Addiction, Exercise, Health, Health Education, Nutrition, Overexercise, Psychology, Self-Care, Spiritual Journey, Yoga

Addicted To Stress & What To Do About It

Are you hooked on being wired and stressed out?

If you experienced childhood trauma, eating disorder, depression, anxiety, and/or other mental illness(es) early on in life, or if your sweet mom was stressed out during her pregnancy, you are probably addicted to stress!

If you resonate with all of the above, you are not alone!

Me too.

It’s not as dire as you think.

I mean it is serious. You need to be aware of why you are the way you are, and what behaviors aggravate this inborn tendency towards stress.

To be clear, there is no going back in time, wishing things were different, or blaming anyone for where you’re at now.

You have control in the choices you make NOW to lower your predilection to stress. It is up to you to take action, and chill out.

How The Tendency Towards Stress Manifests: My Experience

Stressful Relationships

Before I was really self-aware (high school and college years), I magnetized stressful relationships. I attracted partners that were straight-up abusive and sociopathic.

These relationships re-enacted childhood trauma and dysfunctional family dynamics. It’s like I had this incessant need to re-experience trauma and re-create abuse from this lifetime, and possibly from previous lifetimes.

These were extremely painful times, but absolutely necessary experiences to help me wake up to deeply ingrained behavior patterns that did not and still do not serve me.

Admittedly, I am still shy to jump into serious romantic relationships based on these traumatizing experiences. I know this is an area that needs healing, attention, openness, and additional work.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Again, in earlier, less self-aware times, I gravitated towards drugs and alcohol to ease the stress I felt.

Basically, I self-medicated social anxiety and feelings of low self-esteem as well as acute existential angst.

This existential angst took the form of questioning the meaning of life (e.g. what’s the point of all this?), feeling disconnected from God/religion/spirituality, and feeling an enormous amount of anxiety about how to show up in the world as a productive person.

I felt empty all the time, and sought to fill this emptiness with short-term pleasure from various addictions.

These addictions, in turn, brought in more stress to my relationships. I made poor decisions under the influence of drugs and alcohol and harmed others. Additionally, I surrounded myself with people who were active in their addictions and harmed me too.

Caffeine Addiction

Caffeine addiction set in when I was around 15 years old. It’s been something I’ve worked with on and off, even after letting go of alcohol and drugs.

It’s SO socially acceptable and engrained in western culture that it is a hard one to release.

Combine social, cultural, and advertising forces promoting caffeine addiction with the temporary increase in caffeine-induced confidence, creativity, feelings of interconnectedness, and energy…it’s a miracle anyone doesn’t use caffeine!

The problem with caffeine is that it disrupts sleep quality, boosts cortisol (stress hormone), drains the kidneys and adrenals, and has many other harmful effects.

Caffeine addiction consistently set me up for crazy emotional imbalances, food cravings, fatigue, insomnia, and poor judgment.

Like a true addict, my coffee consumption can go from 0 to 2 liters in less than two months.

The last time I quit coffee cold-turkey (December 3, 2018) I had full-on withdrawal for a few days. Headaches, flu symptoms, nausea, and extreme fatigue flooded my system.

I totally empathize with those who don’t quit to avoid withdrawal, because it can really suck. However, it’s 100% worth it!

Now, I wake up naturally around 5-6am, go to bed early (easily before 10pm), feel rested when I wake up, have steady energy throughout the day, and don’t rely on coffee or caffeinated tea at all.

That being said, I’m not a purist! I still have 2 tbsp of cacao every day in my radmagical Hot Cocoa Recipe. Otherwise, I’m caffeine-free.

See what works for your body.

As a rule of thumb, less caffeine is better for those addicted to stress and those with high cortisol, chronic fatigue, or adrenal fatigue.

Exercise Addiction

Again, this is one of those lingering addictions that is socially acceptable and hard to shake. You can seem like a perfectly healthy person and still be addicted to exercise.

Certain vegan and raw vegan communities and promoters encourage and applaud exercise addiction. The justification is that humans should be athletes, because we are not meant to be sedentary creatures, and because clean eating increases energy levels. The more you exercise, the more nutritious plant-based food you can eat.

I don’t think this is particularly helpful advice, seeing as many people drawn to a vegan and especially raw vegan diet have backgrounds in disordered eating and exercise addiction.

Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but need not be excessive.

I find the advice of Dr. Michael Greger–who actually reviews scientific literature and doesn’t just make grandiose unsupported claims–to be healthy and balanced.

Dr. Greger recommends 90 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (e.g. walking, yoga) OR 40 minutes of high intensity exercise (e.g. jogging, active sports) per day.

Watch this video (start at 4:50) to see what constitutes moderate versus high intensity exercise.

What this looks like for me: I do about 15 minutes of HIIT (high intensity interval training) plus 80 minutes of hot power yoga per day. If I feel I need a day off, I TAKE IT!

To learn more about my experience with exercise addiction, go here.

Stressful Lifestyle

Moving & Travel

This is a fun one. Sure, life has stress built into it, but I have a habit of making my life more stressful wherever and whenever possible!

Since 2003, I have not lived in one spot for more than four years (most places less than 2 years).

I have packed and unpacked apartments and other living spaces more than I care to share.

I lived out of a backpack for nearly two years.

Traveling is fun, but it is also stressful to find your next spot to sleep and figure out how you’re going to get there. The challenges compound when you are living off savings and not making an income while abroad. More on money later!

Nomadic living requires a lot of constant shifting around, which is exciting and adventurous, but also quite draining.

It can be incredibly ungrounding to not have a home base.

Daily health habits can be very challenging to maintain.

Career & Education

Stress addicts may also choose a very stressful career path.

For me, this manifested as choosing to attend a cutthroat clinical psychology doctorate program.

People told me that professors and students would play all kinds of mind games to try to emotionally break me.

Let me tell you: they totally did!!

I think it depends on your program and area of training, of course. My program was not holistically minded at all and was very traditional.

Eating bananas and treating the whole person instead of just a diagnosis, I felt like an alien.

I thought it was absolutely nonsensical that a training program for psychotherapists (HEALERS) would be so psychologically dysfunctional and abusive.

How I dressed, how I ate, how I conducted myself — it was all judged, scrutinized, and scorned.

The program also brought out a very competitive, manipulative side of myself that I am not necessarily trying to cultivate!

Money Problems

If you are like me, then you didn’t learn financial literacy in high school, college, or graduate school.

Take a moment and feel the anger and rage of being cheated of extremely useful and absolutely necessary information to being a healthy, happy, sustainable, productive individual in the modern world.

Ok, now that that is over with. Let me share what happened to me.

I took out student loans without a clue about what that actually meant. I had absolutely no financial education, and thought that it would be a good idea to have some extra money throughout graduate school to pay for living expenses.

Fast forward two years into my schooling, and I realized I HATED it. I left after my masters in psychology, which is basically a useless credential that cannot be licensed to practice as a therapist in any state.

Thus, I had no solid career path with which I could pay off over $35,000 in loans.

I know many other graduates and drop-outs of higher education have come out with much more debt than me. Sending you love and understanding now!

I avoided learning about money for nearly three years after leaving school. Even though I turned a blind eye to my debt, it weighed on me like a ton of horse poo.

Even with loan consolidation and 20-year loan forgiveness under Obama, 20 years is A LONG TIME to not make enough money to pay off student loans, letting interest grow and grow, and having the burden of owing a truckload of money on your weary shoulders.

I’ve learned that the two kinds of bad debt are: student loans and credit card debt. If you are a stress junkie, chances are you have one or both of these.

What To Do If You Are A Stress Addict

Be honest with yourself. Take an inventory of the ways you are stressing yourself out.

  • How are your relationships?
  • What addictions are active in your life?
  • What life circumstances are particularly stressful for you?

Honesty and awareness are absolutely necessary before changes can be made.

When you are ready to take action, get support!

Therapists, 12-step groups, spiritual communities, health coaches, support groups, massage therapists, acupuncturists, holistic doctors, and other healers can be extremely helpful.

It is EXTREMELY important to work with a healer of your choice and find a support group if you are releasing addiction(s). Your likelihood of lasting success will increase if you do so. Your journey will be less painful and much safer with the support of a trained professional and/or group of individuals going through a similar experience.

You may want to get full blood work and urinalysis done to see what’s going on with your physical health. Check on your liver, kidneys, adrenals, and stress hormones in the overall context of any nutritional deficiencies, food allergies, and the function and status of the other organs, blood, and hormones.

Create your own synergystic healing team and schedule. This may include a weekly support group, ongoing support from a holistic doctor and/or health coach, monthly massages, bi-weekly acupuncture, daily yoga and meditation practice, daily hot baths, and more.

Reasonably Adjust The Structure of Your Life.

Are there ways you are making things harder for yourself?

How can you reorganize things in a reasonable way to make life less stressful?

For example, I don’t necessarily mean to quit your job if you hate it! This might make your life more stressful if you can’t afford to do so.

Instead, begin to seek out other methods of making money to gradually transition out of your job, if you have selected an extremely stressful career that does not feel right for you.

Alternatively, begin a yoga and meditation practice to counterbalance the stress of your career, if it is something you are passionate about and committed to.

If You Have Money Problems, Don’t Ignore Them!

Let your mistakes teach you what you need to learn. Get financially educated ASAP to reduce your money stress.

My favorite financial educator is Robert Kiyosaki. Get started with your financial education by reading his best-selling book Rich Dad Poor Dad.

I swear you won’t be bored to death. This was the first financial book I actually read cover to cover. I finished it in two days. You can do it!

Attend To The Other Elements Of Healthy Living.

Of course, clean up your diet.

Make sure the other elements of healthy lifestyle are in place, such as adequate hydration, recreation, sunshine, and fresh air.

Are you serious about improving your health?

Get my free book here. 

Do you want ongoing support in achieving your health goals?

Check out the coaching that I offer here. 

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