09 Aug Are You A Stressaholic?
Do you thrive on tight deadlines? Does the thought of truly doing nothing at all sound like torture? Do you suffer from FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out? Maybe you feel as though 24 hours is NEVER enough time in the day? When someone mentions the word ‘hobbies’ you think to yourself, “What’s that?”
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, you may be a stressaholic!
The fact is, most of us thrive on stress. We’re so used to being on and connected all day long that our body actually misses that fuel and becomes uncomfortable when we try to relax and disconnect. It doesn’t matter that we know mentally and physically that we need a break, it still feels nearly impossible to actually take the rest our body so desperately needs. It is common for us to think that if our nutrition is right and our fitness is right everything else will even out and yet it’s believed that 75-90% of all doctors visits are related to stress, regardless of diet and exercise. And speaking of exercise, vigorous exercise may not be the solution you need when it comes to finding a healthy outlet for your stress. Studies have shown we can become addicted to exercise, just like stress, because of its immediate ability to rev up our cortisol production. However it’s important to understand, exercise can be extremely stressful to the body thereby making the problem even worse.
If we know chronic stress is bad for us, then why do we become addicted to it? According to Heidi Hanna, author of Stressaholic: 5 Steps to Transform Your Relationship With Stress, there are three reasons we become addicted to stress. The first reason is it stimulates us. When we’re under stress, whether it’s good or bad, we get a hit of dopamine which stimulates our reward center. This also explains why so many of us love to procrastinate. There is a certain energy and excitement that comes with the pressure of having a tight deadline. Secondly, it distracts us. Whether we’re feeling lonely, bored or isolated, stress is a way for us to distract ourselves and escape from other feelings we’d rather not face. And third, it validates us. It’s become the social norm that the more stress you appear to have the more important you appear to be. Some people will even seek out stress, or subconsciously create stress, in an effort to create the appearance of having a more significant or vital role in their work environment.
It also doesn’t help that now a days “multitasking” is perceived as a skill. Some companies will even ask during the interview process to give an example of your multitasking ability. People seem to think that by multitasking we can get more things done, however every time we switch from one project to another there is a cost. We end up playing a game of mental gymnastics and the brain needs time to adapt. It’s been said that when we multitask our productivity decreases by up to 40% and the decrease in our available brain power is equivalent to missing out on a full night’s sleep and is twice that to smoking marijuana.
If we want to begin to reverse or heal the damage that stress causes to our mind and our bodies, we need to teach ourselves to relax, says Hanna. The following are 5 steps you can take to help reverse your relationship with stress.
1) Set and respect your own boundaries. Do you still respond to emails even if you have your automatic ‘out of office’ email response set? Do you stay at the office later than you are expected to or come in earlier than needed? By responding to emails on your vacation, or working longer hours than your calendar says, you’re sending mixed messages to those around you. If you don’t respect your own boundaries, how can you expect others to?
2) Chunk out your time. This goes back to the whole “multitasking” topic. If it’s common practice for you to work on a client presentation, while responding to emails and updating your Facebook status all at the same time, try breaking up your time into segments. Commit 50 minutes to working on one project and then establish a 10 minute ‘transition break’. This will help you to be more focused and therefore more productive when working, while giving you body and mind time to transition before diving into the next project.
3) Eliminate distractions. It’s been said that people check their phone every 4 minutes. In fact, there’s an actual syndrome called “phantom vibration”, which happens when people think their phone is vibrating in their pocket even when it’s not in their pocket. It’s ok to disconnect and turn your phone off, or even your wifi, if it means less distraction. This will help you to be more productive, while decreasing your overall level of stress.
4) Practice self-care. We tend to sacrifice ourselves and our health for the benefit of others, but if we continue to deplete our own energy reserves without filling our energy tank back up, we eventually won’t have any energy left to give. Things like getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night, moving every 90 minutes during the day, eating nourishing foods every 4-5 hours, building in time to relax, and meditating or simply breathing deeply throughout the day are all ways to ensure your energy tank is full. It’s common sense, but that doesn’t mean it’s common practice – it all comes down to energy.
5) Stay away from energy vampires. Stress is very contagious, it’s even more contagious than the flu. You don’t need to be present to pick up someone else’s stress. We can pick it up in a voicemail or even in an email. When we pick up signals of stress, our body will fall in line. This is also why it’s so important to be aware of who your energy suckers are and then set boundaries. You can only truly service other people if you have the energy to do so.
Changing your relationship to stress can be done but it does require you to change yourself from the inside first. By training ourselves to relax a little bit at a time, we can avoid becoming overwhelmed while we develop positive behaviors that will stick with us long term.