Are you a “stressaholic”? Guest blogger Dr. Heidi Hanna provides insights on how you can better manage your stress rather than it managing you.

You’re Type A, you want to win, and you wouldn’t have gotten into this business if you didn’t. You crave that rush of adrenaline, the excitement, the energy. They say it’s bad for you, but you can’t imagine giving it up. Without it, what would give you your competitive edge? We’re not talking about illegal substances. Not even caffeine. We’re talking about stress – the secret addiction that plagues so many overachievers.

If your social life revolves around work, if you can’t disconnect from your phone or computer and if you’re still thinking about to-do lists as you lie in bed, you might be a “stressaholic.” I would describe the classic stress addict as having an “I thrive on stress and don’t need to manage it” mindset.

There are reasons to love stress. The chemical cocktail of cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine that stress releases in our bodies causes our hearts to beat faster, instantly raises blood glucose, and gives us a big burst of focus and energy. While most of us no longer need this chemical cocktail to escape lions, that cortisol-stimulated rush helps us multitask and get things done in a hurry.

This is Your Brain on Stress

But what happens if you’re addicted to stress and living from invigorating burst to burst? It turns out that just like that old public service announcement showing an egg cooking on a pan, our brain is getting fried. It’s also wreaking havoc on the body. The long-term impact of too much cortisol can be catastrophic, leading to high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and a host of other ailments.

Aside from the long-term health risks, stress in the short term doesn’t really deliver the benefit a stress addict might assume. Much like a drug, the “boost” you get as a result of stress is very short term — only about 18 minutes. Afterward, your blood sugar drops, your energy disintegrates, and you don’t feel like a rock star anymore.

Stress. Recover. Repeat.

So, how can you train your brain for the sprints that it requires but also be prepared to run the distance? The good news is that you don’t have to completely give up the bursts of energy you love; you only need to learn how to manage it.

Try picking up a few new habits. For starters, find ways to incorporate exercise into your day. Since aerobic activity is the No. 1 way to burn cortisol, regular workouts can help the body recover between bursts (leave the phone at the office). Eating smaller meals more frequently is a great way to maintain an ideal blood glucose level. And finally, make time for socializing. Not only will it help you stay balanced, but it also increases endorphin levels, which in turn balances cortisol and improves your mood.

So, for the stress junkies, there’s hope. Making a few simple changes will get you off the energy roller coaster, giving you the sustainable energy you need to handle the highs without hitting the lows.

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About the Author

As an experienced speaker, Dr. Heidi Hanna has been featured at many national and global conferences, including the Fortune Magazine Most Powerful Women in Business Summit, ESPN Women’s Leadership Summit and the Million Dollar Round Table. She is founder and Chief Energy Officer of Synergy, a consulting company providing brain-based health and performance programs for organizations, and the Executive Director of the American Institute of Stress.

Dr. Hanna’s publications include The New York Times bestseller The SHARP Solution: A Brain-Based Approach for Optimal Performance (Wiley, Feb 2013), Stressaholic: 5 Steps to Transform Your Relationship with Stress (Wiley, Jan 2014) and Recharge: 5 Shifts to Energize Your Life (Synergy, 2015). Dr. Hanna is a National Board Member for the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, a Fellow with the American Institute of Stress, and she currently serves as editor of their quarterly publication, Contentment. Recently, Dr. Hanna created The Beyond Funny Project, a non-profit dedicated to providing resources and education related to the benefits of healthy humor.

Dr. Hanna holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Penn State University and holds a master’s degree in mental health counseling and a Ph.D. in holistic nutrition.