Stress Addiction: How to Break Away from a High Anxiety Lifestyle

| Women's Health

reduce stress

Just like alcohol, drugs and nicotine, stress is addictive. While some folks want nothing but to step out of a life of beating deadlines, making ends meet, committing to social obligations, resolving family and personal crises, other people purposely seek out reasons to feel stressed, jealous, worried, angry or downright frustrated.

In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, there has been a 25% increase among women who reported they were highly stressed from the year before. That’s not the interesting bit: Very few of the women who have admitted to feeling stressed did anything to relax. Most seemed to challenge more stress to come to them – as if it were something they could wear with pride.

>> Learn to relieve stress with these 7 tips.

While being an adrenaline junkie could make you feel as if you are living the life, it does have drastic (and irreversible) effects on one’s health, job, relationships, and other aspects.  Learn how you can overcome your high anxiety habits before they overcome you.

What Makes Stress Appealing?

“Because it makes some people feel truly alive” is the answer from Paty Lind-Kyle (author of the book Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain: Applying the Exciting New Science of Brain Synchrony for Creativity, Peace, and Presence.) The constant rush of cortisol, adrenaline and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is really what causes the addiction, and the unhealthy behavior that comes with.

Sociologists say it may stem from certain moral, cultural and social demands, especially when the society expects women to be just as good, or even better than their male counterparts. The several roles women assume early in life can drive them into stress-seeking, and anyone who cannot juggle several tasks at a time is left feeling guilty and mediocre.  San Francisco – based clinical psychologist Steve Orma, Psy.D, believes that in a way, stress is equated with productivity. Women with high-anxiety lifestyles feel “lazy” when they aren’t working all the time, so much so that they are willing to give up meals, sleep and even sanity.

The Dangers of a Stress-Loving Lifestyle

The body has a mechanism called fight or flight. In cases of acute tension, such as getting caught in a fire, discovering your child’s missing at the mall, or even accidentally deleting a presentation that’s due in a few minutes, adrenaline and cortisol surge to help your brain think fast and do something faster. However, when the storm passes, your body is supposed to return to its pre-angst state, just as the hormones are supposed to simmer back down. If they stay elevated for longer, their stores get depleted, and there won’t be enough for the body to use when another emergency occurs. Moreover, when cortisol levels are high, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels are also abnormally high, and vitamins and nutrients become depleted, affecting your ability to function and think properly.

24 hours of continuous elevated cortisol levels is dangerous. This is exemplified by the number of hospital visits by office workers. Suppressed immune systems (thus increased infections and illnesses), eating disorders, low sexual libido, decreased fertility, and abnormal weight gain or loss are all effects of prolonged stress. Stress can even lead to food bingeing, smoking, drinking and consuming illegal substances.

>> Read more: Stress & Infertility

Start with a Mentality Makeover

As with other forms of addiction, the first step to breaking the cycle is to realize whether you feel pleasure when you say you’re stressed. Do you upstage your friends by talking about your stress when they’re complaining about theirs?

Change the way you communicate about stress. Instead of seeing who is more stressed, and hoping you win, tell a friend to “take it easy”. Suggest some downtime and go through ways you can both relax.

The third step is to purposely disconnect. You have such an agenda because your network is so huge. Step away from your PC where all forms of social networking, instant messaging programs, and communication devices are open.

Slim down. We mean your to-do list. Take as much off from your list as you can, and leave only the critical ones. Doing this will give you more time for yourself and will give you more control, a feeling that is way better than being a slave to stress.

>> Try this: Yoga is a great way to help you relax. Check out these 6 yoga positions to help you reduce stress.

Say No to Stress Pitfalls

When you are stressed, you are more likely to succumb to unhealthy behaviors. The American Psychological Association reported that seventy percent of women have poor stress solutions. Here’s how you can avoid them:

Binge-eating: If you think of a bag of chips as comfort food, munch on some nuts such as almonds instead. They’re more flavorful and are bursting with nutrients (omega -3) for your brain and body. Also, try oranges. The Vitamin C in them improves resistance.

High- energy drinks and bars: If your solution to a stressful day is a beeline to the coffee vending machine, or a quick swig of Red Bull, you may be more harried with unstable hormones and erratic energy levels later on. Take a nap to improve concentration and keep your cortisol levels normalized.

Flaming, insulting or harassing others: Irritation and short-temperedness may be caused by depleted nutrients such as calcium, zinc and copper. Take a multivitamin and step out to get some air so you can clear your head.