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Slow down, take control of your life

| Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Are you addicted to speed?

Many of us are addicted to going faster in our lives, says psychologist Stephanie Brown, an addiction specialist. We're afraid to slow down our chaotic lives that have us constantly chasing success, power and the next big thing.

“It's an addiction because people cannot stop,” she says. “We want to stop and we need to stop, but we can't. We're in constant motion and action.”

That may mean that you're always working, forever connected to your smartphone so you won't miss a text, email or phone call. You feel rushed, out of control and overwhelmed, but you can't seem to stop the crazy hamster wheel that has become your life.

That behavior is just like an alcoholic who cannot say no to a drink, Brown says. This addiction to speed makes us unable to stay away from our jobs even though we may be suffering the physical problems associated with stress and overwork.

Relationships may be deteriorating around us, but we can't get away from our computers or that craving to be on a smartphone.

Of course, the sluggish economy has driven many Americans into working longer and harder to retain their jobs. But Brown says that instead of using such difficult times as a way to look at “what we're doing,” people “went to the corner to lick their wounds and wait for the next big thing.

“That just fuels this grandiose sense that life is a jackpot and we can have it all,” she says.

Researchers at Kansas State University pegged “workaholism” as working 50-hour weeks, and their study showed those toiling such hours can be affected with mental and physical deterioration.

Most common is skipping meals, but such workers also show higher levels of depression.

“Our culture encourages and even demands that we do more, produce more and never stop,” Brown says.

So while we would never encourage an alcoholic to be more acceptable by drinking more, we believe that working more — and faster —raises our value in the workplace. We even shun time off: An Expedia study shows that Americans used only 10 of 14 vacation days this year.

In her book, “Speed: Facing Our Addiction to Fast and Faster and Overcoming Our Fear of Slowing Down,” Brown outlines several ways to slow down:

• Ask for help. A mentor who believes in slowing down can provide support and guidance.

• Listen to yourself. Trust that the “high of impulsive action is not the feeling you seek,” she says.

• Trust the quiet. Intimate, deep relationships come from a slower, quiet pace.

• Redefine success. Make your best effort within a structure of limits.

• Take your time. Growth and change don't happen in an instant.

Blaming technology for our rushed lifestyles is often easy, but Brown says that “it is the way we think about technology that is the problem.”

“It's a wondrous time, but let's stop and think about limits,” she says. “We are caught in a terrible illusion of progress.”

Society has become caught up in the idea that you can have it all with no limits, Brown says. Make time to pause and rest and make it “trendy to slow down.”

Write Anita Bruzzese in care of USA TODAY/Gannett, 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, Va. 22108.

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