Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

A Waterfall of Stimulation – the Effect of Chronic Stress

Is your life a waterfall of endless activity and constant stimulation?

Maybe you work over lunch, in the evenings, and on weekends.  Or you’re glued to the internet every evening until bedtime.  Perhaps you never part from your Iphone, Blackberry or other electronic devices.  Some people even conduct wild sleep experiments in an attempt to capture more time. Then there’s the proud multitasker.  Is that you?

A small brood may be keeping you on your toes 24/7. Maybe you squeeze in work during their naps, school hours, or after their bedtime, stealing from your own precious Z’s.

This may seem all well and good in the moment, but chronic over-stimulation leads to physiological over-arousal—stress!—and the release of adrenaline and cortisol in the body.  In our times, it’s not uncommon for people to have a continuous elevation of cortisol in their bloodstream due to a busy, pressured, high performance, noisy, information-flooded lifestyle.

According to Wikipedia, just “commuting increases cortisol levels, related to the length of the trip, the amount of effort involved and the predictability of the trip.” Over-stimulation is endemic in our culture. The energized state that initially occurs when aroused can even become addictive.

The inevitable results

When you are healthy and strong, it’s easy to shrug off the extra work, stress, and commitments in the hopes of getting ahead, building a business, saving the world, or socking money away for retirement. However, it’s dangerously naive to dwell in this bravado.  I am telling you this heart-to-heart as someone who innocently worked like a dog and then was taken aback when the highly predictable results occurred.

Constant stress and stimulation, physical and psychological, more often than not leads to serious health problems. Excess cortisol coursing through your system can interfere with digestion, suppress the immune system, tighten muscles, and increase blood pressure.  It can make it difficult to fall asleep, wake you up the night or too early in the morning.  Chronic over-arousal can make you more prone to anxiety and depression because it can actually rewire your brain.  Many health problems are caused or exacerbated by stress including chronic pain, autoimmune conditions, skin disorders, heart disease, digestive distress, chronic fatigue, and others.

In short, continuous stress can cause widespread damage to your body, have a deleterious affect on your mood and mental health, reduce your productivity, impact your relationships adversely, and diminish your joy de vivre.

Isn’t it ironic that when illness does finally emerge, we are taken by surprise as if it came of the blue?  Usually, it’s simply the accumulation of years of crazed living.

For the sake of your future health, please let all this sink in—unrelenting stress is harmful to you. While some people can handle it on the short run better than others, adverse long term effects are predictable.  People who are already ill or the 1 in 5 who are highly sensitive, need to take even more precautions.

There are many people in the world who work too hard because they don’t have a choice and suffer consequent illness because of it.  Sadly, many of those who do have a choice, don’t always realize the potential ill-effects of their stress-driven lifestyle.

Take a look at your life

I am not going to launch into 100-point list of stress reduction tips to further add to your plate.  My approach is usually to focus on the power of one, anyway.  Today, I just want to beseech you to please take a moment to look at your life and honestly see if stress, pressure, and chronic over-stimulation are overarching issues for you.

If so, please don’t be innocent like me. My advice is to be a brazen non-careerist!

Take a moment to look.  Then start with just one simple, achievable change to release a bit of air from the tight balloon before it suddenly pops.  When you have that one well under your belt, move on to another.  Take it easy, don’t stress, but please do take it seriously.

Have you managed to jump off the roller coaster of stress?

If you liked this article, please share the link with others.  Thanks so much!  Sandra


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  1. But the problem is that I crave over-stimulation, and I am clear that it contributes to my depression, but it feels very good. When I stop, I literally get withdrawl. Any ideas on how to handle this?

    • Sandra Lee

      Welcome roquesophia. It’s true, over-stimulation can become addictive. The goal is to find the optimal level of arousal for you. I am not a therapist, but it seems that in the case of depression a certain amount of stimulation may be a positive thing. The key is finding when the good thing starts to turn bad. I’m impressed with your awareness. You are very clear on how over-stimulation can contribute to your depression. That’s a huge first step. My approach is always to take a small, manageable, achievable step and gradually grow the change. My suggestion is to simply to identify one small step you can take and go with it. When you have that firmly established move on to the next one. Another idea is to make a list of early warning signs that tell you when you are moving into over-stimulation as well as a list of your first-aid techniques to help you not go there. Then remember to look at everyday. That’s the hard part for me! I’m not knowledgeable about depression in particular, but these are general approaches that might be helpful. Challenges like depression and anxiety can sometimes be triggered or exacerbated by diet, so that might be another area you might like to explore. Again, I’m not a therapist, but can share these simple approaches that have helped me in my life.

      All the best to you and thanks for leaving your comment. I’m glad to “meet” you.

  2. Have you managed to jump off the roller coaster of stress?

    No, but I was thrown off it with a bump. My body just couldn’t handle 12 – 14 hour working days plus two hours commuting every day, not to mention the continuous mental overdrive even during off-work hours. So it gave up, completely, and I have been chronically ill for over a year since then.

    However difficult it may seem to make changes now to slow the “waterfall” and safeguard your well-being, it will be much, much harder if you wait until you are pushed over the edge. I couldn’t agree with you more when you say take it seriously.

    • Sandra Lee

      Welcome Samir and thank you so much for your comment. I really appreciate the point that you make: how it’s much better to safeguard your health now because it’s so hard to recover once you go over the edge. I couldn’t agree with you more and this is why I was motivated to write this article. Of course, everyone has their own journey but perhaps some will benefit from our experience. What an interesting blog you have! Beautiful poems, a touch of Vedic astrology, and musing on recent politics. May your search for unity be always fruitful.

  3. sbteaches

    This is a question about your blog set-up, but how do you get the pictures to show up on the title page of your blog? I use the same wordpress theme, and mine won’t work 🙁 I do love your blog though!

    • Sandra Lee

      HI there sbteaches,

      In your dashboard go to Appearance and click on Theme Options. On the Theme Option page, make sure nothing is checked except for your color scheme. Featured post entries should be set to 0. Then when you create or edit a post, on the edit post page in the right sidbar, there’s an option for ‘set featured image’. Choose this option and the media window will pop up. Choose an image from your computer or media library or a url, then instead of selecting any of the usual options, select the one that says “use as featured image” (or something like that)…once that’s done just click in the corner of the box to close it. The small images should now appear on your front page.

      Instead of having 2 extracts per column, you can also set it for one extract per column by going back to theme options and selecting “one column normal” post.

      Panos explains these WordPress options for Inuit Themes very well:

      Good luck! And thanks for your nice words about my blog.

  4. I have a waterfall of relaxation: an image of a waterfall, complete with my own sound effects, is a trick I use when I have a hard time falling asleep. The image and sounds (in my own head) are very soothing, and put me to sleep in no time. I haven’t seen a real waterfall for a long time, and sometimes I can’t pull up an image in my imagination easily. The photo you provided is a great one to keep in my mind’s eye.

    Thank you.

    • Sandra Lee

      Kathleen, this is a wonderful tip for relaxation using beautiful imagery. You are well versed in taking care of yourself. I appreciate you sharing your tips and tricks. We seem so synchronous sometimes – me with the waterfall photo and you with the waterfall relaxation! 🙂

  5. When I picture my waterfall, it always flows from left to right, just like your photo. Synchronicity indeed! 🙂

  6. What I have found is the older I get the wiser I am and the less stress I have. My hubs lost his job 16 months ago. We immediately cut down on everything. He’s back to working yet we’ve chosen to keep our simpler lifestyle. I was determined from the start I wouldn’t cut back and be miserable I would cut back in joy. Now I don’t want to live any other way. Oh and that saying “there’s something better”it’s true!

  7. Sandra, the over-stimulation that I had years ago was undesirable but the one I create today is based on everything I want to know and learn and be in the loop for. I think the latter – the current one – is better for me but both take their toll and again I have fallen out of my meditation but yoga classes are such a sacred time for me….I must remember to walk away from my Mac more often. THANK YOU for a beautiful reminder! 🙂

    • Sandra Lee

      Farnoosh, You are such a dynamic person and you know so clearly what is beneficial for you. Time on the MAC can be addictive though, so I know what you mean. It’s beautiful that your time for yoga is sacred and honored so greatly. Thanks so much for your comment.

  8. Hi Sandra,

    I made a conscious choice a couple of years ago to change my job and move to a smaller city that was less populated, less populated and more family oriented in order to have a better life/work balance. I haven’t had a lot of stress in the last two years, but you know what? I find that I do miss the busyiness of my previous life – it was very stimulating compared to what I live today. I think you have to have a good balance though, otherwise, like you say, you will end up sick. I was on my way to being burned out by that lifestyle and it wasn’t fun living with the stress. A certain amount of stress is need though, otherwise life is kind of dull 🙂


    • Sandra Lee

      Hi Karen, Thanks for sharing your story. I agree with you – we each need to find our own optimal level of arousal otherwise life will be too dull or too stressed. We are all biochemically different and some of us need more stimulation than others. The only way to know is to tune into your own body and being. As a whole, our culture has gone a little on the excessive side though! In my mind, the optimal scenario is for everyone to find their best place on the spectrum and for there to be space for all styles. Sounds like it’s time for you to have a visit to the big city to get an injection of some excitement! Thanks so much for your comment.

  9. Tell me about it Sandra
    My problem is that I want to do so many things.
    Work takes up most of the time including lots of travelling, but I do limit overtime.
    Then comes family life, blogging, other hobbies and I like to exercise regularly.

    Farnoosh makes a good point about “I want to know and learn and be in the loop”. She is so right but all that takes time and energy.

    Good thing is that I still find time to sit, relax and just watch the tele.

  10. Sandra Lee

    Welcome Keith,

    It is wonderful to have so many positive aspirations! I’m glad you still find time to sit and relax because balance is the key. We are all different so we each need to find our own balance point.

    I am one of the zillions of people who are intimidate by public speaking so I’m sure your blog is very helpful to many! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I really appreciate it.

  11. Hi Sandra,
    I am somewhat like Samir, jumped out of the roller coaster recently. Mine was due to stress, depression and anxiety with some physical effects thrown in for good measure. My doctor has placed me on medical leave to see if we can reduce my level of anxiety and I am also going to counseling to see what I can do about my need to throw myself into my work 150%, working 70-80 hours a week, never shutting it down. I am blogging about my experience and my journey back to health. I believe I will follow you as I think you will have some help for me!

  12. Sandra Lee

    Welcome Bernice,

    I am so touched by your words and the plight so many women find themselves in these days. You have an excellent blog and I’m sure writing about your journey will help many others.

    I’ve been following J. D. Meier’s 30 Days of Getting Results – a free online course for the month of August – and have been learning about setting boundaries from him. It’s helping me a lot. J. D. is a manager at Microsoft. Here’s the link in case you are interested.


    Thanks for your kind words. Wishing you the best!

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