Are You a “Stress Addict?”
Our current environment has turned many of us into stress addicts, and it is really not our fault. We were originally conditioned to react to stress as a life or death scenario. Stress meant being chased by a lion ready to kill for his dinner, or some other death-defying threats of nature. Now we have traffic, bills, workouts and computer screens that elicit the same physiological and psychological stress responses, except the stresses are all around us and not really life threatening, but they elicit the same type of stress response. The current problem is that it is difficult to control our stress response, so our reaction to being late for work can mimic a life threatening event like running for your life! For some people, doing this on a regular basis makes the stress start to feel good so that they actually create tension by doing things last minute, rushing, forgetting, and it all snowballs into a big wad of stress! Some of us thrive on this feeling, but in the end it is chronic and an unhealthy place to be. Ongoing, chronic stress has a negative effect on our health if we don’t promptly change our lifestyle choices and readjust our conventional thinking about the way we live our lives.
First of all, identify if you are running high on stress and liking it. Do you “HAVE to” clean the house? Do you “HAVE to” work out? Do you “HAVE to”, “have to”, “have to”…you get the picture. Here is a small survey you can take to assess your own stress.
Then find out how to correct the problem. Identifying your stress levels and doing something about them are two different things. Often folks don’t realize they are in a harmful stress cycle until they start to feel unreasonably fatigued. What has happened is that your brain has become resistant and has stopped paying attention to the signals from the stress hormone, cortisol, and therefore is not signaling the body to stop cortisol secretion. Thus the hormone is released with no regulation and eventually the body’s ability to produce the hormone slows, and….we…..get……tired.
A good start in solving stress addiction is to journal your schedule and make notes on how you feel. Do you feel better after working out, but then crash? Do some foods make you feel sub-par? Is your sleep quality good, and are you getting enough? If you are noticing that some, or all of these factors are “off”, you are probably in, or headed down the chronic stress pathway. You may decide to find a Functional Medicine Practitioner and purchase an Adrenal Stress Panel. This is an objective tool to see if your cortisol hormone is in balance with your other hormones. Whether you have the Adrenal Stress Panel done or not, you will need to be patient and get your lifestyle in order, meaning, getting the correct amount of exercise (not too much), eating a gut-friendly diet, going to bed early (before 10 pm if possible), and finally, scheduling some quiet time for internal silence.
The key to helping yourself is introspection; if you don’t trust that in yourself then ask the people who are close to you. Are you constantly rushed? Are you over-scheduled? Are you psycho about your workouts? The people around you generally have a clear view of what is going on from the outside-looking-in, and you should listen to them, unless, of course, they are also riding the stress high same as you. The tables might be turned!
I have given you some tools to both self-assess your stress levels and break the chronic stress loop. There are serious consequences to chronic stress in the form of future disease. Reducing stress and adjusting your lifestyle just might be the healthiest thing you can do for yourself! As I always say, don’t take my word for it, inform yourself! I hope this article will help motivate you to investigate so you can live Strong, Healthy, and Happy.