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Friday, October 9, 2009

Addicted to Stress

Most of us are so busy these days, juggling our careers, time with family, time to see friends, running errands, and taking care of so many personal and social activities that we hardly notice that we're caught up in a pattern of being busy all of the time. Our days are filled with stress and our nights can find us tossing and turning, unable to turn off our minds long enough to get a restful sleep.


Addicted to Stress
A certain amount of stress is optimal for being creative, striving to do our best, and accomplishing our daily activities. As long as we're alive and breathing, there's no such thing as being completely stress free. The problem arises when we become addicted to that caffeine-fueled, adrenaline high that comes with keeping ourselves constantly moving and doing without taking time to relax and to just be. Without our even realizing it, it can become a way of life that eventually has us feeling burnt out, emotionally and spiritually bankrupt, and not knowing who we are any more.

Addicted to Stress:  Too Much Coffee
Like any addiction, an addiction to a constant adrenaline high that comes from being busy all of the time is usually a sign that we're trying to avoid dealing with our feelings, emotionally numbing ourselves out so that we don't experience whatever pain, emptiness or difficult feelings that we'd rather not feel. Underneath it all, there may be a fear of "I'm not good enough." And just like any other addiction, stress addiction feeds on having more and more stress. The type and level of activities that used to give us the adrenaline rush no longer gives us that high and we need more.

Sally Kempton in Yoga Journal - Stress Addiction
In this Yoga Journal, Sally Kempton had an excellent article called Busyness Plan She gives useful tips on how we can stop the cycle of stress addiction so that we can live happier and more peaceful lives. Even if you're not ready to commit to a regular regime of yoga and meditation, her suggestions for how to stop to experience the "gaps" between activities can be a very valuable lesson for us to get out of that "busy" mindset all of the time and to enjoy life more. (Also, see her web site: http://www.sallykempton.com/).

The first step in overcoming an addiction to stress is developing your awareness about your need to keep yourself on the go all of the time without taking even a few minutes to rest and relax in between. This first step can be challenging and, like any addiction, you might be faced with your own denial. Once you've become more aware, acknowledge that this is what you're doing. And the third step is to take some form of action to change your behavior. No matter how small a step it is, like taking a five-minute walk at lunch time, it's a valuable step to interrupting your usual pattern of living a high stress existence.

For people who might have a hard time sitting still long enough to do a sitting meditation, doing a walking meditation where you engage as many of your senses as possible is a good way to start:

Walk in a park or at a beach or somewhere pleasant in your neighborhood, look around and really notice what's in your environment--the colors, the shapes and textures of things. Engage your other senses: What do you smell? What do you hear? What sensations do you feel (the warmth of the sun on your skin, the breeze that blows your hair, etc)?

Cultivating a Sense of Mindfulness
Cultivating a sense of mindfulness will take you out of your head and help you to de-stress. After a time, getting off the adrenaline high will eventually improvement your sense of well-being and the quality of your relationships.

Cultivating a Sense of Mindfulness
More than likely, it will help you to tune into your core self, that part of you that resides at the depth of your being that knows what's best for you. Along the way, you might have to deal with whatever uncomfortable feelings that you've been avoiding by emotionally numbing yourself out, but you'll also be more likely to experience the richness of your good feelings more deeply as well.

I'm a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and coach in NYC. I have helped many clients to develop stress management strategies that have enhanced their lives.

To find out more about me, visit my web site: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, you can call me at (212) 726-1006.

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