How often have you bemoaned the fact that you are too busy to take a vacation or even the weekend off because of having to deal with work pressure and deadlines? Let’s take a minute to pause and think a little more about the frequent complaints you have about how busy you are.
Let’s look further into these thought-provoking statements.
Some experts state that stress is self-imposed and addictive; that you are willingly seeking out the adrenaline rush behind meeting deadlines or handling the flurry of incoming work. Both emotional and physical stress activates your central nervous system, causing a natural high, according to Concordia University neuroscientist and addiction specialist Jim Pfaus. “By activating your arousal and attention systems,” Pfaus says, “stressors can also wake up the neural circuitry underlying wanting and craving — just like drugs do.”
In a Time magazine article, stress management specialist Debbie Mandel talks about people most likely to get a high from stressful situations. These are type A personalities who are prone to competitiveness and a constant sense of urgency, as well as type D personalities who are susceptible to anxiety, negativity and depression. According to Mandel, so called stress addicts “may also be using endless to-do lists to avoid less-easy-to-itemize problems — feelings of inadequacy, family conflicts, or other unresolved personal issues.” If you look deeper, maybe you will see that the feeling of being busy elevates your sense of importance and self-worth. Maybe cramming every moment with work is a means by which you don’t have to think about larger issues or avoid facing yourself.
Mandel explains that people who are chronically stressed have difficulty listening to others, concentrating, and even sleeping because they can’t put tomorrow’s agenda out of their minds. Others tend to use exaggerated vocabulary like craaazy busy or workload is insane, and even feel anxious at the mere thought of slowing down their schedule. Some may seek out stress a bit more excessively than others and struggle to just relax. It takes skill to handle hectic agendas and long lists of responsibilities, without losing sleep or feeling frazzled.
Ultimately, this may explain why some people like stress a little too much! Could it be that to some degree, you are unknowingly addicted to stress and actually enjoy the feeling and would be bored without it? You may believe that moderate amounts of stress actually boost your productivity by bringing focus and energy to get the job done. However, this is a common misconception and you need to realize how your health is being adversely affected and take corrective measures.
Side effects of stress
The list of negative side effects of stress are long and range from physical to mental health issues. An article from the Healthline newsletter states that from early aging to heart problems and cancer, the effects of the day-in, day-out grind can damage your health in irreversible ways. The article also cites a recent study by neuroscientists at New York University that stress makes it difficult to control your emotions. “Our results suggest that even mild stress, such as that encountered in daily life, may impair the ability to use cognitive techniques known to control fear and anxiety,” lead author Candace Raio said in a press release. Chronic stress can be a factor in a range of behaviors like overeating or not eating enough, alcohol or drug abuse, social withdrawal, depression etc.
There are ways to break this unhealthy cycle and as with any addiction, recognizing that you have this craving is the first step down the road to recovery.
So what is the solution for reducing stress?
An enlightened master, Paramahamsa Nithyananda, who hails from South India, advises us to just ‘be’ wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Rather than succumbing to stress which is in fact resisting the flow of life and expecting things to work out the way you want it to, take a different approach. Try instead to look at life from different perspectives, learn to go with the flow of life and be fluid in handling events as they occur. Learn to understand and adapt to the situation as it arises and reduce the friction. He explains that stress in any form, whether eustress or distress, is harmful to the body.
We all know what distress is – it is negative stress which causes anxiety, decreases performance, can lead to mental and physical problems as we perceive we can’t cope. This can be caused by a variety of problems like loss of a loved one through death or divorce, health problems, wealth and legal issues etc.
There is also a version called eustress or positive stress, which is supposed to motivate, focus energy and improve performance. This is brought on by major events in life such as taking on a new job, buying a home, welcoming a child into the family etc. However, these seemingly happy events still trigger eustress that is detrimental to our physical and mental well being. All forms of stress will cause wear and tear in you because your body does not know to discriminate between distress and eustress.
A 20 year study by the University of London completed in the early 1990s found that unmanaged reaction to stress was a more dangerous risk factor for cancer and heart disease than cigarette smoking or high cholesterol foods. Once health is affected, it causes a vicious circle of increasing stress levels which in turn completes the cycle of damaging your health further. Research conducted jointly by the Harvard School of Public Health and NPR revealed that a majority of respondents reported that poor health, either their own or that of a family member, was a major cause of feeling highly stressed.
Let us learn to take a moment to exhale and reduce stress before it affects our health beyond repair. Take time to stop and smell the roses – to experience and appreciate what you’ve accomplished!
Following is a clip where Paramahamsa Nithyananda talks about dealing with stress.