Are You Addicted to Stress?

Are You Addicted to Stress?

By Bryan Le 09/06/12

Stress, which affects 22% of Americans on a regular basis, may be just as stimulating and addictive as a drug.

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Where am I going to get more stress?
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Stress—that overwhelming force that seems to drive America—is a mixed bag. Stress has been found to increase our risk of cancer and other diseases, yet it can also "boost our focus, energy and even our powers of intuition," according to Time. Addictions are known to both relieve, and cause, stress—and now scientists have discovered that stress itself may actually be addictive. “By activating our arousal and attention systems,” says Jim Pfaus, a neuroscientist and addiction specialist, “stressors can also wake up the neural circuitry underlying wanting and craving—just like drugs do.” Stress management specialist Debbie Mandel says Type A and Type D personalities—competitive, anxious and depressive types—are most prone to getting high off stress. “[Stress] addicts may also be using endless to-do lists to avoid less-easy-to-itemize problems—feelings of inadequacy, family conflicts, or other unresolved personal issues,” says Mandel. And because they tend to be preoccupied with tomorrow's problems, “stress junkies” can have a hard time listening to others, concentrating and even sleeping. If you test positive for stress addiction, Time has a nice bullet list of suggestions to help you keep your cool:

• Seek professional help if you’re verging on burnout. (Not only can hashing it out with a therapist take a load off your mind—some studies suggest it also boosts physical fitness.)

• Do something creative. Mandel recommends carving out a once-weekly time not to think about tomorrow’s agenda by painting, cooking, writing, dancing, or anything else that’ll take you off the clock temporarily.

• Take it outside. Numerous studies show spending time in nature improves general well-being, lowers anxiety, stress and depression, and even boosts self-confidence. Especially for women. (As it turns out, most addiction recovery centers offer outdoor-immersion programs.)

• Calm down quickly. If you really don’t have time for any of the above, these 40 tricks to chill take five minutes or less.