1. You often leave things to the last minute and then race around like a maniac getting things done.
  2. You worry constantly that you forgot to do something.
  3. You work long hours but still feel that you should be working more.
  4. You can’t sit still and do nothing.
  5. You feel anxious and worried when not connected to email, text and other electronic work formats.
  6. You struggle to “turn off” at night and go to sleep.
  7. You no longer have time to do things you used to enjoy, like hang out with friends, work out or go to the movies.

Why Do We Thrive on Stress?

It seems mysterious. Why on earth would anyone want to be stressed out? Why do we work so hard and fill our lives with so much busyness? The answer may lie in a study in which participants were asked to sit alone with nothing to distract them from their own thoughts. Most couldn’t do it for more than five to 15 minutes. Some people even gave themselves electric shocks. Experts think this illustrates our reluctance to be introspective. We don’t want to think about deep issues related to our inner lives, so we fill up our time with busy work — anything that distracts us from looking inward.

How to Kick the Habit

The idea that we can’t reflect on our thoughts and inner lives is troubling. If you find that you can’t sit and be quiet and be with your thoughts for more than 10 minutes, you should work on spending more time with yourself. You can ease into meditative reflection. Start by doing a creative activity, but alone and without music, television or any other distractions. Or, try exercising. Go for a walk or a run, but without your headphones and without a workout buddy. Do it alone and see how it fees. You will get used to the sensation of not working, not being stressed and being alone with your thoughts.

Once you are able to spend small chunks of time alone, you’re ready to take some time away from work and other stressful responsibilities. Start small again with one day off. Have a spa day or a day out with friends. Move up to a long weekend and travel somewhere you can relax. Rent a cabin or a house on the beach with your partner or your kids. Do nothing work-related and don’t plan any activities. Just have fun.

Kicking the stress habit isn’t easy, but once you get the ball rolling you’ll wonder how you ever survived such a hectic lifestyle. If you try but fail to work less or to spend time relaxing or being alone, you may need the help of a professional. See a therapist who can guide you through your motives for clinging to stress and can help you change your behavior patterns so that you can begin to enjoy a balanced life.


Choose a better life. Choose recovery.