Addicted to stress

Hearing impaired childTaking a brief detour from the journey to Boulder, Colorado, I want to tell you today about [Vancouver doctor, researcher, Buddhist, music-lover] Gabor Maté’s book When the Body Says No. He explores the relationship between stress and illness, and in this passage, describes how stress can be addictive:

For those habituated to high levels of internal stress since early childhood, it is the absence of stress that creates unease, evoking boredom and a sense of meaninglessness. People may become addicted to their own stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, Hans Seyle [pioneering Czech-Canadian stress researcher] observed. To such persons stress feels desirable, while the absence of it feels like something to be avoided.

As I reported in an earlier entry, I have been experimenting with removing sugar (and also caffeine) from my diet. I expected this would lead to a much calmer state overall, without the artificial stimulants in my body. I also changed my meditation practice from evening to morning, so that I would be starting the day from connection with the ground of my being, and have that calm as a touchstone throughout the day.

When the Body Says NoIn spite of these changes, I’ve been finding that the symptoms of stress in my body are growing! Not reducing, as I would have expected. How is that possible? Because I started working 45-50 hours per week, in a very stressful work environment, on a chaotic project with impossible deadlines. Oh! The curious thing is to realize how much I enjoy and seem to thrive in this environment. I feel energized all day. I love the rush. I usually come home feeling tired and satisfied (on the days when I am not up in arms or completely frustrated)!

I realized when I read the preceding passage from When the Body Says No that I am indeed addicted to stress, and the hormones that come with it. To slow down feels uncomfortable, each day and every time. Even just anticipating it feels scary. Who will I be if I don’t do this crazy thing? A big nobody! I am laughing at myself, but the feelings are true. It is the most difficult adventure of all to quiet, and allow space for the unknown to emerge within my soul.

P.S. I took the top photo on a country road near Horsefly, BC. I was very moved that the people who lived there cared for their child, and wanted to protect him or her by placing this sign up for all to see, so that drivers would be aware their child might be on the road and unable to hear the coming vehicle.

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