When you get stressed out, what actions do you take to try to reduce the stress? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the most commonly used strategies for dealing with stress are (in no particular order):
- watching television or movies
- surfing the web
- playing video games
Is your favorite go-to for fighting stress on this list?
As you look at this list, can you guess what these actions have in common? Dopamine! These activities cause the release of lots of the neurotransmitter dopamine. And dopamine is what lights up our pleasure centers in our brains. When we’re stressed out, we know if we eat, shop, gamble, play video games, and so forth, that we will light up our pleasure centers and feel good for at least a short while. And oftentimes, dopamine feels exciting—a nice change from the jittery or depressing feelings of stress.
Unfortunately, the same people who reported using the above strategies to reduce stress also reported that they were highly ineffective. Research found that of the people who eat to relieve stress, 84% said it didn’t actually help! (And, in fact, in some cases, the most common outcome was guilt, which serves to increase stress further!)
So if eating, drinking, shopping and other dopamine-releasing activities aren’t as helpful for relieving stress as you might have thought, what is? I’ll answer this question in the next blog post!
Whether you are dealing with sky-high stress or something else entirely, I invite you to call me to set up an appointment or arrange for a free 30-minute consultation. Call or text me at (816) 226-4678.