“Of course I’m not, how ridiculous, who would be addicted to stress?” Before you click away and tune me out:
- Is your day filled with adrenaline rushes, followed crashes and a need for a stimulant?
- Do you commit to creating some equilibrium with yoga, meditation or working out, only to have it thrown off by boredom or someone cutting you off in traffic?
- Do you work best with a tight deadline, or knowing that someone is on your tail?
Just a few examples of stress addiction cycles – we all have them.
During episode 86 of The Soulful Leader Podcast, my co-host Stephanie gives this example from her life. She says “I’ll procrastinate and procrastinate and procrastinate, and then I’ll get angry at myself. And that’ll motivate me and then I’ll have the energy to do things last minute and I get it done. And then I’m now addicted to that cycle [of achievement].”
It’s more than just a will-power thing. We are actually chemically addicted to our patterns.
When we experience any emotion (yep, stress is an emotion), our brains dump chemicals into our system appropriate to the emotion. When we’re happy, we get endorphins engendering a smile, relaxed muscles, and a good mood.
When we become stressed, we get a different set of hormones, a chemical cocktail to heighten our senses and allow us to handle the challenge before us. We get juiced by epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Our bodies literally become wired to search for that next hit of chemicals after years of subconscious wiring. Like an addict, our brain learns to look for, and even seek out, cycles of stress, procrastination, and drama.
So what do we do about it? How do we stop the cycle? It’s a chemical addiction, albeit internal, so we can look to drug and alcohol models for some options:
Option 1: Continue until you are depleted mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially. Hit rock bottom (also known as burnout), and then experience a wake up call.
Hard, but effective.
Option 2: Recognise it’s an addiction and consciously choose to do things differently. This will look different for everyone, and one definitive aspect will be going inward and bringing awareness to it.
It’s humbling to actually admit that stress addiction is an issue in your life. It was for me. I was an adrenaline junkie. To be honest, I still am – much less so than I was. Each time I notice it, I’m grateful for a chance to go deeper and claim back more of my life, my personal choice and freedom. I think that’s the biggest motivation for me. I got tired of being on the hamster wheel with my emotions running me.
Reclaiming Your Sovereignty
So you’ve decided to reclaim your sovereignty. What now? First, notice your particular tells. Procrastination is one for me, so is prowling around the fridge, and my personal favorite ‘poor me’ complaining with a high pitched, whiney voice (very attractive). For you it might be needing to vent, energy that won’t dissipate or commanding attention. Just start with one.
Ask life to make you aware of when you are in the addiction. Sounds like a silly request, and it’s essential. We most often see it after the fact, which is helpful, and the real changes happen when you are about to go into it. That’s your opportunity to break the cycle, to make another choice.
Making another choice does NOT include judging yourself. It’s all about getting curious. The path to freedom is self knowledge, not self judgment. Here are some questions you can ask when you’re in that moment of choice:
- If I really loved myself, how would I approach this?
- Am I addicted to the feeling this will produce?
- Who would I be without this addiction?
Finally, just be with it. Without judgment, fixing, or figuring. Catching yourself and asking the questions has changed the trajectory and presence releases different chemicals, literally rewiring your brain.
Here’s your cheat sheet:
Step 1. What are your triggers – ie- procrastination so you can work last minute
Step 2. Notice as you are being triggered – ie – you’re about to do something else that seems ‘really’ important in the moment
Step 3. Get curious – with love – ie – ask yourself empowering questions
Step 4. Stay present.
You are not broken.
This is not a fixing process. You are not broken.
This is a process of discovery and empowerment. You won’t ask the question, get an answer and ‘fix’ yourself overnight. Instead, this is a journey to becoming a more whole, free version of yourself. The beauty is when you’re present your body releases a different set of chemicals, chemicals that are both nourishing and healing.
Presence truly is the antidote to the addictive stress cycle – the very brain/body process that causes damage during stress, is the same process that heals your body through presence.
My challenge to you this week is to think about one place in your life where you can be honest with yourself, and you can say, “you know what, maybe that’s not the healthiest way to do that,” and start getting curious.
If I can support you on your journey, send me an email, connect with me through the contact form, or DM me on social media.
In case this is the first time we’re meeting, I’m Maren, an executive awareness coach, speaker, dancer and author empowering you to step into your purpose and live your most fulfilled life. If I can support you on your journey, contact me. Presence is a passion of mine as it’s the basis for our collective evolution. Let’s step up our consciousness, together.
To learn more about how we can work one-on-one to uncover your unique gifts and get you dancing with life, click here. For corporate training or inquiries regarding speaking engagements, please complete this form.