Is Stress the New Drug?

Ah, a relaxing night at home after a long day at work – running 75 mph at the office, putting out fires, deeming yourself a “Task Master.” Now would be the perfect opportunity to sit and think of absolutely nothing. Nothing? And then it hits…

But isn’t there laundry to be done…

dishes to be put away…

house to clean…

emails to be read…

My brain craves the busyness. Where can I get my next fix? Stress feels like a drug, and I think I may be addicted. I keep trying to pile more and more on my plate…why?!

There are a multitude of magazine articles about stress, how to beat stress, what causes stress, etc. There’s a good reason for that…women have been adding more and more responsibilities to their laundry (yes, pun intended) list of to-dos. Why is that? According to Valerie Burton it’s because “busyness is often based in fear—that you won’t keep up, of what others will think, of failure.” And when you feel like a failure, you continually pile on more “stuff” to do in order to feel important. Then people need you, right? While that may be true, you need you, too. But don’t just add “you” onto your already existing busy schedule—make a change; otherwise you run the risk of burning out. If you’re burnt out you’re no good to yourself, or anyone for that matter.

So what can you do?

Give yourself a break. Put everything into perspective. Yes, the dishes need to be done; yes, the laundry is piling up, but can it wait one more day, one more hour? Your health is much more important. Taking the time to really unwind is (and should be, needs to be) priority. After all, what good is a pissed off, upset, over sensitive, [insert your usual emotion here] you?

Here are some things to try when you’re feeling like you may overdose on stress:

  1. 20 minutes per day for mindful meditation.  You can also try taking moments of mindfulness per Annie McKee’s suggestion.
  2. Listen for the wake-up calls! Sometimes you’re not going to be able to calm yourself down and you may just be stuck in sacrifice syndrome.  It happens, you’re human! Listen to your friends and family when they say you are too busy and you looked stress. You may not want to hear it, but you need to hear it. Your body will give you signs too and since you only get one of them, take care of it.
  3. Keep track of your time so you can properly assess whether or not time is the issue. Don’t tell yourself you’re behind schedule and busy unless you have a realistic understanding of what your schedule really entails. (a.k.a. keep yourself in check.)
  4. Once you know your schedule, add “worry” to it. I know that seems crazy, but according to a journal article in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, exposing yourself to worry is actually beneficial. Why not face your fear? It works for people who are scared of heights.
  5. This last one works well for me, but be aware of procrastination. Watch a mindless TV show. It’s a counter-productive tool, but hey, sometimes we just need to veg.
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One Response to Is Stress the New Drug?

  1. Claudia says:

    I want to hear more of this. Just discovered you through the Stanford website. I’ll be back.

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