Feeling like you never have enough time for fun or chores, but still willingly take on extra errands? Is your work checklist seemingly never-ending, yet you still volunteer to take on extra tasks? Are you constantly pushing social occasions for longer office hours without management asking for overtime? Do you often find yourself sitting at your desk well after all your coworkers have gone home? I’m sorry to break it to you, but there’s a chance you may be addicted to stress — a dangerous and slippery slope towards burnout and deteriorating health.
1.”Go home, Karen!”
You’re often among the last or even the last to leave work. In fact, you overtime often enough, that it becomes common knowledge among your coworkers. Not only that, but you feel a sense of pride for the long hours you constantly put in. In fact, you might even judge other coworkers who don’t.
However, longer office hours don’t necessarily equal higher productivity or better performance, especially long term. Quite the opposite — as more cities, companies or even entire countries demo shorter work days and implement task-based, rather than hour-based performance requirements, results overwhelmingly point towards increased productivity and higher levels of overall happiness. Moreover, such moves have the potential to significantly cut costs for companies and reduce their environmental impact.
2. “Deadlines are my muse”
Plenty of professionals will swear by the power to increase performance of tight or looming deadlines, especially those in creative jobs, that’s not necessarily true. And it surely isn’t healthy. Sustained levels of stress over long periods of time, increase an individual’s risk for developing heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety and a host of other health issues.
Stress has evolved as a natural response to overcome dangerous situations, shooting a host of hormones into our systems, among them cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine to trigger the flight or fight response. However, studies show that prolonged exposure negatively affect both the mental and physical health of humans.
From decreased libido to increased or chronic pain, digestive issues such as IBS or heartburn, acne, migraines, low energy levels, sleeping disorders, depression, weakened immune system, appetite and weight issues to higher risk for chronic disease and addiction, stress can be a major trigger and cause.
3. “Can I get that coffee with an IV drip?”
As mentioned above, prolonged stress decrease productivity over time, causes difficulties in concentrating and brings on fatigue. In our 24/7 world, most of us try to fight symptoms like these with various “uppers”, like coffee, black tea, energy and sugary soft drinks, and smoking.
As prolonged stress increases the risk of addiction, and people dealing with levels of stress look for coping mechanism, the use of hard drugs creeps into the picture — from Ivy League college students hooked on Adderal to the cliche investments banker with a cocaine habit, these tropes signal a deeper, darker and life-threatening side effect of stress.
4. “I feel so alive under pressure”
But stress isn’t only a contributing factor to addiction. Stress itself may be the thing that you are addicted to. The hormones our bodies produce — among them dopamine — can create a natural high, that’s enticing to chase. Not only that high levels of stress bring out the evolutionary response of fight or flight that really can cause people to feel “extra alive”. Muscles tense for action, the central nervous system lights up, body temperature and blood pressure goes up so we are physically ready to take on “the threat.”
Short bursts of such responses are perfectly normal and safe, but long-term exposure are not. Not only does it increase one’s risk significantly, but it also increases our bodies tolerance to stress hormones, meaning an individual will need to seek out even more stressful situations to get the same high, same as with hard drugs.
5. “Living that #workaholic life #workhard #playhard”
Our complicated relationship with stress, and indeed stress addiction is also a byproduct of living in a hyper-connected, 24/7, capitalist society that puts the emphasis on the bottom line instead of the human element.
This has contributed to create a warped sense of priorities, along with celebrating unhealthy attitudes, such as competing to see who is more stressed and exhausted. Winning the spot is a goal, whereas taking a more mindful approach to cut stressors is often interpreted as lack of ambition or dedication.
6. “I can’t, I’m just SO busy”
Constantly missing out on social occasions and cutting sleep time can also be a major sign. With stress making one feel like there’s just not enough time to get everything done, it becomes temptingly easy to cut time spent with friends and family and time allocated for hobbies and self-care. And then even when you do participate in relaxing activities, your brain can’t quite disconnect.
7. “Gasp, I didn’t do anything productive the entire weekend!”
Catching yourself worrying about deadlines in the weekend, becoming anxious without access to communication technology like emails and phone calls often pairs up with a feeling of guilt for being unproductive when relaxing or doing self-care. It might even take you days into your vacation to finally break free from that stress.
It might even be impossible to forget about deadlines, errands or unpleasant family obligations. You might be sitting on a sunny beach with an umbrella drink in your hand, when you start desperately wishing you had brought your work with you and furiously start checking your work emails.
If you recognize yourself as a stress-addict or are simply looking for ways to manage stress in your life, check out what 10 of the world’s most successful people do to manage stress in their lives, explore these 24 simple (and free) ways to reduce stress or embark on renowned psychologist Gregory Caremans’ Stress Management Course. And make sure to read our piece on cherophobia, a closely related phenomenon.