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Are You Addicted to Stress?

Can anyone relate to that tweet?

Recently, a friend of mine got a new job. She left a job that had been incredibly stressful: long hours, constant pressure and confusion, and a never-ending fear that she was going to ‘mess up’ and lose her income (which her manager often threatened for little to no reason). It was a painfully stressful situation that affected her mental health, her relationships, and everything in between. 

Then, guess what? Things changed.

She got the opportunity of a lifetime to work in her dream job. It was a pay cut, but she and her spouse agreed it was well worth it, and she made the leap — she left that toxic work environment and started work at a company she adores, doing work she loves. 

The problem is, she’s still feeling that stress. Her last job practically trained her for it. Even though her new manager is nothing but supportive, she still has fears she’ll ‘mess up,’ or disappoint someone. Even though she loves her work, she still feels anxiety when a deadline’s approaching.

The good (ish) news is that this is perfectly normal. Our body grows accustomed to stress — addicted even. If there’s not external cause of stress, we’ll make one up. Or we’ll just feel stress for no clear reason. It’s been there for so long, why would it just disappear with the job?

The hard part is reasoning through that. When she feels stress that her boss might fire her, she has to go through the facts — look at the evidence. Is there any evidence that this could happen? Well, that boss just told her he’s thrilled with her work. So no, there’s no evidence she’s going to be fired. The stress is still real, of course, but reasoning through it means saying, “Stress, I see you. You’re real. You’re there. But you’re not based in reality. So I’m going to move forward with my life anyway. You do you, I’m gonna do me.” Sometimes, the support of a friend or partner can really help here. Just ask them, “I’m feeling stressed because of ___. Can you please remind me that it’s all going to be okay?” Hearing someone else say it can often help. 

Our body can grow addicted to stress. But if we move through it, with support, we can recover from that addiction — just like any other.