questions that might help you determine if you’re dependent on the feelings you get from stress:
Do you continually put yourself in stressful situations despite experiencing stress-related symptoms?
Do you thrive on tight deadlines?
Do you overbook yourself?
Do you say “yes“ when you wish you’d said “no“?
Do you feel guilty when you relax?
Do you find yourself finishing, or wanting to finish, other peoples’ statements?
Do you feel bored when you’re not under stress?
Do you take care of everyone and everything?
Do you keep your mind occupied with your to-do list?
Are you unable to remember the last time you weren‘t stressed?
If this resonates, you might be thinking, Alyssa, help! How can I overcome this and stop living in chronic stress?
I’m glad you asked.
When you recognize you may have an addiction to stress or you simply have too much stress in your life, there are ways to overcome and break this pattern and I can help you.
The first step is recognition. It’s critical for you to recognize the significance of what a stress imbalance and chronic stress does to your system, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Then, make the decision and commitment to make conscientious efforts to break up with stress and to get comfortable pausing, resting, and relaxing.
Here are 6 strategies to help break the pattern of stress-addiction:
Therapy. Therapy can help you get to the root of your stress tendencies and how to overcome them.
Be kind to everyone in your life. Watch and Observe yourself being kind to everyone you encounter. Then, practice being as kind to yourself as you are to a stranger or a good friend.
Keep a kindness journal. List concrete acts of kindness you do for others and for yourself every day. Be mindful to keep the lists balanced.
Move your body. Physical activity reduces stress hormones and stimulates production of endorphins, which together help foster relaxation and improve your quality of life both mentally and physically. If you’re not an exercise person, going for walks is a great place to start.
Sing. It doesn't matter if you can carry a tune, singing is a stress-reliever because it helps lower levels of cortisol and decreases feelings of stress. Singing releases endorphins, the brain's feel-good chemicals. So sing in the car, in the shower, and at karaoke!
Develop a meditation, breathing, or mindfulness practice. Sending even a few minutes breathing deeply or meditating can restore your calm and inner peace. There are a lot of great free apps for this such as InsightTimer or Curable.
Here’s to taking good care of yourself and lowering stress levels.
Love, Your Wellness Coach,
P.S. In podcast episode 67, "Are You Addicted to Stress? How to Tell and What to Do About It" I go deeper into this topic so tune in to learn more and get some stress relief!
April 6, 2022