Could you be addicted to stress? - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Could you be addicted to stress?

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Let's face it. Some people just can't relax. It's actually stressful for them. 

How can this be? After all, most dreams described by lottery winner wannabes usually include a chaise lounge on a secluded beach with turquoise water and a sailboat in the background. 

For a number of folks, though, this would be torture. They have to keep moving, achieving and accomplishing. They can't sit still. And they often feel like they're being propelled through space — without enough time to do what they really want. 

While it's true there are many demands on us these days, this type of behavior can often occur when we're trying to avoid dealing with other issues in our lives. We tell ourselves — and the world — we're just so busy! 

On the surface, that's quite a noble excuse. If left unchecked, though, a cycle of negativity can set in — with complaints about not having enough time to get everything done. 

You know the feeling. You should be grateful for what you have in life and focus on the positive things. Yet, those negative thoughts have such a sneaky way of creeping in! 

That's ok to a point. It's healthy to acknowledge our anxieties and feel our feelings. It's just when we allow those negative thoughts to mushroom — and take over our consciousness — that we can get into trouble. 

Then we start focusing on what we don't want to happen. And those repetitive negative thoughts, coupled with extreme emotional charges, act like a magnet to draw those things toward us. 

Like attracts like. The more worried and fearful we become, the more worries and fears we attract. On a physiological level, stress causes the section of our brain known as the hypothalamus to secrete cortisol, the "stress hormone." 

For a lot of folks, the experience of cortisol in their systems becomes so normal that not feeling stressed results in emotional discomfort. Yikes — it is like we're addicted! Maybe not in the clinical sense, but it sure can feel like it. 

Negativity has actually been likened to an addiction, according to author Anisa Aven:

 

  • It causes a physiological response
  • It can feel compulsory at times
  • It can be very difficult to shake 

 

Here's a startling concept. When some folks don't feel stressed, they begin to fear they're "not prepared" or not "doing enough" or that they could be setting themselves up for disappointment. These examples represent only a few of the many reasons people can become addicted to stress (and, thus, the stress hormone, cortisol). 

Think about the example of war veterans coming home and having problems readjusting. Unfortunately, this scenario is happening way too often in today's world. When veterans come home — long after they've left the traumatic battlefield — they often continue to experience the stress of being on edge and not being able to let their guard down. 

When veterans reflect on what keeps them up at night, explains Aven, it's often a fear that if they're not hyper-vigilant about all the things that could go wrong, then their families won't be protected. They believe if they're not prepared for negative scenarios and something bad happens, it's because they weren't aware and responsive to the signs of danger. And, yet, that level of being "uptight" could actually backfire and contribute to negative things happening. It's a vicious cycle. 

On the flipside, think about athletes accomplishing great feats when they're "in the zone." It's during these times of feeling fully present and "in the flow" that we can have the greatest access to our highest level of performance. 

We've all heard about the adrenaline rush. Being on high alert for too long, though, can really take its toll on our bodies. Too much cortisol pounding through our system over time can lead to adrenal exhaustion. 

Once we've reached adrenal exhaustion and feel wiped out, it can be very difficult to maintain a positive thought. This then results in a cycle of negative thoughts and further adrenal exhaustion — a never-ending loop of more reasons to be negative. And to stay on that emotional treadmill.

Consider the following quote from a self-admitted "stress-a-holic": 

"I feel the physical response and even find myself confused when I try not to be stressed. It's like my body doesn't know how to behave if I actually choose to trust and flow with life. It feels like I'm going through withdrawals. My stomach turns and I feel anxious — like I need a quick anger-or-fear fix to get myself back to normal." 

Wow. That speaks volumes. It's been said that the root of all human problems stems from the inability to sit quietly in a room with our individual thoughts. Easier said than done, though. 

The first step is acknowledging the behavior. Then there are lots of options for dealing with it. One size doesn't fit all. So much depends on the individual situation and the person involved. 

Some find relief from quieting down out in nature — or from working off their stress through exercise. Music works wonders. Others find meditation helpful. And you don't have to go sit in a corner for 30 minutes trying to block out all thoughts. There are lots of techniques that call for listening to tonal sounds through headphones, for example, or staring into a candle flame. 

Counseling can be helpful, as can techniques such as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming). In extreme cases, adrenal exhaustion can be treated medically and through balancing supplements. 

The important thing is to find what works best for the situation at hand — and to stick with a plan. Habitual stress took years to form. And it won't go away in a couple of weeks. 

Who knew a substance produced by our own bodies — cortisol — could become addictive? You can definitely break the cycle, though, and loosen the grip stress has on you.