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Are You Addicted to Stress? The Experts Weigh In

Are You Addicted to Stress? The Experts Weigh In

    Ever since the 1980s, there has been an increasing amount of media coverage on stress-related topics. For decades, scientists, researchers, and doctors have been investigating how the human body responds to stress, and whether it is possible for some people to become addicted to stress.

    While there are no hard figures to reveal how many Americans may be suffering from stress addiction, experts do agree that people suffering from this problem face varying degrees of danger to their health.

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    Are you addicted to stress? And if so, does that mean you will be facing serious health problems down the road? Or, will you be one of the few people who benefits from stress addiction?

    The Type A Paradox

    A bevy of medical experts have noted that there are a variety of human responses to stress, and not all of them have to be negative. In fact, high-strung Type-A personalities may actually benefit from stressful lifestyles based on their genetics and lifestyle preferences.

    ”Anyone familiar with the corporate world has had experiences with driven executives who seem to thrive on stressful circumstances that most others could not tolerate,” says Dr. Waino W. Suojanen, a professor of management at Georgia State University. ”There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that some executives deliberately seek out the management life because they get a high out of controlling people. Indeed, the making of decisions seems to become addicting.”

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    So why would someone benefit from stress addiction? Dr. Robert Ader of the University of Rochester, has studied stress addiction for many years, and he explains that stress can actually have some beneficial effects on the body. ”Through our animal work we have hypothesized that it might be possible that some people might need stress because it elicits the release of catecholamines, such as adrenaline, in the blood stream, and this is not necessarily bad because it might increase resistance to some types of disease.”

    Dr. Paul J. Rosch adds that because of these unexpected health benefits of stress, prescribing the right medical treatments can be very challenging. “The Type A individual has perhaps become addicted to his own adrenaline and unconsciously seeks ways to get those little surges,” he explains.

    “The Type A individual is apt to be irritable and depressed. Thus, recuperating from a heart attack by spending three weeks on a deserted beach might be a perfect prescription for one individual, but lethal for some Type A’s, who would be ‘off the wall’ in a matter of hours.”

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    Stress and Genetics

    Stress, when combined with certain genetic factors, can increase a person’s risk for developing depression or even chronic fatigue disorder. According to Dr. David Mrazek, “People with a genetic variant of the serotonin transporter gene [are] more likely to become depressed [if] they have experienced stressful situations.”

    While he notes that the types of stress caused by childhood abuse or major medical are more likely to affect those with the genetic variant, even “the hassles of everyday life [were] associated with an increased risk of depression if a person had this genetic variant.”

    Stress While Pregnant

    Even if you are one of the rare people who thrive under stressful circumstances, all bets are off if you are a woman who becomes pregnant. Stress is arguably the most dangerous thing a pregnant woman can be exposed to. Stress during pregnancy has been linked to all kinds of ill effects for the developing baby.

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    For example, stress can cause miscarriages, lower IQ scores for babies, and can affect the development of the child’s immune system. In fact, one Harvard study revealed that children who had mothers with highly stressful pregnancies were more likely to suffer from auto-immune disease, including asthma and allergies.

    Stress Addiction Warning Signs

    According to Debbie Mandel, author of “Addicted to Stress: A Woman’s 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life”, there are many warning signs that can indicate that a person has become addicted to stress. Mandel says that if you answer “yes” to any of the questions below, you may be at risk for developing stress addiction:

    “1. Do you tune out during conversations thinking about other things?
    2. Do you feel rushed wherever you are because you feel that you ought to be completing the next task somewhere else?
    3. Do you feel uncomfortable, worried, and nervous in your mind or body when you don’t have something you must absolutely do right now?”
     
    Mandel says that clients she treats for stress addiction get hooked on the surge of adrenaline they get when rushing around, frantically trying to check off items on their to-do lists. Many stress addicts, she adds, are also using their stress to keep from dealing with feelings of inadequacy. “In the case of stress addiction, all this busyness stems from the addict’s constant need to prove the self, suppressing feelings of unattractiveness, unworthiness and inadequacy seeping out through the seams of body and soul. It is a case of compulsion versus passion,” she explains.

    Conclusion

    There are good kinds of stress, and bad kinds of stress. Falling in love definitely counts as “good stress”, and getting fired is unquestionably “bad stress”. No two causes of stress are created equal, and it also seems that no two people will have the exact same response a given stressful event.

    Even if you thrive on stress, your addiction may be putting your health at risk. As with everything in life, moderation is best. So, if you absolutely love the adrenaline rush of multi-tasking on 12 urgent projects, you need to make sure you find a little time each day to relax. Examine your motivations for reveling in stress, and make sure you balance your long-term health with your lifestyle choices.

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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