Is Your Stress a Habit?
Our lives today are filled with things that keep us busy and distracted. We obsess over our cell phones: talking, texting, tweeting, checking Facebook and surfing the internet. We're working longer hours and have less time off. When we do take vacations, it's generally rushing to a location so we can participate in activities that keep us busy.
Our frantic lives have become a habit. We have a need to fill every waking moment with activity. When we don't have anything to do, we feel anxious, panicked and seek to do anything that will relieve the discomfort. This craving to be productive has spun out of control.
We can actually become addicted to the adrenaline rush that stress provides. Many people become adrenaline junkies, seeking thrills in ever dangerous sports so that they get their hit of this chemical. Once we've reached this high level of stress, our ability to think things through, reason, be creative and learn decreases.
We can become addicted to the habit of stress. A habit is formed by doing the same thing over and over until it becomes automatic. Not only do we get a physical jolt of adrenalin from it, but we also receive emotional rewards. And a habit tied to an emotional benefit can become hard to change.
Some of the benefits to chronic stress include:
Stress caused by our own busyness is a choice. We make decisions every hour of the day that contribute to the pressure we feel. Some of it is caused by trying to control every aspect of our lives. Trying to be perfect also pushes us to feel overwhelmed. Neither of these is realistic or constructive.
Like any habit, it's uncomfortable when we begin to break it. Some people get panicky when they first start to relax. It feels unfamiliar, unnerving and unsafe.
It takes a change of perspective before the habit can be altered. We have to realize that our mindset and decisions have helped create the stress that we've been exhibiting. Then we have to be willing to handle the things we've been avoiding.
Here are five steps to break the habit of chronic stress:
1. Become aware of what you're doing that's causing you to be so busy and pressured.
2. Learn what the benefit of it is for you, and decide if it's worth the eventual burnout and exhaustion.
3. Address whatever emotional reason has pushed you to be so busy.
4. Let go of some of the control that you've been exerting in your life. Delegate to others and let them run with the project. Accept that everything isn't going to be perfect. Don't look at your cell phone more than once an hour. When you're with someone at a restaurant, if your phone rings, let it go to voicemail.
5. Take time outs. Do deep breathing, learn mindfulness meditation, practice yoga, do relaxation exercises, exercise. These all work by switching on another physical system that naturally reduces stress.
When you begin to practice these steps, you may feel strange and uneasy. That's normal. But the physical, mental and emotional benefits are well worth the effort. You'll be able to think clearer and have more resources to deal with the challenges of your life. Feeling centered will become more natural.
Breaking a habit is rarely easy. You have to perform new actions consistently over and over until you've created a new behavior. However, once you have them instilled in your life, you'll find that your life is much happier and healthier.
Copyright © 2009-2017 Linda Ann Stewart
As a speaker, personal and professional development coach, and hypnotherapist, Linda-Ann Stewart helps business and professional women who feel stuck, immobilized and overwhelmed to focus, prioritize and break through so they build more business and create a consistent income. Sign up for her FREE guide, "Take Control of Your Day," at www.Linda-AnnStewart.com/guide-takecontrol.html.You can contact her at LAS@Linda-AnnStewart.com or 928-600-0452.
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