Do you ever have days where you start to really wonder why you repeatedly find yourself in stressful situations? A little stress in your life is actually good for you. It fuels your creativity and keeps your immune system alert. The key word is little.
When you find yourself constantly rushing from activity to activity without a break, it may be time for you to consider that it’s not the external world that is persistently making its way to your doorstep; rather there’s a need within you to keep opening the door!
While stressful situations may not always be within our control, there are a couple of reasons why someone might unconsciously look for opportunities to welcome stress into his or her life, and the first is that they may be addicted to the adrenalin rush.
Stress is the trash of modern life — we all generate it but if you don’t dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life.
How We Become Addicted to Stress
Addiction may seem a harsh word to use for simply being busy all the time. However, consider that stress stimulates the production of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Over an extended period of time that surge of hormones can actually become addictive and in order to get that feeling again, you need more stress. It’s the energy or high that makes you feel like you can do anything, that you can really accomplish something great.
There is a value attached to the fact that you are able to handle stress with grace and ease and that becomes your special strength and how you define who you are. You begin to crave those environments in order to feel good about yourself.
Warning signs you may be addicted to stress:
- Moving, eating or walking rapidly and frequently multitasking.
- Hurrying the ends of sentences or talking over others.
- Constantly feeling rushed and impatient.
- Feeling lost when not working and guilty about relaxation.
- Wanting to be in charge of everything.
- Thinking about work while vacationing – or avoiding vacations altogether.
- Bragging about how busy you always are.
- Trying to increase work over ever-shorter time periods.
- Having trouble focusing on conversations.
- You have nervous habits.
Even if you are a classic Type A who absolutely loves the adrenaline rush of multitasking on 12 urgent projects and your personal mantra is “Bring it on!” you will benefit from taking some time to consider your motivations for reveling in stress because this feeling amounts to little more than a false sense of control and long-term can adversely affect your health.
Using Stress to Avoid Problems
Sometimes it’s just easier to stay busy, over commit, obsess about work, cleaning or that lengthy task list just to avoid what’s really bothering you. If you’re trying to avoid the bigger, unpleasant issues in your life, stress can become a safe place.
A sure sign that we are being controlled by fear is the constant need to occupy oneself with needless tasks as a means to avoid the issues most needed to effectively develop and grow.
That stress-induced adrenaline high can provide a sorely needed temporary boost to self-esteem, making you feel needed, in control of situations and even people; when internally you are feeling anything but. After all, if you’re dancing as fast as you can, you don’t have time to think about how truly unhappy you are.
Managing Your Stress
Short-term techniques for reducing the effects of stress include:
- Deep breathing
- Reaching out for help
These techniques will help you achieve some clarity and relief, but without doing the work to uncover the real issue or taking steps to resolve the problem, it’s like slapping a bandage on a cut without ever treating the wound. To get to the root cause of your stress, begin with an honest assessment of your situation because you have to name the problem before you can begin to solve it.
While there are common themes for the cause of stress, such as money or relationships, sometimes getting to the root of the problem requires a little digging. For example, you may believe that your jerk-of-a-boss at work is the source of all your headaches and stress with his unrealistic demands, but is he really? Could it be that the real problem is your lack of control, or deep-seated frustration because you ended up in a job by default and feel trapped? Possibly there is more than one situation (or person) creating stress for you, but whatever the sources may be, nothing will change until you take responsibility by facing them and resolve to either change the circumstances or make peace with them until you can.
Becoming more self-aware and learning to change behaviors takes time and practice, but stress does not have to consume your life. Stress management is all about learning how and when to take control.
Above all, it’s important to remember that it’s up to you whether you control your stress or let stress control you.