Stimulation Addiction

burn out mindfulness stimulation addiction Oct 28, 2021
Busy workplace, stimulation addiction image

You know that feeling when you are run off your feet, busier than usual. Exhausted. But unable to rest.

In fact, when you do finally sit down to rest or perhaps even try to meditate (because of course, you're busy and exhausted and overwhelmed and you know that apparently meditation is a great antidote for all those things...) you just can't seem to sit still. Your body and mind are buzzing and even when you get a spare moment you can't seem to relax. Sleep is difficult, your heart races and your mind feels foggy but unable to switch off.


What gives?!?!


This, is Stimulation Addiction. It's your body used to running on a mixture of cortisol, adrenaline and probably a bit of caffeine too, so much so that when you try to wind down, your entire system is still drowning in this hormonal milieu of pumped up stimulation. Much like the diabetic who's bodily tissues have become resistant to the high levels of circulating insulin over many years, the Stimulation Addict is also dealing with a physiological system that is completely out of kilter. Their sympathetic nervous system (the SNS or Stress Response) now unable to discern between its base level activation and the increased response needed to make that big presentation at work or deal with the emotional turmoil of someone close to us. There is just no ability to turn the dial up anymore and SNS dysfunction ensues.


Much of this may sound familiar. Perhaps you've heard of the recently in vogue term Adrenal Fatigue? The diagnosis of Adrenal Fatigue is sold often by practitioners who co-incidentally also offer cures for it.

The issue I take with this is two fold: 

1) Being that Adrenal Fatigue must be differentiated from Addisons Disease- which is the true pathological inability of the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol. This is a medical emergency and should not be confused with the term Adrenal Fatigue.

2) The modern world that we all live in is a busy, hyper-stimulating, always 'on' kind of place- hence our adrenal glands are simply responding to the environment in which they find themselves. They a doing the job (that they incidentally do VERY well) of pumping out stress hormones in response to the stimulation provided to them by our brains. In fact, Adrenal Fatigue I would counter is an inappropriate term- as the adrenals are continuing to do their job despite unreasonable demand- the issue is rather that our brains are providing excess adrenal stimulation- and THIS is what needs to be remedied. 


Now, there are in fact 'cures' for this, but they don't come in simple pill form. 

There is no supplement to switch off your stress response. 


Stress is not inherently a bad thing. Stress is simply a stimulus that causes our bodies momentary increased physiological demand. That is, something happens to us, our body perceives that stimulus and decides the appropriate response based on what our brain tells us. Very quickly our body and ind work together to decide-

Is this something to fear?

Is this something to rise to action for?

Is this something we can let 'go to the keeper'?


The finely tuned system that determines our stress response has evolved over millions of years to hold the capacity to perceive, discern and determine a response to just about any stressor we could imagine. The problem more often than not isn't actually in the systems ability to respond, but rather in its ability to stand down after a response. This is where those of us dealing with things like anxiety, stress and burn out need to shift our attention.


The problem is not the existence of stress, it is our relationship to it.


What do I mean by this?

Well, the issue isn't in fact with the appropriate response of the adrenal glands to the perception of stress. It is the body and mind's interpretation of the constant stimulation that this modern world provides. Switching off, is often not possible.


This is where we must re-learn how to rest. Meditation and mindfulness have been the key to re-learning how to rest for me. Changing our relationship with the nature of busyness and learning how to value the critically important skill of allowing our body and mind to come to a state of rest and introspection. Where we learn how to notice the inner squall of our own minds and then take a step back from the storm.


If you want to learn more about how you can integrate these transformational skills into your own life then I would love for you to join me on one of my trainings or if you are a doctor, by joining me on one of my exclusive doctor only (and CPD approved) Mindfulness & Wellbeing retreats. to help you to learn how to be more mindful in your own life.




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