The Strangely Addictive Behavior of Stress and How To Let Go of It

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By Suzanne Falter. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

In America, we are addicted to stress as a nation and as individuals. It provides us with an identity and a holy reason for being, one that often replaces simpler, subtler experiences like being, feeling, and noticing.

If we are stressed then we are fighting ‘the good fight.’ In fact, we are only fighting ourselves.

I write this as I emerge from a lifelong immersion in stress. This was first noted by my fourth-grade teacher, Miss Brown, who wrote on my report card, “Suzanne seems worried all the time.”

In fact, between my alcoholic, borderline mother and my beleaguered father, and their ongoing financial drama –- about which I knew far more than any 9-year-old should — I had plenty to worry about. And then there were the school bullies who were usually nipping at my heels.

What I have come to understand is that stress is a learned condition, one which we create and consciously choose again and again and again.

In its own way, stress becomes habitual and even comfortable. Often, we don’t even know we are doing it.

Making the decision to take the last year off was one of the most profoundly difficult things I’ve ever done. I told myself I shouldn’t spend my savings this way, that I needed that money for my retirement.

Truthfully, I was more afraid to feel the cascades of deeper and deeper grief that were invading my body as the shock of Teal’s death wore off. In fact, being immersed in my feelings was about the last place I wanted to be.

So I did what I knew: I created large amounts of stress to feast on. Namely, I tried to run my business when I could barely concentrate on anything. Then, during my time off, I angrily obsessed over my former girlfriend, who had dumped me six months prior.

Was it a good thing we broke up? Yes. Unequivocally. I can now say honestly the learning was done there and it was time for us both to move on. And I am actually much happier now without her.

But I still gnashed my teeth. And so my gut churned on and on in that old familiar rumble while my grief waited patiently in the wings for its day.

This stress I knew. It was age old, a perspective  I’d taught myself as a child. Do whatever you can to try to manage this wild, out-of-control rollercoaster of a life , baby, because it’s pretty much all you’ve got.

One day I journaled in exasperation and Spirit’s guidance to me was succinct: “Your attachment to anxiety is your attachment to your former partner, for she provides the mix of anxiety and adrenaline you need. You are feasting on stress. That’s the only way to put it.”

When I asked why, I got this:

It puts you in control in an out-of-control situation. You know what to do when you think things to death by worrying, loathing, and obsessing. That’s how you stay out of your deeper feelings. By spinning your wheels you can forget how much pain you are in.”

So true.

It’s ironic because when we’re immersed in our stress we think we’re feeling our feelings. Actually, I’ve learned that obsessing angrily over something you can’t have or fretting over a needed result is a topline emotional experience. It’s like an electrical shock to your heart.

Behind all that stress lies the real emotion, which in my case was deep, wrenching grief and a considerable amount of fear.

When I say we are addicted to stress, this is what I mean. It’s like our addiction to Krispy-Kreme donuts, episodes of Downton Abbey, or shopping for shoes. We do it when we’re bothered or bored.

Behind bothered or bored, there’s scary stuff, like the boss, husband, or parent who humiliates and controls us. Or the credit card debt that feels like it’s getting out of hand.

Our myriad fears, regrets, and daily woes stack up like so much firewood in our hearts, until they become the grief and the pain that we just can’t admit.

These are also the very same things we assume we can’t change.

But after a while, of course, everything must unravel. That is the way of Nature and of life. But instead of dealing with it head-on, we find ourselves overworking, overeating, having financial panic, or, in my case, angrily obsessing over someone who dumped me.

There just doesn’t seem to be any other way to manage it.

Yet there is. Anti-stress programs lead us first to meditation, yoga, and counting to ten and slowing down, which is where the light of day can dawn on our feelings.

But will we go there? Will we have the courage to admit that something is wrong? That change needs to be made by us and not by anyone else?

This is where the emotional rubber meets the road. We can stop feasting on stress when we can finally admit we had a part in creating the problems that weigh us down.

In my own case, I fought like hell the sad fact that my partner was not in love with me. I knew it months before she told me, but my weeping heart could not admit it. I loved her beauty, and the way we could laugh together. But at the end of the day ours was a loving friendship that we kept trying to force into a box labeled “Love.”

Was this the deep intimate relationship we both longed for? No.

Despite all the twists of my imagination that refused to see the truth, it simply was what it was, for better or for worse. In my acceptance of this truth, just as in my acceptance of Teal’s death at the age of 22, I have found release.

At the end of the day we have only one choice. To see, own, and embrace what is.

The end of all stress means having the courage to honor our feelings as sacred channels of the truth, and listening to our bodies as keepers of that infinite wisdom.

In addition I also covered:

How I spent several years in various forms of recovery work and was reminded that I am responsible for my life

  • I worked my way through a long list of things I’d done wrong – owning and apologizing for them … walked away with new ease
  • I owned my addictive behaviors and talked about them until they began to ease
  • I learned to be vulnerable with support – and ask for even more of it

How I worked with a therapist to resolve old trauma, and uncover layers of abuse and anger I was still wrestling with 40 to 50 years later.

How I learned about the ‘Emotional Drug Store’ – where adrenaline is pumped on command through your veins

  • Adrenaline junkies

How I learned that a lot of us have Adrenal Fatigue, an actual condition that is the realm of nutritionists and naturopaths who help women rebuild their adrenal glands

  • Cutting back on fight or flight
  • I found I was no longer tired all the time

How I found my way to a caring love who is the right person for me to be with … and who truly, deeply appreciates me

  • Seriously adds to my serenity!

How I decided that ‘good enough’ IS good enough

  • No more perfectionism
  • MUCH LESS anxiety
  • NO DRAMA

Finally, how I surrendered to the way things are.

  • “Acceptance, release, whoosh”

Thank you so much for listening.

68 episodes