Are You Addicted to Stress?

Dec 13, 2022anxiety, Counseling, Therapy0 comments



Are You Addicted to Stress?

Breaking the habit of cortisol addiction to improve mental health

Are you addicted to stress? It’s highly likely that you are. Many of us in modern society are addicted to stress and there are a lot of external reasons for that, but I’m going to be focusing more on the internal reasons that we become addicted to stress. When we are stressed we experience a release of cortisol and then dopamine in response to the stressful experiences. Our brain becomes addicted to those hormone releases, and we can then we go into these loops of ruminating about past stressful experiences to continue the release of these hormones and satisfy our growing addiction to these chemicals.

The brain does not know the difference between something that you are remembering or thinking about, and an actual lived experience. So even just revisiting in your mind, something that was stressful creates that cortisol release and then a dopamine release in response to that stress. We tend to think about past experiences and then we project into the future potential stressful experiences that we want to be on guard for. Just imagining what could happen in the future that could potentially be stressful releases cortisol and dopamine. We get stuck in these patterns of ruminating about the past and being hyper vigilant about what might happen in the future, then we just a hot mess in the present and we are not tuned into what our actual current experience.

There are a lot of external reasons for stress. Many of us are really enduring very stressful experiences and circumstances. However, we can intensify that stress by constantly thinking about the past and projecting into the future. One of the ways that we can work on this is through simply tuning into daily pleasant experiences.

The brain is wired to attend to negativity over positivity, this is a protective factor because we are animals and it’s important for our survival that we are hyper vigilant and aware of anything that is a potential threat. For our ancestors that potential threat could have been a wild animal that was going to attack us, but now in modern days that potential threat could be the person who cut you off in traffic, or your spouse who’s annoying you. And these minor stressors are registered as threats neurologically.

We pay more attention to anything that is negative over the positive, in order to maintain our survival, but we’ve evolved out of the need for this negativity bias, so we want to try to correct this. Neurologically, over time with a lot of intention, we can correct this negativity bias by paying attention when we experience something positive and letting it kind of soak in a little bit long longer.

We want to work on savoring the positive, and when I think of the word saver, I think of the word food, and so every day we have the opportunity to enjoy food, so when you’re eating you can choose to savor what you’re eating a little bit longer. That’s a simple way every day to attend to the positive over the negative to decrease your stress levels. Another simple way is just when you wake up in the morning, if your bed is really cozy and comfortable, let yourself soak in how good it feels to be in your bed. You can also let yourself really experience how good and fresh it feels after you bathe. So in this way you are reversing the negativity bias and the addition to stress by attending to the positive and allowing yourself to savor pleasure.

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