Are You Addicted to Stress?

Are You Addicted to Stress?

A never-ending to-do list puts you under a lot of stress — but do you do it to yourself?

Forget the luxury car and the designer heels — stress may be the new status symbol.

You know her, don’t you? The one who’s always running to a meeting, juggling a thousand things, so stressed she could cry. She’s always being pulled in a million different directions and talking about how stressed she is.

That could even be you if you can’t help responding to a friend or colleague’s story of stress woes with your own, more stressful story (and secretly feel a little shiver of importance and accomplishment as you do).

There appears to have been a shift in how stress is viewed. Rather than hesitating to admit that we’re stressed, the word (and the associated actions and behaviors) has become a badge of honor, worn proudly and spoken of openly.

Proud as a (Highly Stressed) Peacock
Western culture has long placed an emphasis on getting things done with the implication being that the more things you have to get done, the more important you are. Add to this the pressure to work late, the fear that other people are doing more with their lives than you are, society’s almost allergic response to any hint of laziness and the delight we get when people congratulate us on juggling so many balls without dropping any (in public, at least), and the result is a competition to see who is The Most Stressed.

Are You Addicted to Stress?
What might have started as an attempt to make yourself appear important or to make yourself indispensable — either at work or in your personal life — could have turned into an addiction to the powerful hormones (adrenaline buzz) released by your body in response to the constant stress.

It’s easy to become hooked on this feeling. You get used to the adrenaline rush and slowly start to accept that feeling as the norm.

There are, however, warning signs that point to a developing (or already full-blown) stress addiction:


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  • Tuning out during conversations because you’re thinking about other things
  • Feeling rushed because you feel that you ought to be completing the next task somewhere else
  • Feeling uncomfortable, worried or nervous in your mind or body when you find yourself without obligations

Bow Out of the Competition
The problem with competitive stress — in addition to the potential stress addiction — is that you run the risk of showing yourself up as someone who isn’t able to deal with the daily pressures of life.

So stop!

Stop the boasting and the one-upmanship, no more regaling friends with stories of what you have to do. And instead of responding to their gloats by going one better (or worse), empathize, and then ask when they’re planning to take some time to relax.

If you still feel the need to see exactly how much you’re getting done (It’s certainly satisfying to feel that we’ve plowed through plenty of your to-do list.), write it all down and use your boldest red pen to scratch out each completed task.

Sit down and work out how much time you’re spending posting those “This is the most hectic day ever!” posts on social media. If nothing else, realizing that you spend two hours a day online will show that you clearly do have some potential free time on your hands!

Treat the word “stress” as a taboo, and stick a stress jar on your desk. Every time the word gets mentioned, throw some coins in the jar. You’ll soon find something else to compete over!

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