Addiction to Stress

By Desmond Yeoh SC

Dr. Heidi Hanna in her article for the American Institute of Stress wrote, “stress may even be as addictive as drugs. In addition to the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline, stress also releases dopamine, a ‘feel good’ chemical. Dopamine encourages repeat behaviours by activating the reward center in our brain and may be at the heart of many addictive behaviours and substance abuse issues”.

Mild stress is actually good as it overcomes lethargy or the tendency to indulge in a sedentary lifestyle; but excessive and prolong exposure can be damaging. Dr Heidi went on to explain, “In fact, a 20 year study by the University of London completed in the early 1990s found that unmanaged reactions to stress were a more dangerous risk factor for cancer and heart disease than either cigarette smoking or high-cholesterol foods”.

We need to observe ourselves to determine if we show signs of addiction to stress. Here are some the indicators:

  • Being a workaholic
  • Fault finding and frequently getting into arguments
  • Difficulty in doing nothing at all
  • Leaving things to the last minute
  • Running from one activity to another even during your rest days
  • Constantly worrying or being angry at others (the mind uses anxiety and anger to trigger stress)
  • Love risky activities like roller coaster rides or bungee jumping

The stress in our life needs to be balanced. Just like in traditional Chinese medicine, the Ying and Yang, and the basic elements need to be kept in balance. The same principle applies in Ayurveda.

If we find ourselves being addicted to stress, then it is fine time to reverse this negative habit. Addressing negative habits is difficult at the beginning but gets easier over time. To overcome this addiction to stress, we simply need to slow down. However, the inertia will be stronger in the beginning just like a speeding car takes time to come to a halt.

This is why many of us find meditation and spiritual practices difficult. We claim that there is no time for practice but it is actually our addiction to stress that deludes us to think so. If we are honest with ourselves, we will see that we engage in many useless time-wasting activities which could have been better spent on our spiritual activities.

Meditation and spiritual practices are effective tools to overcome our addiction to stress. Over time, spiritual practitioners find that inner-peace is more pleasant that excitement. It is certainly better for our health.

External factors will sometimes increase our stress levels. If we do not seek out stress and maintain it at low levels, we will be better at facing difficult and stressful situations. When our stress levels are constantly kept at the brim, even a minor stressful event can cause panic or unreasonable reactions.

street tree nature wallpaper

In addition to our spiritual practices, calming activities such as reading, walking alone in the park or gardening can help us to slow down and overcome our addiction to stress; and smell the fragrance of inner-peace.

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