Are You Addicted to Stress?
By Debbie Mandel
A little stress in your life is actually good for you. It wakes up your creativity, fuels your vitality and keeps your immune system vigilant. The qualifying word is little. When you find yourself rushing from activity to activity and no personal time for yourself, it’s not the external world that is landing on your doorstep; rather it’s your need to constantly open the door! Most likely you are addicted to stress – the adrenalin rush. If life were calmer and filled with free time, you probably would not know what to do with yourself.
The problem with any addiction is that the high is transitory and one always needs a bigger high to experience the rush. Addiction gives a person a false sense of control. Deep down the addict has lost personal power. A stress-addict is looking to feel numb through distraction to avoid dealing with the source of unhappiness and loss of control. It is easier to be incredibly busy than to face the painful layers of grief accumulated during the course of a lifetime. There are no new hurts; only old ones with a different cast of characters, conflicts and dramas.
Stress-addiction is equivalent to “identity theft.” This means you do not know who you are and where you are really going. Your basic fear lies at the root of your personality – you are not good enough! Taking care of everyone and everything and keeping your mind occupied with your to-do list, you can avoid turning the focus inward and answering the ultimate question: Who am I really at the core of my being and where am I going with all this?
Here are some strategies to break the pattern of stress-addiction:
- Recognize your stress-addiction; simply by being aware, you can break the pattern.
- Start by being kind to everyone in your life – strangers included. Observe yourself being kind to everyone. Now, learn to be as kind to yourself as you are to a stranger.
- Write a kindness journal - with two columns - where you list the concrete acts of kindness you do for others and for yourself every day. Try to keep the lists balanced.
- Take walking meditations because sitting in a lotus position is probably not for you. Put one foot in front of the other and see that you are moving forward by relaxing and absorbing the beauty of the scenery. Progress to seated meditation.
- Take a long hot shower, or go to a steam room/sauna to release the toxins in your body. The heat will relax your muscles, clean out your pores and release physical tensions. You are now ready to listen to music, read a book, or enjoy a glass of cool water with a few sliced strawberries suspended in it.
- Awaken your senses, instead of numbing them. Experiment with fragrances, new foods, new CD’s. Take out your camera and start shooting where your eyes are drawn. See if there is a pattern.
- Start a “soul collage.” Cut out illustrations, photos, cartoons, fabric samples, dried flowers, etc. and create a collage that emanates from your heart. When it is finished, really look at it. What do you learn about yourself?
- Begin a strength training program. Strength training will help you find empowerment and clarity. This focus will transfer into daily life.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com