Taking it Easy is Hard

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to relax? For something that’s supposed to be enjoyable, relaxation can cause a great deal of discomfort to someone who’s used to being on-the-go all the time. Try it right now. Close your eyes for a few moments and just try to completely relax your body and quiet your mind. See how long it takes for your brain to start wandering once again to your long to-do list or other upcoming worries you might be holding on to.

Without practice, relaxing is hard work!

It’s important to keep in mind that the stress response acts on the same triggers in the brain as other addictive substances and behaviors such as drugs, alcohol, sugar, shopping, gambling, or even falling in love. Our reward system, fueled primarily by a chemical called dopamine, keeps us doing things that we perceive to be helpful for our survival. 

When we repeat a behavior over and over again that repetition builds a habit, such as driving the same route to work each morning. Add the element of dopamine and you strengthen those neural connections even more, making even the behaviors that you know are bad for you almost impossible to stop. Just like any other addiction, our tolerance level actually increases over time meaning that greater amounts of stress are required to get the same adrenaline rush, and eliminating sources of stress becomes more and more uncomfortable.

While you may consider calling stress an addiction to be a strong statement, think about how long it takes for you to relax when you’re on vacation. Or how challenging it is to keep away from email during the day even though you know it’s a distraction from other things you may need to focus on. Each phone call, each email, each text initiates the reward system just in anticipation of something new, and potentially something positive. Even though we may not enjoy what we hear on the other side, novelty in itself is something we crave. 

Being busy can be productive and enjoyable, so I’m not saying we should all sit around being bored all the time. What I would like for you to consider is the fact that being constantly busy means being in a continuous state of arousal, utilizing our energy and quite often stimulating our chronic, underlying stress response.

The more we are “on” the more difficult it is to turn “off” when we want to, and the harder it will be to actually relax. And relaxing is not only good for your body, mind and spirit – as you will soon understand, it helps you lose weight!

Next up…how stress makes you fat.

Friendly reminder, only a few more seats available in the 4-week Relax Your Fat Off Pilot that begins today, March 6th at 9pm EST! Please sign up soon, as we are limiting the group to the first 50 registrations.  For more information and to register, visit www.learnitlive.com/heidihanna.

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. Heidi is CEO and founder of SYNERGY, an integrative neuroscience partnership that provides brain-based training for individuals and organizations.

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