Are you finding yourself addicted to stress? Does the rush of adrenaline and the surge of dopamine make you feel more productive, more alive? Brace yourselves as Katie untangles the knotty web of stress addiction, exploring why we get addicted and its detrimental effects on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. She uncovers how this cycle of pleasure and pressure makes us feel that stress is critically necessary to accomplish tasks.
Do you ever feel your identity is so entwined with stress that you wear it like a badge of honor? This episode is an exploration of the internal chaos that stress addiction brings, especially for those in the twilight of their careers. Katie explores how stress serves as an armor to fend off life's uncomfortable moments and how, sadly, our self-esteem becomes tied to our undertakings. It's a deep dive into time management and setting boundaries to navigate these troublesome waters.
To conclude, Katie arms you with strategies to liberate yourself from the chains of stress addiction. Discover how to rewrite your stress narrative and take charge of your health. She gives you a snapshot into understanding the workings of your brain, setting boundaries around your routines, and taking a hard, honest look at your life. It's time to shift gears in your beliefs around stress and success, and open yourself to changes that can lead to a balanced, stress-reduced life.
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Welcome to the Balance Code Podcast, a place where you have permission to step outside the hamster wheel of day-to-day life and learn tools to create more balance. My name is Katie Russell. I'm a licensed therapist and burnout and hidden grief specialist. I support ambitious, goal-driven people who are ready to get off the one-way train, to burnout and start to enjoy life again to the fullest. Oh and, by the way, I'm a mom of three, an expat living in Germany who's still learning the language, and an entrepreneur Living. My Balance Code is what keeps me able to work in incredible ways without burning out. So let's find your Balance Code. Welcome back to the Balance Code Podcast. This is the last episode of Season 1, and I polled my community and asked what do you want to hear about? And they said why are we addicted to being stressed out and what can we do about it? So that's what we're talking about today why are we addicted to stress? Are we even addicted to stress? And like, either way, what do we do about it? Before we dive in, I want to share with you about the stress less space. Now, the stress less space is a private telegram channel that I go in every week, kind of like a private podcast where I teach you specific tools to learning how to stress less in your life. Now, often we can't remove the stressors, we can't change our situation, but we can change how we deal with stress, and that's what this monthly membership is all about. It's $17 a month and, no matter when you join, you get to go back through the library of audios that I've already left, teaching you different tools to start using. It's not just physical tools. There are a lot of mental and emotional tools as well, so it's really the full toolkit for managing your stress. I'll make sure the information for the stress less space is below so you can register today and go ahead and get access to all of the information that's already in the library. Now let's dive into stress and are we addicted to it? Let's start with that. Okay, one thing about stress that often we don't realize is that when we have a stressor right that trigger, that thing that upsets us, that weed on our shoulders, more things we need to do, we release a variety of hormones, and one of those hormones that are released is dopamine. Dopamine helps us to feel kind of a high. It feels good. It's like the pleasure center of the brain being activated. Now, dopamine is activated when we go for a run. Your exercise is activated when we play a video game. We release it when we eat chocolate. So dopamine shows up in a variety of ways and it is called sort of the in quotations like the feel good hormone just makes us feel good and kind of this high. So if stress, when we experience a stressor, the stress response is to release adrenaline which helps us with fight or flight, right, like am I attacking the bear, am I running from the bear? And it's really just like traffic, right, and we have that and we have cortisol and then we also have dopamine being released. Our brain gets like, ooh, there's some fun to this, the pressure. If you are a procrastinator, you know the feeling, especially in school. If it's like the night before oh my gosh, I gotta give this paper written you perform often almost a little bit better than you would if you'd taken your time. Well, I say that the effects on your brain and your body over time because of that procrastination, putting things off, does not really add up to being worth the good grade in that moment. But often we find ourselves even sharper, clearer, focused, getting it done and we almost feel like we need that pressure. We need that push. And if you grew up in a home in which being stressed was normal, you had parents who were stressed, you were stressed and you saw, like, this is just a part of life, it is a habit, it is habitual at this point. So when we have that habit of this is what it's normal, we also have the problem that it's comfortable that being stressed, even though logically we might hate it, there is a part of us that finds comfort in it. Right, that's comfortable for us to continue in the pattern of what we grew up with. We get that that makes no sense. We get that we don't wanna be like the people who are stressed in our family. Right, like, logically, our brain goes, yeah, that doesn't compute. But emotionally there's this memory to it that's like huh, but this is normal, this feels right. So when we talk about can you get addicted to stress? 100%, you can, because we all love that happy feeling from the dopamine and there are so many ways we can get it. But when, again, we think stress is normal, this is typical. I'm just in the season of life where this happens. We will convince ourselves that this is right, this is just how it is. It's kind of like we give in. This is just how it is. I'm stressed and the cycle continues. And because it creates this pressure center, we feel a sense of I am needed, I am wanted, I've got to do this, I'm responsible, I have to achieve. It is sadly addictive. We like to feel and experience the high from dopamine. We really do, and it is not a bad hormone. It's our happy hormone. It makes us feel good. There are really great, healthy ways for us to get that hormone. It's just this horrible cycle that we get in of. Well, I've done this thing that has had stress in my life, or the stressor has happened and I feel a bit of a high from it. So therefore, I'm stuck and you're not, you're not. But here's the issue the longer we stay in the stress loop, the more that it's normal, the harder it is to get out. Because when we create space, when we all of a sudden don't have those stressors in our lives, we get uncomfortable because we don't have the hormonal shifts, we don't have the surges of adrenaline, we don't have the pressure and we'll find ourselves almost creating the drama to feel those things, we'll almost seek out stressors. I was recently in this situation where the more I've worked on my own balance, especially as I've been doing this podcast, the more I've really simplified a lot of the things in my work and in my personal life and finding strategies and systems that work for me. I've actually been uncomfortable, like there is freedom and space and time and I feel a sense of almost being guilty for having it and I should fill it with something. And let me look at what I can fill it with. And unfortunately I've almost put my hand back on the stove a few times and got myself burnt, going no, don't go back down that path. And thankfully things didn't always pan out when I tried to go back down that path. So we will get uncomfortable when we start to create space in our lives. We will get uncomfortable when we start to break the addiction with stress. If you've ever given up sugar, if you've ever given up alcohol, if you've ever given up bread, whatever, have you ever given up anything for longer than a week or two? When you really lean into a three month to six month journey of giving something up, those first weeks, and even I would say a couple months, are hard. It is so uncomfortable and in my own journey of having to give up certain foods, it is like a personal battle within myself to say I don't need this. Why? Just because you're craving the dopamine rush that it gives or you're craving certain things about it, doesn't mean that it's good for you, it doesn't mean you need it. And when you do this with stress, when you finally try to break the addiction, remove it from your life and go OK, I understand that there will be stressors, but how I respond to the stress is amplifying it. So I'm going to shift and change this and wow, there's so much more emotional and mental space that I have now. If you notice, you want to fill that space with something that will add more stress to your system. That's the point where you realize you're kind of like detoxing from stress. And it does take time for stress hormones to flush out of our systems and usually it's only a couple hours. But when we've had stress after stress, after stress, compounding stress, for weeks, months, years, it can take up to six months. I find that my clients who retire have this struggle because they've been working hard and going, going, going and as soon as they decide to retire and step away, I always remind them. You need a good solid three months. You're probably going to sleep more because your system's like whoa, I need rest. You're going to find yourself looking for projects. Fight the need for the project. Do a project because it's exciting and fun to you, not because you have to, not because, oh gosh, I got it Now, I have the time and I can do it. You have time now. That's not going away, but it will go away as soon as you commit to a project. And there is a season of time there and I call it a season because it really is a shift where it is super uncomfortable physically, mentally and emotionally. There's a feeling of guilt I need to do something. There's a physical feeling of something's not right. I'm itching inside to do something. Then there's that I'm completely exhausted, so I need to rest. And then there's the mental load of I've got to think about now and so many things I have to do or I should do because I've retired. And this happens whether you are retired, you've left a job, you've transitioned into a different kind of role in your family or in your personal life, and then you're like whoa. It feels uncomfortable because I'm not doing what's normal, what was comfortable. That goes back to the very beginning, when I was sharing. If you grew up in a home where stress and high stress was normal, it was typical then it's comfortable. So you will go to what is comfortable, even if, logically, you know it makes no sense and it's not the life you want to continue living. Here's the other piece that we often forget. Our identity gets wrapped up in being stressed I'm important, I'm needed, I'm wanted, I'm valued, I matter. And when we associate any of those belief systems with what it means to have lots of things on your plate or to have stress like I have more responsibilities so I am important we will struggle then to release them, because we're looking for acceptance, we're looking for our worth to be wrapped up in those projects and those things we have to do. So the more that we can say my worthiness and my ability to be loved and my ability to be great and valued has nothing to do with any of these projects. It's just I am so. Therefore, these projects, I like to say, are like cherries on top right. They're just kind of superfluous, but they boost my ego in a moment. They're not a long-term yay. On your deathbed You're not gonna usually be like man, that one promotion was it? Or that one thing I did, that was it? No, you're looking at a whole lifetime on your deathbed. So the more that you can untether and remove the binding that has happened between your identity and your belief in yourself, in the amount of stress you have, it's so important. And that's hard work because it takes you really reflecting on your whys. Why do you say yes to things? Why does stress seem to follow you around? Why does it feel like life seems to be going from one drama to another? Who am I with this stress? How do I matter? Because the stress is there. I had a client once share with me that she adds stress to her plate, so she has permission to be a hot mess and to drop the ball. It's like it gave her permission to be like, look, I've got this and I've got that and I'm so sorry, instead of like, oh, I made a mistake and I forgot something, and yep, sure, I had the time, but I just didn't take it. It gave her permission, and so some of the things we had to work on was just her realizing like it's okay to drop the ball, it's okay to be a hot mess. We all have those days, and the more she was able to give herself that permission, the more she realized she didn't need to add the stress. I often use stress to avoid things that I don't really want to do, that are uncomfortable. Case in point I am still learning German and I find myself making sure I've got stuff right before it's time for me to go pick up my child from kindergarten, so that I'm not able to be there early to have conversations with people. And I show up real fast, running in. Oh my gosh, hey, I apologize to my child, but I don't make eye contact with anyone and I look really busy and I look really rushed because, man, she must have a lot on her plate, she must have things going on. So I'm going to leave her alone and, sadly, all it is is to avoid a conversation, which, honestly, my German is perfectly fine to have conversations. It is about my own insecurities around communicating in the language that make it. So I think, oh, but if I'm busy and I've got so much on my plate, especially right before time to pick up, then I only really need to apologize to my child about it, which, let's be real, feel so awful and I can just look to the other parents like someone that is like, oh, she doesn't really have time, like we'll leave her alone. So what in your life do you use the addiction to stress or the need for stress to avoid something else? Is it? I've got so much on my plate at work so I got to come home late because I want to avoid those conversations with my partner that I don't want to have, or I want to avoid feeling like a failure as a parent, so I'm just not going to be there even more. There's a lot of things we will avoid through adding stress to our plates and convincing ourselves the stress is real, not that we could create a boundary around it, have better time management skills and then actually be there and deal with those uncomfortable moments. So we know, yes, we can be addicted to stress. There are multiple reasons why we know our identity can be wrapped up in stress, which makes it even more easy to stick with it. We can use it as a way to avoid or a way to give us permission. What do we do about this, katie? What do we do about this? Here's what I'm finding work for me and work for my clients. I'm being very honest with myself about my relationship with stress. Everything I've talked about today on this episode is stuff I've had to reflect for myself. It is things that I've had to have an honest look at. Why am I addicted to stress and the drama? What is it about this and why do I feel like each time space is created in my calendar, I look for all the things on my to-do list? Is my worthiness and my ability to be likable wrapped up in how much I'm doing? And, sadly, is that making me unapproachable to people I'd actually really want to have a conversation with? What are ways I can shift those belief systems around stress, what it means to be stressed? Can I be a successful person and not be stressed? Again, I'm not talking about the stressors in your life. I'm talking about the stress, how you respond, how the hormone surges go in your body and what you do in reaction to them Fighting, running, freezing, just feeling like overwhelmed and not sure what to do next. We don't need to have those things in our lives, but the more that we have an honest conversation about why we have them, why we struggle to put our phones down and be present with people instead of reading social media or the news that adds to our stress right now. Why we don't create boundaries around our morning routines and our bedtime routines that will help us to feel less stressed. Why we don't go to sleep early versus stay up late, thinking we're having quote me time, when actually we're just stressing our system out even more. These are things I had to take a very honest look at. I had to because nothing was going to change. Nothing in my life is going to shift if I didn't shift, if I didn't change how I handle the stress. And there are no stressors that have shifted in my life beyond the things I volunteered for. There's nothing that has changed. Everything has stayed the same. But I have learned how to understand my brain and I have learned how to find ways to regulate my system when it wants to go for the drama and the adrenaline rush. I have learned how to start to go. I don't need this, and anytime I find myself going backwards and getting that slap on the hand of like nope, don't go down that path, I listen. I don't keep returning to it, but this has taken a matter of a couple years to get to the place where I said how I'm living. My life is not working for me and the health implications and the mental health implications are way too impactful. And I've got three little beings in my home watching me and I have a partner that I want to have a life with and I can't do that if I continue this way. I'm not succeeding in anything. I am not reaching any goals and feeling happy about them if I continue to live like this way. And that was the piece where I started to realize I needed better balance in my life, and balance was not 50-50. Balance was about removing the addiction to stress. Balance was about simplifying the strategies and systems I have in my home and in my personal life and in my work life and it sounds very systematic and logical on things, but that's how my brain works is a matter of balancing my emotions with a logical approach to things. We have two sides of our brain for reason. We can use them and no matter if you say I'm more of a feeler than a thinker, I'm more of a thinker than a feeler. It's a spectrum. You can use both sides. So look at your addiction to stress. Look at the identity you've wrapped up in being stressed. Look how you use stress to escape, to give yourself permission, then start shifting those beliefs. Start adjusting what you think you need in order to be successful and happy and worthy and important. Start to shift the belief systems about space in your day needing to be filled up with a date with a friend or creating a to-do list of I've got free time, so let me get all these things done. Why can't rest be productive? And the more that you listen to the last 26 episodes and the more you really start to take an honest look at your own life and how you're living it, to see where you actually have control and the areas where you feel like you've let go of control. That's when the shifts start to happen. That's when the change occurs. There's nothing on this podcast that I have taught that I have not walked first, so I'm not coming to you with false hope or saying, oh, here's the fast track way to make this happen. I'm always very honest that it is challenging and difficult, but you can do it, because if I can and if my clients can, I truly believe you can too. You just have to actually want to, and I'll leave you with this. I was talking with a friend on a walk this morning and I said honestly, I think often when there's a dream, a wish or a manifestation we want to create, we want to have happen, we think, oh, I really want this. The reason why it doesn't happen largely is because we don't actually want it to occur, because it will mean change, it will mean adjustment, it will mean completely shifting how we see or do things and until we start to show signs that we're ready for it, because we're making those shifts and changes and adjustments, it isn't going to happen. And I think it's the same with balance and stressing less. If we don't start to make the shifts and work on ourselves and our relationship with stress, then it will continue to be this way. It'll just sort of be a pipe dream of like. One day I hope to have way less stress in my life and OK, great. But I don't like to come up with goals or create a vision board and not see it through and not really do everything in my power to lean into creating that reality. And I hope that for you too, that as you're listening to this, you go wow, you know what. I do have some choices here and how I can stress less. I do have some choices here on how I can start to shift my belief system and it will be awkward and it will be uncomfortable. But I love this analogy with my clients. I always have them cross their arms in the way that they're most comfortable and then I have them cross it the opposite way and I go does that feel uncomfortable? And they'll be like yeah, it's kind of weird. Like my brain's like go back to the other way. I'm like, yeah, but it's still crossing your arms. It's nothing that you've done that's bad or wrong or incorrect. It's just what you're used to. And now we're shifting what you're used to and we're making it in a different direction and it's normal and natural too. But it has to become normal and natural by making it a habit, by making it normal and natural, by doing it over and over. I'm getting off my soapbox. I could really talk about this for a really long time and I think often we don't realize how much we create stress in our lives Because of our belief systems and because of the boundaries we don't place for ourselves around stress. Did this episode resonate with you? Are you like yep, I see this. Yep, I struggle with this too. I wanna know. You can email me at info at katiebrousercom or find me on social media and send me a DM. I wanna know what it is that you wanna start shifting and how you're going to start doing that, because the only way for us to really make changes in our lives is to acknowledge it, take the first step and have the accountability to keep at it. So get in touch and let me know what changes and shifts you're gonna be making in your relationship with stress and seriously consider joining us for the Stress Less Space. Like I said, it's a telegram channel, which means you're not hearing everybody's points of your opinions. Literally, it is just kind of a private podcast series for those who are ready to get more serious about learning tools to stress less. And it's just $17 a month. So easy peasy, bite size every week and you can go back and listen to the old audios. That info will be below in the show notes. Okay, thank you so much, dear listener, for sticking with us today and to be a part of the Balance Code community. It's been an honor to bring you the last 26 episodes and I'm looking forward to season two and some of the juicy topics that I'll be bringing, as well as being able to interview people who are really going through a process of learning to have better balance in their lives, so you can hear more stories of real people putting these things into action. So I will see you for season two, and here's to finding our Balance Code. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. If you have a moment, please leave a rating or review so that others can find this podcast who are looking for support just like you. Let's connect on Instagram at katierusler or at Balance Code podcast, or check down in the show notes to find ways that we can work together and see other offerings that I have for you at this time. And, as always, here's to finding our Balance Code.