My Recovery from Stress Addiction

Hi, my name is Ana-Maria and I suffer from Stress Addiction.

I never realized that I had such an ill fated relationship with stress, but then again, few addicts have introspection.  For the past 20 years I have lived a busy life.  Many will attest to the fact that I wore my stress like a badge of honor on my sleeve, humbly bragging about my crazy work schedule, the endless charts I had to complete, the numerous activities occupying my children’s schedules, and the abundant elaborate parties that I "had" to organize at my house.  The word busy had infiltrated most of my vocabulary by 2016.

 Wellington, NZ

Wellington, NZ

Stress Addiction Rehab

My addiction became evident after I was put in Involuntary Stress Rehabilitation.  You see, my husband wanted to practice medicine in New Zealand for a year to get a hold of his anxiety and burnout.  As a family, we decided to embark on this adventure and see the world.  However, moving to another country, unplugging from my friends and family, detaching from work, and waiting for my work visa, gave me 6 months to detoxify.  Breaking the addiction was a highly unpleasant experience. 

My Psychological Symptoms of Withdrawal:

  • moodiness
  • irritability
  • sleep issues
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • social isolation
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What is Stress Addiction?

Stress is part of our every day living and it helps us get things done.  The stress hormone Cortisol is secreted by the Adrenal Glands first thing in the morning, to get us out of bed. Throughout the day our stress hormones fluctuate and keep us moving forward.  A little anxiety about failing an exam will help us study, worry about money will get us to work on time, etc.  However, the problem begins when our daily life becomes submerged in stress.  This leads to an overproduction of this beneficial hormone, which in turns leads to pollution of the whole body. Not only does this wreak havoc on our hair, skin, weight, heart and digestive system, it gets us hooked — and looking for more.  With tiredness or boredom, we search for more stuff to do in the name of productivity, but what we seek is more stress hormone to give ourselves a boost.

Who is affected?  

Everyone in the modern world is at risk.  It used to be a condition of adulthood, but unfortunately now it has spread to our children as well.  Just take a look at the teens around you.  Notice how many AP classes they are taking, how many extracurricular activities they are signed up for: clubs, sports, babysitting, paying jobs, volunteer work, and the list goes on.

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My Stressed Life

In residency, my stress level rose to maximum levels for obvious reasons.  Amidst this, came the birth of my fist child, then the second, and then the chaos really took a life of its own.  With each step my adrenals were pumping more cortisol, which gave me a feeling of happiness and of accomplishment.  The energy I got from these toxic levels, made me more focused, more efficient, more successful.  That sounds great!  Hold up.  During slow days I was tired, uninspired, and ill tempered.  Who wants to feel like that?  So without realizing I started seeking out busier schedules and less down time. 

My Adrenaline Rushes

  • over-scheduling my clinics  
  • creating research project and education seminars on my non work days
  • running kids to hundreds of activities
  • scheduling several hours of workouts a day
  • planning an increasing number of parties at my house
  • weekend plans that require an Activities Coordinator
  • my favorite time to shop in December, Christmas Eve - need I say more?

The Side Effects

Though I was a successful woman with a lovely family and thriving career, I suffered from many health side effects - sleep issues, bowel issues, acne, and headaches.  No to mention my skyrocketing irritability on work days when I came home.  Dealing with my children at times seemed insurmountable, and they were simply being kids.  My marital status was touch and go. Any issue no matter how small would get me totally riled up.

The Recovery

Since my rehabilitation, I feel so much better.  My sleep is on track without sleep medications, my skin and bowels are in great condition, and I am no longer irritable.  When teenage life happens around me, I don't have to pretend to be calm to deal with a situation.  I am calm inside and out.   Working as a doctor in a foreign medical system and dealing with unusual clinical conditions can be quite stressful, but calmness reigns.  Moving apartments, driving on the other side of the road, change of plans?  No issues.  Calm.  It's a great state of mind.  I had no idea how good I could feel without so much stress.

Is this it?  Am I cured?  Not by a long shot!! I am now strategizing how to apply what I have learned and implement it when I return to the States.

Do you suffer from Stress Addiction? How to tell:

  • What does your google calendar look like?
  • How often do you use busy in a conversation?
  • What do days/weekends with nothing to do feel like?
  • Do you have health concerns that have not been corrected with a nutritious diet?

Stop!  Look at your kids.  Remember that they don’t often listen to what we say, but they copy what they see.

In Good Health,  Ana-Maria Temple, MD