Why stress is as addictive as sex

We all do it don’t we? Get up early for work, scoff a crappy sandwich for lunch. Go for a few beers after work which sometimes, (if you’re lucky) turns into a drinking binge and an awesome night out.

We get up and we get on with it. Sometimes we get sick, sometimes we get tired, but we keep pushing. And if you’ve got kids, well there’s no such thing as a day off. Even when someone else looks after them for you, you’re still worrying about them. Worrying did you remember to wash their uniforms or pack their favourite teddy that they can’t possibly sleep without? Is it going to rain, is it going to be sunny will they be too hot or too cold? We push and we push until one day you wake up broken and are too tired or ill to push on. But if you’re anything like me, well, even that won’t keep you down for long. Because some of us (inadvertently) thrive on doing it all.

When life becomes tough it can feel overwhelming and some people crack under the weight. But oh, how dangerous it is, when you learn to love it. To thrive under pressure, to push yourself to the limit and win. To do those extra few push ups at the gym. To run that extra mile. To go to one more shop before it closes, to leave all your Christmas shopping to the last minute.

Some of us are hunters by nature. Some of us are warriors. Some of us avoid pain and stress (Like nurtures and gatherers) and some of us, well, we god damn thrive on it. 

Now if you’re a nurturer or a gatherer you won’t get it. Why would anyone enjoy pain? But you too will fall victim to the ‘pushing it’ rule. Because it’s what we’re taught at school.

Did you ever notice that no matter how well you did at school there was always another hurdle to jump? You got put into a higher set. Moved to the top of the class. Passed that exam? Here’s a harder one. No matter how hard you try the goal posts were always moved. And while yes sometimes it makes you thrive academically, it also makes you stressed as hell as a teenager.

Did you know children as age 12 and are be prescribed antidepressants?

Stress, is addictive. Did you know?

Did you know that cortisol makes your heart pump faster, your eyes dilate. Your lungs crave more oxygen as the fight or flight response trips, so your breathing increases. Your skin becomes flushed and when you achieve something you thought you wouldn’t be able to do, your body dumps a load of dopamine into the mix.

So you get that lovely high.

That sense of achievement. Of a job well done.

You know that lovely feeling of calm that settles over your racing heart?

Well that’s addictive.

Wanna know why?

Because all these symptoms are the same ones that happen during sex!

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Do you see now, why maybe; just maybe,

you might be addicted to stress?

Addicted to that lovely, adrenal fueled high?

I know, shocker right?

So what’s a girl (or boy) to do? Well congratulations, you’ve took the first step.

You are now aware that actually the reason why you push and push and push, is because you’re addicted to the high that you get from being stressed. The rush you get from beating the odds. Of achieving that unachievable deadline or goal.

And it’s such an easy trap to fall into because we are conditioned for it at school. Why do you think children aren’t allowed to be off school sick? It has nothing to do with education. Finland has one of the best education system in the world, and they only go to school for 4 hours a day and have no homework. They study the arts and music just as much as literature and language. And their educational results are phenomenal.

We are taught at a young age that stress is an ok state to live in. But it’s not.

It’s not normal at all.

Because it makes you tired and cranky and irritable. It increases health risks including heart disease. So my love, you’ve got to learn to chill out. And I don’t mean the smoked herbal kind of chill out.

I mean you need to take an actual look at your life and see where exactly you are stressed, why you continue to live in that emotional state; and more importantly, what you need do about it.

You have to make time to rest. And I don’t just mean get pissed more often with your mates. That’s blowing off steam, which is great. Laughter is a huge balm to the soul.

But you really do need to learn to stop pushing all the time. I’ll bet when you take a good long look at where you are most stressed in your life, you’ll find a lot of it is self inflicted.

Always late for the school run or work? Get up earlier, don’t faff round.

Hate your job? Why haven’t you gone for a nicer one?

Money stress? Why did it end up out of control? Not who’s fault it was, but what can you do about it now?

Feel agitated during the day? Eat little and often to maintain your blood sugar levels then you won’t turn into a Hangry Monster

To be honest, I’m the worst one for it. And it took me a long time to realise that I thrive on stress and as a result I self sabotage in order to get that high. So I force myself not to.

And its damn hard.

But just like happiness, stress is also a choice.

You can’t change what’s happening to you, but you can change how you respond to it.

You are the master of your fate and the captain of your soul as Henley so eloquently put it.

So don’t let life push you about, especially when you are the one doing all the pushing.

Stop. Take a step back.

And a deep breath.

And choose peace.

I don’t meditate (im far too busy) I don’t do yoga (it makes me sleepy) I don’t drink green tea to relax (can’t stand the stuff. Black coffee is my drug of choice. And it’s got more antioxidant properties in it anyway) but I do force myself to be still.

And it’s bloody hard.

Yesterday, I spent the entire day slouching round in my hoody reading an awesome fantasy book. (when my kids weren’t trying to eat it) and it helped. It really does. But I’ll be honest. It was hard work to do nothing all day. It goes so totally against my nature. And I’ll be totally honest. Im not all about the flowers and rainbows and mantras (oh my!) I grew up on a council estate for gods sake. Despite the day of rest I’m still tired (4  kids people!) and I do still feel a bit drained.

But do you know, I’m not angry today. Im not ratty with my kids or irritated by the cue in the shop. Because yesterday I knew I had to stop before I pushed myself too far.

I’m learning to slow down because you can achieve it all.

Everything you’ve set out to do.

You will get there. You don’t need to push.

You can stop and smell the flowers or listen to the birds sing.

Time is relative and really it’s the only true thing of value you really have. So don’t fill up your time with stress.

And as ironic as it sounds,

Force yourself to find peace,

Because when you’re relaxed, it’ll all flow to you anyway.