Despite the plethora of articles written about stress and the negative effects of it, many of us still can’t manage to get the proverbial ‘stress monkey’ off our backs.
Everyday I hear scores or women talk about how stressed they are, or how anxiety-ridden they feel. But why? Why have our lives become increasingly stressful, despite the various tips, tricks, hacks and information overload that we receive about how to minimize stress in our lives?
I have a theory…and though it may not be popular, I’m going to reveal it anyways.
I believe that we live in constant states of stress because deep down we like it. Now by like it, I don’t mean we like it the way we like chocolate or french fries. I mean like it in the sense that living in stressful states helps us to affirm who we are. We value being viewed as hard working, constantly busy or always scurrying around on our lunches or after work. And the more we stress, the more it becomes habitual so we end up seeking out more of it–like working ridiculously long hours or carting our kids around to countless activities after work. As a result, we become addicted to the heightened state. Stress addicts move on autopilot from one activity to the next. They think that a packed schedule equates to success, but it most often leads to being too busy or too tired to enjoy the beauty of life.
I’ve often wondered why so many people complain about feeling stressed, but then continue to take on more of it. When I pose this question, I’m often met with, ‘but, my kids love hockey’….or baseball or soccer or dance…’ Or, ‘I have to send my child to every birthday party or they’ll feel left out’…Or: ‘I can’t say no’…
But chronic stress and its hormonal signal, cortisol, can make you overweight, cranky, and bloated. Living in a constant state of fight or flight can cause cortisol to work against us not to mention a whole host of other issues that can come along with it.
The first step to combatting stress addiction is to learn how to say ‘no’. Understand that there are many things that we can’t control such as work obligations or school commitments. But there are also a lot of things that we can control like the amount of extracurricular activities that we put our kids into. Look, bottom line is that you can’t complain about how stressed you feel when a large portion of it is self-inflicted. Instead, carve out a set time daily where you seek out solitude and meditate. Next, reevaluate what activities are worth your time and then choose them accordingly.