It’s one of the most important relationships in your life – and sometimes, one of the most ignored. It’s your relationship with stress.
If left unchecked, many people can become addicted to stress, which can eventually lead to serious health problems. Heidi Hanna, stress expert and author of “Stressaholic: Five Steps to Transform Your Relationship with Stress,” spoke with Fox News Health about better solutions for stress addiction.
Hanna said she can ultimately gauge how stressed people are by asking them to relax for a minute or two.
“If someone starts twitching at the idea of closing their eyes and taking a deep breath, they probably have a problem with stress,” Hanna said. “That’s the thing … stress releases all these chemicals in the brain that actually give us energy and give us something to feel validated about. So it’s actually a good thing; it’s just that when we’re on all the time and we lose our ability to relax that it becomes a problem.”
According to Hanna, stress itself isn’t necessarily bad; the real problem is stress without adequate recoveries.
“Stress is a stimulant, and it gives us a reason to adapt. As long as we have the resources we need to adapt, then it’s fine, but the problem is that we have this nagging, chronic, constant stress where we’re checking in all the time,” Hanna said. “And technology makes information available all the time, so we start to crave it, and then when we actually know we need to take a break, it becomes really difficult because we want that connection again.”
In order to overcome an addiction to stress, Hanna said that people need to be aware that stress is a stimulant – as well as a distraction.
“It can keep us from feeling lonely, bored, or isolated, so we just go back into work again, and it also makes us feel validated,” Hanna said. “In today’s society, the busier you are, the more stress you have, the more important you are… There’s this interesting void that we feel when we are not stressed out, and some of that is a physical response to losing the stimulation.”
Once people are aware that they thrive on stress, Hanna said they can then start training themselves to do things differently. She said small moments of meditation – anywhere from three to five minutes a day, are a great way to calm the brain. She also said it’s important to schedule breaks during work so that people can learn to disengage. And most importantly, the cell phone needs to be off.
“You don’t turn it on vibrate; you turn it off,” Hanna said.
This article first appeared on ‘Fox News’ on 9 February 2014.