Are you addicted to stress?

Holistic Health Bites podcast episode 16

addicted to stress
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Now, most of us would say that we’re not addicted to stress, but a lot of us actually are. Stress has become a normal part of our lives at a much higher level than it ever was before. We go from one thing to the next, always feeling like we’re running out of time with never ending to-do lists. And even when we’re not busy, we find ways to stress ourselves out or we worry about things that might happen.  We create problems in our minds where there aren’t any.

We all know that too much stress isn’t good for us. It can cause all sorts of problems, both physical and mental. But it can be hard to control the sources of stress. 

Addicted to stress

I think part of the reason is because we’re addicted to the feeling of stress. We get a rush from it. It’s like a drug for us. We constantly get dopamine hits from crossing things off our list, completing projects, accomplishing new goals, and setting new records.

We constantly tell ourselves if we can just get through this one thing, then we’ll be okay. But that’s never really the case. There’s always another thing coming (or we add more things) to keep that dopamine drip coming.  Over time though, this dopamine doesn’t make us feel as good as it once did. 

Have you noticed that you get less satisfaction or feel less joy than you once did from accomplishing these tasks?  That’s because you never STOP having dopamine.  You need bigger and bigger hits to feel joyous and satisfied with things in your life.  It’s a powerful drug that we have to consciously work to reduce so that we can find the joy in life again.  

We need to find a way to break free from our addiction to stress. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s worth it. So let’s talk about some ways that we can do that.

Break the addiction

The first thing we need to do is recognize that we have a problem. We have to acknowledge that we thrive on the go-go-go of life, of the busy badge that we all wear.  Side note, have you noticed yourself always responding with “busy” when someone asks how you’ve been? 

A lot of us are in denial about how much stress we’re under or how much it’s affecting our lives. We think that we can handle it or that it’s just part of life. But the truth is, it’s not healthy and it’s not sustainable. So, take a good hard look at YOUR life and admit it to yourself.

The second step is to start saying “no” more often.  This is probably the hardest part for most of us because we’re people pleasers and we wear those busy badges with honor.  We’re PROUD of just how busy we are.  We identify as BUSY. 

Stress is just part of it.   We want to make everyone happy and do everything that’s asked of us plus all of the things that we add to our own lists. But it’s just not possible to do it all (and definitely not to do it all well). And when we try, we just end up resentful, stressed out, irritable, hungry, and completely burned out.

So start saying “no” to things that don’t fit into your schedule, that you really don’t want to do, that YOU don’t have to do, or that someone else could do better. It’s okay to put yourself first for once. It’s ok to have real downtime for YOU.  Speaking of downtime…did you catch last week’s episode?  We talked about how to know if your downtime is actually restful.  If you haven’t listened to that one, go back and do so!

The third step is to find healthy ways to cope with stress. We all need outlets for our stress because the reality is we will always have stress – so we need things like exercise, reading a good book, listening to music, journaling, and meditating.  This can also include doing crafts, art, or other creative endeavors.  Or just doing more things you LOVE to do.  Things you find joy in.  Things you’re passionate about.  Or feel purposeful doing.  Find something that works for you and make it a part of your regular routine. And not just when you’re feeling stressed out. Make it a daily or weekly habit so that when the stress does pile up, you’re already in the habit of managing it in a healthy way.

The fourth step is to start setting boundaries in your life so that you don’t end up with a plateful of tasks that you shouldn’t be doing. This looks different for everyone, but some examples might be:  only checking work email during certain times of day, not working on weekends, taking a real lunch break away from your desk, or not answering texts or calls after a certain time in the evening.  Limiting your screen time, especially with social media or any negative/drama filled media.  You might need to set boundaries with yourself or others- or both! 

The fifth and last step we will talk about today is to practice gratitude – for yourself, your body, your health, your job, your home, your friends, your family, your food, your pets…anything and everything around you.  It doesn’t have to be perfect to have gratitude for it.  Be grateful for what you DO have or can do.  No matter how small it seems. 

So, those are 5 steps that you can take to help us break your addiction to stress. It’s not going to be easy, but it is worth it. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you can’t do this on your own, please reach out for help. I’m here for you!  Be sure to subscribe to this show in your favorite podcast player, leave a 5 star review so that others can find it. Also feel free to share this show with others who could benefit. 

Next week, we will be wrapping up these stress lessons with some additional emotional stress management techniques.  And then in the final week of this series I’ll be answering your questions!  If you have a question about stress, stress management, how stress affects your health, …. anything stress related – email me at andrea@healthylifewithandrea.com and I’ll answer it in the final episode of this series! 

Until next week, be well and vibrant.

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