If you’re one of those people who work best under pressure, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that today’s stressful work environment certainly plays to your strengths. The bad news is that at least one expert thinks that it’s possible to development a “neurochemical dependence” on stress. In other words, maybe you’re addicted.
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Heidi Hanna, author of Stressaholic: 5 Steps to Transform Your Relationship with Stress, tells Fast Company that “stress is a drug.” That high some of us get when deadlines loom is similar to what addicts get from using the drug of their choice, which makes sense: both activate the dopamine centers of our brain, giving us a boost of feel-good chemicals that might help us meet our obligations in the short-term, but can wreak havoc on our health in the long-term.
The Mayo Clinic says that prolonged exposure to stress (and the adrenaline and cortisol it releases into our blood streams) can cause everything from chronic anxiety to heart disease to weight gain and sleep problems.
But without stress at all, it would be hard to get things done. The goal is to experience eustress — the positive kind, that makes riding a roller coaster fun, or gives our work a sense of meaning — while minimizing chronic stress, the kind that gives us heart disease.
So how can you prevent the bad kind of stress from messing with your health and sense of well-being? Hanna gives Fast Company a few tips, including:
1. Do mini-meditations, throughout the day. Just taking a break to breathe can be beneficial.
2. Get lots of sleep — preferably, eight hours a night.
3. Incorporate physical activity into your day. If you don’t have time for the gym, walking around the block a few times a day will at least work on your stress levels, if not your abs.
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