In the past, I’ve written quite a bit about both stress and our biochemicals. However, I’m not sure (without reading everything back) if I’ve discussed how our hormones can become addictive, especially the ‘stress’ ones.
Our various biochemicals have a massive impact on how we think, feel and behave.
Adrenaline and Cortisol
Adrenaline and cortisol are the two hormones we produce when we feel stressed, anxious or overwhelmed. They are responsible for our flight, fight, freeze stress response and are present when we experience negative emotions such as anger, hostility, hate, fear, guilt, shame, and sadness. Again, these two chemicals are extremely powerful, not to mention addictive.
If you have a lot of stress or anxiety in your life for a prolonged period, your body can become addicted to the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.
Suppose then that you recognise that you need to take action to manage your stress levels and, so, begin to build self-care practices into your daily routine. However, as you start to feel calmer and more in control, you may find that, seemingly out of nowhere, you get a negative thought or something unexpectedly triggers your stress response giving you a sudden hit of adrenaline and cortisol.
It may even be something relatively small that ordinarily wouldn’t bother you, but for some reason, it provokes a massive, disproportionate response in you. That isn’t a coincidence. It’s your body craving the missing biochemicals that it’s become so used to having.
For example, say you get up in the morning, you’re in a relatively good mood as you’ve decided to work from home. Suddenly, at 8.30 am, you get a horrible/negative/stressful thought that triggers your stress response.
What may explain this unexpected hit of biochemicals is that typically, you would be sitting in a traffic jam on your way to work at 8.30 am. Frustration or even road rage probably would have kicked in, producing a huge shot of adrenaline and cortisol.
However, because you decided to work from home and aren’t sitting in traffic as you usually would, your brain finds another way (by giving you a negative thought) to deliver the stress hormones your body is craving.
As I’ve said many times before, our brains can’t tell the difference between a real-life physical experience and a vivid thought. Therefore, your thoughts alone can produce the same biochemical reaction as they would if the situation were physically happening.
This likely explains why for some people, it seems almost impossible to manage and relieve their stress levels in the long term; as soon as they try, they self-sabotage!
However, once you’re aware of what’s happening, you can take control of your mind rather than letting your mind control you.
In Part 2 next week, I’ll discuss the following:
- Dopamine, the reward chemical and why we become addicted to things like drugs, alcohol, social media scrolling etc.
- Endorphins, the painkiller and why we feel so good after exercising.
- How to use pattern interrupts to control our negative emotions and stress response
If there are any topics that you’d like me to cover in upcoming articles, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment or contact me a firstname.lastname@example.org. If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter yet, do it now to receive a FREE copy of my mini-course, ‘How to Hack Your Happy Hormones’!