Here’s How to Tell if You’re Addicted to Stress
Whether you have your eye on a big name college, are looking to earn yourself a soccer scholarship, or are just trying to keep up with those AP classes, the busy trap is real. But is it possible to become addicted to stress? Here are the signs to look out for.
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My Junior year of high school was one of the worst in my life. I had fooled around a bit my Freshman and Sophomore year and my GPA had taken a hit. So I went into over-drive to get my grades up, get my community service in, get some extra-curriculers under my belt, raise my SAT scores, and get that acceptance letter to my dream school.
And I was an absolute mess. I was chugging Pepto Bismal on a daily basis. I kicked a series of dents in my car door because it had the audacity not to start one morning. It was so bad, that my mother actually sat me down and asked me if I was on drugs.
Was she serious with this?
Was I on drugs?! No, I was not on drugs. Being on drugs would necessitate a social life, for one. (Which I did not have.) A drug habit, from what I understood, would also require a significant investment of time. (Which I also did not possess.)
Was I on drugs? No, what I was on was my upcoming exams for AP Calc and AP Bio. What I was on was the 3 (yes, 3) application essays I had to write for Duke. What I was on was maybe 8 hours of sleep for the entire week.
Was I on drugs? I looked at my mother and saw a look of absolute horror on her face. At that moment I realized that I had actually said all of that out loud. Maybe more like screamed all of that out loud. *facepalm*
Actually, my poor mother may not have been that far off. As weird as it sounds, you can become addicted to stress. You see, stress hormones can make our brains more sensitive to the neurotransmitter, dopamine, that makes us feel happy. In itself, this is a great thing. Your brain recognizes that you’re under stress and makes changes to improve your mood. Cool, right?
But, people like 17-year-old me (okay fine, and 35-year-old-me) who live fast-paced, high pressure, achievement-driven lives are perpetually under stress. And a brain that is always under stress can become dependent on those hits of dopamine, very similar to how people become addicted to anything else.
So how can you tell if you’ve become a stress addict? Grab a stress ball and see if any of these 7 signs sound familiar.
1. You might be addicted to stress if you complain a lot
When people ask how you’re doing, do you find yourself automatically talking about how busy or stressed you are? Stress addicts LOVE to talk about how busy they are and tend to think that their lives are harder than everyone else’s. When you’re addicted to stress, it’s hard to see the good things you have going on because you’re always focused on the things you need to do.
Related: 6 Creative Ways to Beat a Bad Mood
2. You don’t have any free time
Do you feel like you’re always busy? Does it seems like you don’t ever have time to do anything fun? Even if stress addicts do find themselves with time on their hands, they usually spend it on some mindless activity like scrolling through social media or bingeing on Netflix or Youtube videos because they don’t have the energy for anything else. And then of course they feel guilty about wasting all that time.
3. You might be addicted to stress if You crave awards and praise
It’s not entirely accurate to say that people get addicted to stress. Because stress in itself feels awful. It’s really the high from accomplishments that we’re after. It’s like Rachel Berry said in Glee, “I’m like Tinkerbelle! I need applause to live!”
4. You dream about finishing your to-do list
But it never happens because new stuff gets added faster than you can check them off. And be honest. If you ever found yourself with a spare moment, you’d review your project again, do some extra credit, or add another club or, would you not?
5. You believe that being unhappy now will pay off later
Have you been taught that if you work really hard now, it will make you successful later in life? Stress addicts spend most of their time worrying about and working hard for the future. They also secretly feel like something is missing. What they’re missing is what’s going on in their lives right now.
Related: How to Balance Your Daily Life
6. Your relationships with friends and family aren’t great
Is it kind of hard for you to hang on to friends? Do people ever complain that it’s hard to talk to you? People who are addicted to stress can be so accomplishment-driven that they forget to appreciate and spend time with their people. And even when they do, their minds are usually somewhere else, worrying about the work that they “should” be doing. It’s hard for them to stay in the moment.
7. It’s hard to think of things that make you happy
Do you spend more time worrying about your to-do list than having fun? Do you ever just take a day off? Stress addicts have a hard time enjoying themselves because they’re always worrying about what could go wrong. They have a hard time staying in the present moment long enough to enjoy it.
So, if you’re like me, maybe some of these signs sound familiar. You might think that a packed schedule is necessary to succeed, but being addicted to stress really just makes you too busy and tired to enjoy your life.
The good news is, it is absolutely possible to achieve your goals and have fun, without the stress hangover. If you need some help detoxing from stress, download my "Get Rid of Stress Worksheet" by entering your info below!