Are You Addicted To Stress? 3 Psychologist Tips To Overcome It
Do you have someone in your life who is in a constant cycle of crisis, chaos, and stress? They might say things like, It's always something or, Why is it always me? It may seem like they're drawn to stressful situations—maybe they equate stress with productivity, or perhaps stress is a predictable feeling that's comfortable for them.
Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like…you? Well, according to clinical psychologist and body-based trauma expert Scott Lyons, Ph.D., author of Addicted to Drama, that affinity for stress is more common than you think—he calls it "drama," as you can tell from the title of his book. And being drawn to drama can have serious implications for your health, he shares on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast; constant stress and inflammation, after all, are often the root of many chronic diseases.
To break free of the stressful cycle, find Lyons' essential tips below—feel free to send this guide to a drama-fueled loved one, if you please:
Metabolize your trauma
According to Lyons, many people use drama to distract themselves from buried trauma. "It's a destructive technique," he says, "[a] means to fill a void and keep us away from the underlying emotional pain that we've walled off, protected, and numbed out as a means of preservation."
So, to break the cycle of constant stress, he recommends understanding and healing your internal pain. Many experts—Lyons included—believe trauma can be physically stored in the body. "If it doesn't get processed, we have an inflammatory response to protect it—we call that numbness; we call that dissociation," he notes. "Over time, that becomes a toxic environment and gets registered as pain and dis-ease."
Of course, trauma work takes time and effort (and ideally multiple sessions with a licensed professional), but Lyons encourages us to prioritize the healing. You can't expect to move forward with buried emotions holding you back.
"One of the main characteristics of an addiction to drama is that it is almost impossible to find stillness," says Lyons. Do you find it difficult to truly relax and let your mind go blank? If you have an addiction to drama, "you're thinking about a fight from the other day, you're thinking about all the things you have to do, you're revving yourself up from that," notes Lyons.
If you never allow yourself to relax and you're always looking for some sort of stimulus, then your body will likely continue to feel on edge. "We rely on the stimulus of stress to maintain a way of being awake in the world, a way of functioning in the world," Lyons adds. "You are creating or seeking out the conditions of stress and flooding yourself with that cortisol and adrenaline."
If this sounds familiar, try practicing true stillness and relaxation—perhaps a meditation session, if it's available to you. And even if your internal alarm bells start to ring when you're feeling vulnerable, try to remain in that stillness instead of seeking out stressful situations. Again, it takes time, but you may start to become more comfortable with letting go.
Know when you've had enough info
We know, we know: Stressful situations are all around us, and many of us aren't exactly reaching for something to be stressed about. Take one look at the news cycle or scroll through your social media feeds, and you'll likely find some source of unease.
To quit doomscrolling, Lyons asks himself the simple question: When are you informed enough? "If you find yourself watching two hours of news, reading the newspaper, checking your phone, when are you informed enough?" he explains. "When have you gotten enough information that you don't need to keep flooding yourself with more?"
When you have a psychological response to a certain post or story—be it anger, awe, fear, etc.—you're more likely to pay more attention to it. So Lyons recommends flipping the script: "Have some moments in your day of 'boredom' or less stimulus, and start a richness in life that doesn't involve the intensity, the extremes, of what's being fed to you," he adds. Try to fight the urge to keep digging into those emotions, instead taking a step back.
If you can't seem to relax, feel uncomfortable unless you're running at a mile a minute, or find yourself seeking out stressful situations, you may have an addiction to drama. That's not to say stress and trauma shouldn't ever affect you—it's important to give yourself grace when you are feeling anxious, fearful, or any other negative emotions. It's when you use that stress as a survival mechanism that it may become a problem; but according to Lyons, you can overcome it with time and intention.