When Oprah interviewed Lindsay Lohan on her show this past August, she asked the young starlet if she was addicted to chaos. Lohan replied "I think so. It was a comfortable chaos for me." Lohan and Oprah discussed how addictions have been ways to cover up what's really going on in their lives, emotionally – Lohan with drugs and alcohol, Oprah, she explained, with food.
Creating stress as a distraction can be addictive not only because it means not having to deal with what might be tough to face, but the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (aka – the fight or flight response) that results from stress is like a drug high. Endorphins are like your body's natural drug. It's easier than we might think to get hooked on them.
… and getting hooked can be as bad for our bodies as drugs. Stress hormones pumped into the bloodstream at high levels for long periods of time can contribute to ulcers and heart disease, weaken the immune system, and leave you more vulnerable to everything from car accidents to depression. So how do you know if you're stumbling into stress junkie territory?
Think: excessive procrastination (think Facebook, Pinterest, mindless texting …) obsessive worrying about obligations and deadlines, blowing up the worst case scenario in your head, not being able to take time for yourself, family, or friends. When your downtime results in watching the clock in disbelief that time is going so slow – and inevitably springing for the next distraction you find – you need to retool your thinking.
How to heal? Here are some ideas.
Swear off knee jerk reactions. Instead of letting your first reaction dictate your next move, think about what you want to do. Practice with texts and emails.
Don't try to ignore your stress. Screaming at yourself in your head to stop being so damn stressed is like fighting fire with fire. Be kinder to yourself. Acknowledge that your stressed and it's ok. That way, your thoughts won't escalate into panic mode.
Talk to your stress. Talk to your stress like it's a traumatized guest. Adopt an attitude of kindness and rationality. This will keep you grounded and reasonable.
Set aside more time for sleep. It's impossible to get through any emotional issue if you're not sleeping well. Sleep allows your body and mind time free of sensory input. You need it to rejuvenate.
Sweat it out. You get an endorphin rush from exercise, too., but going for a run, bike ride, or speed walk gives you a chance to clear your mind and breathe deep. Free your brain. Push your body.
Eat well. Just like sleep, eating properly stocks your body with the energy to function optimally. Stress wears down your immune system. Don't run on empty. Eat mindfully. Take time to experience smell and taste. Also, stay hydrated – even a minor case of dehydration can cause headaches and fogginess.