Are you a stress addict?

Are you addicted to stress?  If you constantly need to move fast, eat quickly, go faster, do more, stay on top of things, do more with less, and all those things we tell ourselves would make us more productive and more perfect, you’re likely a stress addict.  Seeing day-to-day life demands as life-or-death situations is a depleting habit, and most adults in our culture definitely qualify as stress addicts, are you one?  Here are 10 characteristics of stress addiction:

  1. Do you define your life by how much you do and how busy you are?
  2. Do you believe that doing more determines your value, whether at work or in your personal life?
  3. Do you multitask everything?
  4. Do you believe multitasking is one of your key strengths?
  5. Do you feel as if you have no choice, and that today’s life is super-busy?
  6. Do you hope that doing more and going faster shows a full life, and how invaluable you are?
  7. Do you always walk and move quickly, as if you had a bear breathing down your neck?
  8. Do you wish you could sleep even less tha the little you allow yourself, so you could do more?
  9. Do you check constantly your work/personal phone, emails and social media even on weekends and holidays?
  10. Do you overdo coffee, caffeine and “energy” drinks to keep you functional and get more done when you’re tired?

Stress addiction is depleting  If you answered yes to most of these questions, be aware that these kinds of belief mean danger, as they progressively take you down a spiraling depletion of physical and mental reserves: we are not wired to run on stress 24/7!  We are designed to meet an aggressive grizzly once in a while, but meeting a few grizzlies every single day is exhausting, whether the grizzlies in your life are your workplace, your demanding boss, your ungrateful kids or friends, or your cell phone.  It’s all the same on your brain: stress, stress, stress.  It’s cumulative and it’s exhausting… And no, it doesn’t make you more productive, or more efficient: it makes you even more stressed, cluttered and unable to assess your real priorities.  In fact, if you feel everything in your life (or work) is a priority, you’re a stress addict getting exhausted, because it means you’ve lost the ability to see priorities: everything has become a big ball of life-or-death issues.  Hmm.

The costs of stress addiction: there are too many to list them all here, but here are a few: depleting chronic stress means serious health issues (including high blood pressure, heart problems, immune system malfunctions, diabetes and inflammatory diseases), plus mental and physical exhaustion… and burnout.  Some of my clients say it feels like “accelerated aging” – they feel like they’re losing their mind, their memory and their health.  No fun.

So how do you get rid of stress addiction?  

  • Admit that stress has taken over your life: don’t keep ignoring it, and catch yourself trying to be always faster.  Slow down for a few minutes.  Stay  mindfully in the moment without running forward to the next thing on your list.  Enjoy a meal without your phone or TV.  Talk with your partner or your kids without multitasking dinner and checking emails.  Be in the moment.  Be more present instead of rushing into the future. Slow down… Feel alive.
  • Label your stress and change your perception: saying “I am stressed” is a passive statement.  Identifying the underlying cause gives you power to take action and change path.  Stressed because there is too much on your plate?  Assess what you can remove by identifying what matters most (keep) from what matters the least (remove).  Stressed because of conflicting deadlines?  Assess which one is the top priority; negotiate a more realistic timeframe.  Labelling stress gives you power to act.
  • Take 5 minutes to plan: instead of running like a crazed chicken, plan what you most want out of your day by determining what needs to be done, keeping time and space for what matters for you, in the overall picture of your life.  Life is not a race to the end line, and being clear on what matters helps you define the focus of your day; it places things in perspective.  Forget the fake urgencies, and identify what really matters.
  • Take a break: step away for a few minutes and give yourself time to breathe.  Turn off your phone; step outdoors, walk for a few minutes if you can.  You’re creating mental space, and stepping back allows you to see priorities more clearly.
  • Take time to slow down, without your phone, without entertainment or music or news.  Life is not about doing more, faster.  Take a moment, every day, to feel alive.
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