Oh, why do I do this to myself?
No, I'm not talking illegal drugs here (I am that terribly boring person who has never even smoked pot) or even the lovely lovely drugs that keep my Black Dog from suffocating me entirely in the bad times, but the stress "drugs" of adrenaline and cortisol. And yes, for my fellow pedants out there, I know these are hormones, not drugs.
You see, I actively like stress – or at least, I choose to actively subject myself to it – which comes to the same thing, doesn't it? Or does it? My latest stupidity is to announce to various networking friends that the first draft of my romance novel will be written and delivered to them to read on Christmas Eve!
I just finished chapter five this morning. That's approximately half way through the book. Of course, it was supposed to be a novella, but at 18,927 words already I have reluctantly concluded that I don't do short.
But, I'd been writing this thing since February and had got as far as the beginning of chapter three by mid-November. Something had to be done. The only way I could see of actually finishing the thing in this lifetime was to put myself under pressure to deliver; hence my rather foolhardy promise.
But it was a stupid thing to do from the health point of view.
Most of us are familiar with the effects of the "fight or flight" hormone adrenaline, but this is what the experts say about Cortisol*.
The stress hormone, cortisol, is present in your body all the time, but levels increase in response to danger and stress. In the short-term, its effects are positive, to help you deal with an immediate crisis, but long-term stress means that cortisol builds up and creates a number of stress-related health problems.
Short-term positive effects:
• a quick burst of energy
• decreased sensitivity to pain
• increase in immunity
• heightened memory.
Long-term negative effects:
• imbalances of blood sugar
• increase in abdominal fat storage
• suppressed thyroid activity
• decreased bone density
• decreased muscle mass
• high blood pressure
• lowered immunity
• less able to think clearly.
And yes, at the moment I am on a roll with the novel, all the energy is zinging around like nobody's business. I'm longing to get up at 5am to start work on it and then to work again until gone midnight.
I'm not quite stupid enough to do that, but I am tempted.
But with my GP expressing concern about the nosebleeds (see previous post) and muttering darkly about high blood pressure, with the menopause indicating that decreased bone density is a legitimate concern and with my desire to lose weight (yes, from the tummy, alright?), all those long term health effects are worrying.
So, it's a quandary. I can't work without deadlines and deadlines cause stress. Ergo, I need the stress. It's just that I know it will inevitably present a stinging bill; one which I'd rather not pay.
So – if anyone has any ideas about how to be enjoyably productive without the buzz of stress, please let me know. Answers on a postcard to…
A Moodscope member.
* This piece courtesy of Mind.org.uk