Do you secretly thrive on stress?
While none of us would like to openly admit it, we sometimes indulge in the feelings that come from a tense situation. Whether it’s pushing our work back until we’re on the brink of a deadline or even just immersing ourselves in a friend’s personal drama — we all get a motivating energy from the adrenaline-pumping emotions that come with a high-risk situation.
While research has proven that a little stress may actually be a good thing, like anything else, too much of it can have its damaging effects. Heidi Hanna, a fellow at the American Institute of Stress and the author of Stressaholic: 5 Steps to Transform Your Relationship with Stress, says that many of us even can form a stress addiction. “When it comes to stress, there’s a chemical response happening in brain that keeps us amped up and we become reliant on that stimulation,” Hanna tells The Huffington Post. “It can become like any other addiction. We are hardwired to be overstimulated.”
So how do we move beyond our natural tendency to feed into stress? When it comes to managing its energy, whether it’s an overwhelming negative or a little motivational, there are simple coping mechanisms we can employ so our brains stay flexible during times of trepidation. Below find three questions Hanna suggests asking yourself when you’re feeling stressed in order to get yourself back on track.
1. “Is this stress I’m feeling mine or someone else’s?”
At the first signs of stress, we should identify the source of the energy right away, Hanna says. Are you stressed because of your own situation or is that energy really coming from somewhere else? By possessing an awareness of the source, we’re able to target how to handle it. “It’s important to understand that we do pick up stress from other people because brain is so sensitive to our environment,” she explains. “We notice someone’s breath rates or that they’re talking really quickly and we pick that up and mirror that.”
2. “Am I able to help?”
Once you’ve identified where the stress is coming from, the next way to handle it is to realistically asses whether or not you’re able to help or change the situation. If the negative energy is a result of other people and you’re suffering from secondhand stress, Hanna says you need to realize there is only so much you can feasibly do in order to dissolve it.
That goes for your own stress and the stress caused by others. “Having a go-to trick to manage stress is common sense but it’s not always common practice,” she advises. “We’d all love to help everybody but if we’re feeling drained, it’s just not always possible. It’s important on the first sign of stress that you have go-to strategies, like practicing gratitude. It allows your brain to stay more flexible so you can think more positively.”
3. “What boundaries do I need to establish?”
When dealing with stress, particularly in the workplace, Hanna suggests establishing your own sacred spaces or breaks. Going for a walk, taking a few minutes for some breathing exercises or even just grabbing a coffee can allow you to remove yourself from the situation and help you avoid expanding your stressful thoughts. “Be protective of your boundaries. That recovery time is just as important as any other appointment or meeting you schedule throughout your day,” she explains.
Overall, when it comes to overcoming your attraction to stressful energy, Hanna says it’s all about training yourself just as you would for any other routine or habit. “Think of relaxation training like training any other muscle in the gym,” she advises. “Most of us have unknowingly trained ourselves to be dependent on stress and now is the time to change that.”