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Are you addicted to stress?

Are you addicted to stress?

“Busy is a drug that a lot of people are addicted to.” – Rob Bell 

How often do you hear the reply to ‘How are you doing?’ with ‘Great, everything is calm and simple and life is good?’ Never. It would make me stop in my tracks. A bit more likely to be:

 

“Good, so busy.” crazybusy

“Great, crazy busy.”

“Insanely busy.”

“Lots going on.”

“Hectic.”

That’s sounds about right. Good, but crazy. Or is it great because it’s so busy? Even better when it’s insanely busy? The best when you are totally overwhelmed? 

Why do we feel like busyness, not having a moment to ourselves, needing to have a never ending to-do list, is a badge of success, a badge of honor?

Is this truly what we all want? Do we really want to make it all so complicated? Are we all competing to have the hardest lives?

 

does stress = success?

The common equation most people have in their minds I believe is the following:

more stress = more productivity = more money = more happiness

So when broken down: more stress = more happiness? Well that doesn’t make any sense.

 

busyproductiveI think we’ve all experienced that this formula doesn’t play out. Besides the obvious more stress not equaling more happiness, let’s focus on just the productivity factor.  Who actually finds themselves MORE productive when they are struggling or extremely busy or stressed? Do the best ideas come to you when you’re sitting hunched over your desk, at your 10th hour of work, downing your 3rd coffee?

 

For myself and countless others inspiration comes when I’m in the shower or working out or relaxing my mind & body. So really, less stress & less struggle = more productivity.

So why do we believe that more struggle now will result in more happiness later?

Or do some people truly feel happier in the now with more stress? And why?

 

Can stress become an addiction?

Does it ever feel good to get stressed about something? To get mad? To just let the energy flow. For some, including myself, it most definitely did. I never quite acknowledged that it felt good until I read the science behind it.  

feelsgoodtobebusyWhen we get stressed cortisol & adrenaline are released into our system. You’ve probably heard that step before, but most likely not this second step: the bigger the adrenaline rush (the sympathetic system) the bigger the endorphin rush to try to calm us down (the para sympathetic system). With this endorphin rush you feel a ‘natural high’ and if your body is used to constantly getting this high, it becomes addictive. Just like you need more and more of a drug for the same high, you also need more and more stress to reach that endorphin high.

So if the stress is missing, then the endorphin high is missing. Are we not consciously or sub-consciously developing ways to get more? Are we making up things to get stressed about? Or fights to pick? Or 10 more things to add to our to-do list.

Is it possible this is a piece of what self-sabotage is all about? Trying to bring ourselves back to the chemical flow of what it’s used to. Does it feel good to be busy?

 

Does stressing more mean we care more?

I was definitely guilty of feeling like if my husband didn’t get stressed about something, he didn’t care. It used to drive me nuts that he didn’t get mad. I would often hear myself saying, “I just don’t think you see how important this is”, or “I feel like you really don’t care.”

His response wasn’t what I had learned in my body was the right way to respond when you really cared about something.

I’ve learned a lot from him over the years. He knows what is important; he just doesn’t believe stressing about it gets you any further than not stressing about it.  In fact, he knows that the quality of his work on the topic will be better and more efficient if he remains calm rather than becoming flippant over it.

And isn’t feeling good in our body what matters most? Isn’t happiness the end goal anyways? The last part of the equation that we are all striving for. Do we ever feel happy with ourselves after we get stressed and upset? And how much better do we feel when we stay calm?

We need to re-learn (myself included) that stressing more doesn’t mean caring more. In fact, with some of the most important things in life, like relationships with others, stressing less means caring more.

 

Is busyness a form of avoidance?

busycalendar

We cram our lives with these lists of things we have to get done today or else we will feel less than. The technology that we have at our fingertips contributes to that feeling a multitude more than it did just 20 years ago; with all the things we could be, should be doing to make sure we keep up with everyone else.

 

We are constantly responding to the urgent and not-important (texts, emails, social media, articles on buzzfeed that somehow always suck us in). By doing this we never have time for the non-urgent and very important parts of our lives, like how can we connect more with our kids or be more present in the moment. Things that are a lot more complicated and emotive than responding to a text, but a lot more human.

We do a WHOLE lot of avoiding our own mind.  

Busyness is a nice little way to keep us from acknowledging our thoughts, from being with them or processing them. In a world when we can so easily numb out with so much to be watched or read or listened to, we can very easily go days, weeks, months without an original thought or a new idea. Without seeing what’s amazing about life: how gorgeous the snow is, or the steam coming from hot water while doing the dishes. Such tiny things. We’re missing it all. This clip from Louis CK on Conan describes it perfectly.

nooriginalideas

louisck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These three questions from a recent article I read on the topic made me realize how guilty I am of the avoidance.

 1. Do you tune out during conversations thinking about other things?


 2. Do you feel rushed wherever you are because you feel that you ought to be completing the next task somewhere else?


 3. Do you feel uncomfortable, worried, and nervous in your mind or body when you don’t have something you must absolutely do right now?

I can most definitely relate to these. Can you?  If so, it’s time to pause and re-evaluate.

 

Can stress & busyness be a good thing?

A little stress is ok. It puts a fire under our butts to get something done, and temporarily boosting performance can be a good thing; some people really function well under that fire. We can feel stress when we push ourselves out of our comfort zones and grow, and that’s also a good thing. 

ivIt’s the constant, chronic cortisol drip that is so dangerous to our health. How often are you turning the adrenaline/cortisol drip off? Are you allowing your body to downshift, where all of the repair happens? Repairs like fighting off common bacteria & viruses and not getting sick, to fighting off the much more dangerous cancer cells.  

Also, I have to mention since I’m currently pregnant, that stress is NEVER a good thing for a pregnant woman.  It’s been scientifically studied and thoroughly written about. Not even the tiniest bit. On a more energetic/woo-woo level, it teaches the baby that it is a dangerous world out there, and the baby adjusts accordingly, becoming more inclined to be stressed itself, to be fearful and not trust. For me personally this is a sign, if something isn’t good for a tiny human, I don’t think it’s good for a big sized human either, it just takes longer for us to feel the affects.

 

So how can we change the addiction?

It takes a lot of practice to re-form your neural pathways to feel good with a different reaction. To not reach for the “cortisol/endorphin” high or fall into the busy trap.

I finally have gotten to a point for me where it feels better to be calm than get mad. But this truly has taken me work and is forever a process.

When something comes up that would usually cause a stress response, I remind myself this is my opportunity to do it differently. Not when everything is calm & good, but now, when I can feel my stress levels rising, now is the time to practice it.

neural pathways

To re-build new neural pathways for how I respond. To use the feeling as a trigger to do it differently. New neural pathways ARE actually forming, making it easier and easier every time, until the new response seems completely natural and normal to you. 

Do you know that your immune system is lowered for up to 6 hours when you have a stress response? I use this little fact as a trigger as well, as a way to remember what reaction is best for my health.

Another awesome way to build new neural pathways, and ask yourself why you respond a certain way, is to use EFT or tapping to clear out any old childhood, learned patterns. You can check more out about that here.

 

How to turn off the busy trap & re-wire your mind:

 

Be conscious of it:

The three questions above really hit home for me, they are simply making me aware of my behavior so I can adjust and be more present. Just reading this article and questioning it in your own life is a huge step. It’s taking you out of the reactive day to day numbing, stressing, struggling and putting you in a proactive position to do something about it.

I remember years ago when I first read about the body’s addiction to the natural high of stress, it was a huge catalyst to making me stop and pause before picking a fight, asking myself, what is this really about? A huge portion of the time it is that I’m irritable and need to go for a run or have low-blood sugar and need to eat, or something that has nothing to do with the situation at hand.

 

Exercise:

Speaking of running. For me, the physical addiction to stress, that natural high, is the same high and same release I get from running. Which makes sense since it’s all about the endorphins. Replace the high of stress with the high of working out and you’re in for a golden life.

Ever notice how much better of a day you have after working out? Is it that everything around you is better and responding just how you’d like? Or simply that your mind and reactions to it are better?

 

busyrelaxingDon’t ‘should’ all over yourself:

One of the ways I don’t overwhelm myself with the case of the busys is by not should-ing all over myself. I really should see this person, I haven’t seen them in a while. I really should do this because that person did it and if I don’t people will think I’m less than. I should, because I want them to like me. That feels terrible. What do I really want to do?

And as the froggie on the right is doing, be happy telling people you are just going to relax. There’s nothing wrong with that and it usually gives others permission to do the same. 

 

Detach & build in breaks:

I can just hear my fellow type A friends right now: “Yea, yea, okay, build in breaks, I don’t have time to build in breaks”. 🙂 If you’re saying you don’t have time for a break, you need twice the amount of breaks.

Try it out and notice just how much MORE productive you are with a break. And remember that ever constant 20/80 rule: 20% of the work produces 80% of the results 

Easy break options:

 Take an actual lunch away from your desk where you travel outside, even for just a moment, to breathe in fresh air. In the warm months, eat lunch outside and put your bare feet on the grass.

 balanceKeep essential oils on your desk to breathe in when you’re feeling overwhelmed. The ability that scents have to completely change your state of mind, to get you thinking clearly and in a new way, to re-start the day, is nothing short of amazing.

Have you ever smelled a scent and been transported back to a memory, feeling as though you were there? Then you’ve experienced the power of scents on your mind.

My favorite essential oils are Do Terra and it’s quite easy to keep a little bottle with you. It forces you to slow down your mind & body and re-think the way you’re going about your day.

 Relax! And for the women out there, when I say relax, I don’t mean clean the kitchen or plan something for your husband or children. I mean do something that ONLY you can benefit from. This is not being selfish. Turn off the adrenaline drip, support yourself, and you will be able to support everyone else from a much better place.   

 

Feel happy NOW:

If the ultimate goal is happiness, why not just start here? Today? Now. In the present moment. So if you really feel like you can’t take anything off of your plate, at least change how you feel while you are doing it. 

Abraham Hicks’ work is one of my favorites for feeling good now. Her work teaches the opposite of struggle now, be rewarded later. It’s however much you are struggling now, you can find something, anything, to feel good about. It teaches that you attract what you want from the universe when you are connected and feeling grateful; that struggle, busyness and stress are quite counter-productive to getting what you want. Her work is powerful and will really get you thinking about the power of happiness now. You can subscribe to her emails here.

Here are a couple of her quotes to leave you with:

“Mining the moment for something that feels good, something to appreciate, something to savor, something to take in, that’s what your moments are about. They’re not about justifying your existence. It’s justified. You exist. It’s not about proving your worthiness. It’s done. You’re worthy. It’s not about achieving success. You never get it done. It’s about “How much can this moment deliver to me?”

“You have been oriented that you must pay a price in order to get somewhere, and in the process, you’ve come to believe that getting there must be really important, therefore, it must be your purpose. And we say, but if you’re not getting to joy, then you’ve gotten nowhere. Joy is really where you’re going.”

 

Love and brussels sprouts,

 

  

  1. Penelope Quick says:

    Love yours & Nick’s work!!!

  2. Laura says:

    Very eye-opening! Thanks for sending!

  3. This is a fantastic and fun article I love it! You are a wonderful happy writer Brenna, what a joy to read! 🙂 Your baby is bathing in lovely endorphins ahhh what a nice way to start her life 🙂 🙂 🙂 Congratulations on your persistence to changing your old programs to calm & happy achieving – It’s a great leaf out of our book of 60 trillion cells – such wonderful amazing high achievers every milli-second but in a very relaxed flowy manner. 🙂

  4. Great article! This is definitely one to keep referring to. I really appreciate all the practical applications.

  5. Hi Brenna,
    This was excellent! Really well done.
    I love how you began the article with the way we answer “How are you?”
    We feel compelled to be crazy busy, and we ARE crazy busy.
    I have wondered if I am, as you say, addicted to stress. It’s hard to imagine a day where I’m not stopping to square breathe because I’m getting too breathless. And I watch those around me who are even more crazy busy than I am. They are working from 7:00am until late in the night and I wonder when someone is going to call an end to this crazy hypnosis we’re in! I know Arianna Huffington is playing her part. I am doing my part as well. I
    am wondering something. I write a blog that 60,000 people read every month (small by the Ortner standards, I know!) I’m wondering if you would like to be a guest blogger. I’d like to share your message with my wonderful readers.
    Would you like to take a look? It’s Chantforhappiness.com ~ I coach people to make the impossible possible through chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I’m a cheerleader of Buddhas!
    Again, thank you for the great article, you really nailed it!
    All my best, Jamie Lee Silver

  6. I learned something new here…our addiction to stress is due to the fact that we look for the high one feels with the endorphin rush after the adrenalin/cortisol rush…ha! Ha!Learn to take breaks and mining the moment! Thumbs up!

  7. Hi Brenna,
    All I can say is wow…a very eye opening and informative article. I can imagine how much better we all would be if we just learned to destress and get our life priorities straight.
    Thank you!

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