Being manically busy, never having time for yourself, always on email or social media, working round the clock. These behaviours are so typical of the response we have to the 24/7 expectations from society today – and are often prized as a sign of a living a full, meaningful life. Stress can often infiltrate our lives and become what seems a modern-day, must-have accessory.
But is it really?
The statistics on stress in the UK reveal that up to 24 working days per year can be lost by a person suffering from it. Stress can be the precursor to so many other mental health issues – such as anxiety and depression – as well as physical or psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches, insomnia and gut issues (to name just a few).
While stress is very much part of anyone’s life, there is a difference between tolerating and dealing with the stressful moments that life throws us – and actively encouraging stress to keep us going because we NEED that adrenaline rush to get us through the day.
Stress addiction isn’t recognised by the DSM-V – the manual that psychiatrists use to diagnose mental health disorders. However, it may be helpful to consider a definition of addiction as defined by addiction resource centre mentalhealth.net:
“Addiction is the repeated involvement with a substance or activity, despite the substantial harm it now causes, because that involvement was (and may continue to be) pleasurable and/or valuable.”
While no one is suggesting stress is pleasurable or valuable, it may begin to become a sensation or state that becomes necessary to survive the everyday. Too much stress triggers a flood of adrenaline that keeps us in fight-or-flight survival mode – and sometimes it’s hard to remember what it’s like to run without running full pelt through life. That adrenaline-fuelled state can become a habit – and that highly strung state can begin to feel ‘normal’.
If you’re concerned that stress may becoming too much of a habit for you, here’s how to spot some of the behaviours…
Some signs of stress addiction
- You’re quick to anger when things don’t go your way, exactly the way you want them, or in the time frame that you need them.
- You’re feeling intolerant of anything or anyone that, in your view, falls short of your highest standards.
- You are always late – and need the stress of running late to wake you up and get you going. You may even find yourself dawdling so you end up having to run to get your bus/train etc.
- You love the thrill of a deadline, to the point that you push it through an ‘all-nighter’ for the thrill of only-just achieving it.
- You take on multiple assignments and feel pleased, but also depleted, about having so much to do.
- Someone asks how you are, and your typical reply is: “Busy. Stressed. As always.” And you feel proud and smug that you are so occupied.
- Your diary is so busy, and you’re secretly pleased you have friends waiting for your social windows to become free.
- You dread time on your own, and you feel restless without a packed to-do list.
- You hate weekends without back-to-back social engagements.
- You fear that if you stop the busyness you won’t know what’s left.
If you want to tackle your stress addiction…
This may involve a change of mindset. Can you begin to consider your life without the adrenaline buzz? Is stress becoming too much for you, and are you beginning to sabotage your health and your relationships?
Slowing down and relaxing more is the first step to tackling your addiction. Easier said than done when stress is your substance of choice. If you start to see relaxation as a job to be done, this may help you to reframe your down time as something more than wasted time.
If you know at heart you would like to be able to live a calmer, less stressed life, then our therapists can help you identify ways to make those changes. Take that first step by calling 020 8673 4545 or emailing [email protected]