Addicted to Stress

Every thought, every emotion that we experience can be as addictive as any drug. Every idea that we have about life, every thought and emotion we feel has a chemical reaction in the mind and body. This constant flow of chemicals creates the most complex laboratory possible, and we all have one that is in constant change. What an amazing, mysterious and powerful tool the mind can really be! In there lies infinite potential. It’s just a matter of what chemicals (habits, reactions, ideas) we allow to flow the most in our mind. We don’t have to become a victim to tamasic states such as depression, worry and anxiety. Just like we have a choice whether we become addicted to the countless toxic habits that are available to us in life, we can also make the choice to be in a more joyful, productive and calm flow of living. It takes will to make intelligent choices in life but really it’s just about being true to yourself and respecting your existence.

Every experience we have is relative to our chemical-based patterns already imprinted in the brain. For example, one person’s emotional and chemical response to “love” could be completely different than another person’s response, depending on past circumstances and reactions (e.g. emotional baggage). A big project for someone at work could be exciting and get the creative juices flowing whereas for someone else it could be the most draining, negative experience. It’s all in our perception and then in the choices we make.

When we’re used to being or reacting in certain ways, we experience a chemical addiction to those ways of being. Just like a drug addict can give up the drug addiction, you can give up a habit that doesn’t serve you. It may be challenging and it may feel like you don’t have a choice, but you do have a choice and you can make change.

Just like a drug, the feelings of stress and anxiety are extremely addictive, and the transition between being super wound up on stress and worry, to becoming calm and present may be a foreign feeling and withdrawal symptoms may come along with it. Just like a drug addict finds it difficult to come off a drug, it may be hard to not get allured back into toxic ways of being. This is where the loving discipline and true will, which lie in the manipura chakra (solar plexus chakra), come in handy. We need them to keep moving forward while staying grounded with the mulludhara (root chakra). Spark up that transformational fire or tapas in the belly and don’t be afraid of change. Our bodies and the whole universe are in constant change, so clinging to the past and addictive habits that don’t serve us is simply going against the flow of nature.

Many people are so addicted to stress that the feeling of being calm and present is often so foreign that it can get labelled as “bad.” When one gets so addicted to constantly thinking, worrying, striving, efforting, straining and stressing, to allow oneself to be truly relaxed and simply breathe can be an adjustment. It may even feel boring.

I also hear from people: “Meditation makes me feel worse.” By going inside you observe what’s happening in the mind rather than being distracted by external forces like stress, alcohol or drug abuse, sex addiction, overeating and excessive television watching. These distractions may create a blissfully ignorant feeling, but is it truly blissful? It’s not until we intelligently face the unneeded content that’s stored in the mind and body that we can soften its addictive hold on us, and release it. When we can look at this content as energy, we can de-dramatize the stories in the mind and approach them with truth. What energy do you keep stored in the mind and body that no longer serves you? You have the choice to keep it or let it go.

No matter how many stressors there are in your life, you can still be present, authentic, calm and loving. Stress is a part of most people’s lives, but it doesn’t have to wear us down and we don’t have to become a victim to it. Stress can be another opportunity to evolve, grow, practice living yoga and love. Living with this sense of ease, wonder and well-being, you’ll probably be more motivated, creative and disciplined.

We can give countless excuses for taking part in self-sabotage. “It’s how I was brought up,” “I can’t help it; it’s just how I am,” or “It’s because of my job.” The more excuses we make for taking part in toxic ways of being, the less empowered we become. We perceive “failure,” which can be a negative, draining experience or another opportunity to grow, shine and evolve.

If we practice being calm, intelligently responsive, strong, loving and compassionate beings, those patterns of being become who we are. We literally change the chemistry in our mind into a more harmonious environment. If we allow ourselves to be angry, jealous, stressed out and reactive beings, those patterns then become our way of being. Practice new patterns with a sense of wonder and non-judgment. Take it day by day. Be a student of life and enjoy this wonderful journey. When you wake up, affirm what day you want to create and feel, that every day of conscious, authentic living from your true nature will gradually let go of any of those addictions you don’t need to be a part of your life. A yoga practice is a perfect environment to explore this. Extraordinary transformation can take place on the mat so you can go shine those qualities off the mat.

What seeds are you planting in your mind as you go off into your day and as you go to sleep at night? What are your intentions and what are your actions? In gratitude and love for life and all its wonder, shine your beautiful self.

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