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Are You Addicted to Stress?

Posted: Health & Wellness » Mental Health » Stress | February 28th, 2005



By Caron Goode

At the International Breath Institute, we’ve worked with many people suffering from stress-related illnesses. We coined the term “stress addiction” after studying and compiling data and research on stress and its effects.

Simply stated, stress addiction is working at an intense or prolonged pace, suffering a traumatic experience and always being on the edge. It is like being in a state of hyper-arousal all the time.

This way of working and living actually causes the body to become accustomed to these stress-hormone cocktails. In order to keep the adrenaline rush going, the body will continue to need this stimulus.

If this is the way you pace your life, you may have convinced yourself and actually believe that this is a normal, healthy or ideal way to work. However, it definitely is not.

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Inside the stress addict

A stress addict’s mind and body can’t restore proper balance and energy, even when he gets a good night’s sleep. Stress weakens involuntary functions such as respiration, blood flow, immunity, digestion and elimination. These side effects can then progress into problems like impaired breathing, irritability, high blood pressure, intermittent memory loss and poor concentration. They can advance further into shallow breathing habits, which cause production of stress hormones.

Stress side effects create a vicious cycle. Eventually, the body’s ability to handle stress addiction is affected like that in any other addiction: the senses become overwhelmed, the mind sluggish and the immune system weakened. Stress addiction causes illness, fatigue and low motivation, which in turn decrease productivity at work and cause any number of problems in personal relationships.

Take charge of stress

Arnold Fox, M.D., author of The Beverly Hills Medical Diet, examines stress in yet a different way. “Stress is the reaction of your body, mind and spirit to the facts that impinge upon our lives. You choose your reaction; it is not forced upon you by the hand of God.” Fox implies that we can empower ourselves by getting the facts, watching how we respond and choosing to manage our health on a daily basis. Then we can kick the stress addiction habit, take control of our lives again and get back on the road to joy.

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Ask yourself “What or whom am I battling today?” Are you mentally battling rush hour traffic? Did you have an argument with your copy machine when the cartridge ran out? Did you swallow your emotions after that last telephone call? Did your stomach squeeze tight when you did something you regretted? These responses are all caused by your perception of stress in a modern world.

Stress redirects nutrients and oxygen from the organs to the muscles, pumping up our energy and strength. Without oxygen for our organs and brain, however, we compromise our ability to think.

Stress assaults redirect nutrients and oxygen from the organs to the muscles, providing energy and strength. Without enough oxygen to the organs and brain, you reduce your ability to go about your day with clarity and focus. The good news is you can learn to bring precious oxygen and nutrients back into your body in just five minutes a day.

Interestingly, men and women handle stress differently. Men tend to react with more intense stress to one particular situation, whereas women tend to react less stressfully to a large variety of situations. Men often react more dramatically and may develop a side effect such as higher blood pressure. The reactions of women are generally less intense and tend to build in intensity over time.

Take five to relieve stress

Stress weakens the immune system. Relaxation, on the other hand, produces hormones that actually revitalize the immune system. The relaxation techniques detailed below, which take five to 15 minutes a day to be effective, will strengthen the immune system and restore an overall balance.

Take a deep abdominal breath. Place your hand on your abdomen and inhale through your mouth, expanding the belly and causing your hand to rise. Exhale with a sigh, and release the air fully from your lungs. Repeat this exercise 10 times.

To this deep breath, add an intention. While breathing into the abdomen, mentally repeat the word “relax” to yourself with each exhale. Then repeat mentally to yourself, relaxing on each exhalation.

To the abdominal breath, add an image of peace or an event that makes you laugh. The mind sees the image and relays the emotion to the rest of the body.

© Caron Goode

Caron Goode, Ed.D., has written six books on child development, two monographs and co-authored two additional books. Her articles have appeared in more than 200 national newspapers and more than two dozen websites. She and her husband, Tom Goode, ND, direct Inspired Parenting and Inspired Living International in Tucson, Arizona, offering offer parent education workshops, Full Wave Breathing™ and Mindbody Talk™ wellness workshops.

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