Are You Addicted to Stress?
It's common human behaviour to try and solve stress by looking for more relaxation in your life. Seems logical, right?
Except it means the best it ever gets is that you exist on this continuum at various points of your day/week, trying to avoid being too stressed and adding in enough 'self care' to tip that scale closer to relaxation.
Stress = problem.
Relaxation = solution.
So you try to 'fix the problem' with being stressed, not enjoying the time you are stressed, but also unable to give up feeling stressed because somewhere along the line you learned that operating from stress ensures your survival - whether it's at work, home, or, most likely, in every area of your life.
Psychologist call it the negativity bias - that our minds are adapted to looking for what's wrong as a survival skill so we can continually assess risks around us that will harm us. However, the risks we're evaluating are much different than when we were hunter-gatherers; rather than being on the lookout for the saber tooth tiger, we're concerned with impending work deadlines, interpersonal relationships and physical exhaustion.
It's completely normal that you look for what's wrong, then create stress so that you can rise to the occasion, so you know you can survive it.
It's also an emotional rollercoaster.
I used to fear when everything was calm in my life because of the anticipation of what might be coming next that I didn't know about, so I subconsciously created stress so at least I could handle things and be less afraid that something unknown would happen.
I remember sitting in a counsellors office because I felt depressed, and realizing that I was afraid of being happy.
If I wasn't constantly managing some sort aspect of my life that was 'wrong', I was anticipating a much worse scenario of what could happen if anything was possible. Creating stress in areas that I knew I could solve was less uncomfortable than the possibility of problems I didn't know how to solve.
If you notice you're craving relaxation and a break, my invitation is to first distinguish your relationship to stress. By understanding yourself, you can shift the believes and patterns that create the stress in the first place, so you don't have to look for solutions. Relaxation can be a way of being rather than something you do.
Here are a couple questions to get you started:
- How does stress serve me? How does stress negatively impact me?
- What judgements or truths do you hold about a life that is full of ease and relaxation? Write down all the words that come to mind so you see your unique beliefs about it. There are no right or wrong answers. There is often something there that you're actually resisting or don't want.
Without dismantling your stress story, true ease and relaxation will always be elusive.
Self reflection involves seeing things about yourself that you haven't seen before, which can be tricky. If you're struggling to see anything in answering the above questions, that's what I'm here for.