As much as we all like to say that we’re trying to lower our stress levels (at this point, the majority of us understand the dangers of being in a constant state of stress), the reality is that, as much as we try, some of us just can’t seem to shake our stress. In fact, it so often feels like it is hunting us, that no matter how hard we try, life just wants us to be stressed.
The reason for this, according to many prominent researchers and psychologists, is that, yes, we really can become addicted to our own stress. Not only do we actually enjoy the feeling of being stressed, but we’ll create stress in our lives just to feed our addiction:
“For those habituated to high levels of internal stress since early childhood, it is the absence of stress that creates unease, evoking boredom and a sense of meaninglessness. People may become addicted to their own stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. To such persons stress feels desirable, while the absence of it feels like something to be avoided.” – Dr. Gabor Maté
If this is true, how do we actually fight stress in our life? How do we get out of the cycle of wanting and creating stress once we’ve become so accustomed to it that we’re actually addicted?
The first step, like every addiction, is recognizing that you have an addiction to stress. For a lot of people, this is actually really difficult. “Of course I’m not addicted to stress! Why would I want more stress in my life?” But when you start to recognize that there’s a pattern of stress in your life and that, more often than not, you can choose how you respond to an event (either with stress or not), then the more you can start to recognize your own addiction.
According to a lot of experts that deal with stress and the addiction to it, one of the most effective ways to combat a stress addiction is by finding another way to fill the “void” that occurs when stress is no longer present. Things like yoga, meditation, or any other healthy hobby can help you find a way to enjoy relaxing so that you’re not continuously caught in the cycle of stress. For some stress addicts, making “relaxation” part of their to-do list is another way to bypass the need to feel like you’re always getting something done. When relaxing becomes a to-do, then checking it off your list is the only way to feel accomplished. Of course, in order for this trick to work, you have to understand the real benefits of relaxation. Otherwise, you’ll end up removing or ignoring your relaxation time, finding something “more productive” to be doing instead.
Remember, relaxation isn’t a luxury. And living in a state of stress is not a symbol of success or accomplishment. You can choose to approach each day of your life in a relaxed state because, just like stress, relaxation is ultimately a choice.