Is stress addictive? Are you a stressaholic?

Written by Ali Hale Tilley

Many of us thrive on stress. We can define stress as physical and mental reactions to any flight-fight response. These lifestyle responses stimulate brain chemicals, such as adrenaline, cortisol, and dopamine. However, the two types of stress – ‘good’ stress and ‘chronic’ stress – can make us react in different ways.

‘Good stress’ involves moderately challenging, short-lived stimulus, which can release adrenaline, making us feel motivated, focused, and accomplished. Good stress can provide us with a sense of leading an exciting, meaningful life.

On the flip side, chronic stress or being in a state of continual distress can release cortisol as stress hormone, which makes us feel restless, irritated, overworked, and exhausted.

Moreover, studies show that cortisol, our chronic stress hormone, makes us more sensitive to dopamine the chemical that makes us crave pleasure and reward. As a result of chronic stress, we may develop intense cravings, seeking addictive behaviours such as eating sweets, watching mindless entertainment, and gambling. Some people also use addictive substances, such as alcohol, nicotine, and painkillers to help dampen the effects of cortisol.

Consequently, when we are physically and mentally stressed we may crave substances and use addictive behaviours to help counter the negative physical and mental/emotional effects of stress.  

  • Physical stress symptoms include: exhaustion, muscle tension and jaw clenching, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, digestive problems, compromised immunity and addictive behaviours.
  • Likewise, mental/emotion stress symptoms include feelings of being agitated, moody, and frustrated, and unable to control emotional impulses, and need for social withdrawal.
workplace fatigue

To further help identify the differences between good and chronic stress we can look at stress in terms of 6 categories:

  1. Work stress (challenges and pressures related to your job performance, work colleagues, and any time spent commuting)
  2. Financial stress (challenges and pressures around financial obligations and use of expendable income)
  3. Relationship stress (how you relate to friends, family members and partners)
  4. Parental stress (how you relate to your children, your co-parenting arrangements, and support from extended family)
  5. Emotional stress (difficult emotions such as anger, sadness, or frustration)
  6. Environmental stress (your standard of living and workplace situation)

Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress, claims “A stress addict is looking to feel numb through distraction to avoid dealing with the source of unhappiness and loss of control.”

Furthermore, an article from Verywell Mind presents 6 questions to help us identify whether we are suffering from chronic stress: (

  1. Are you often moody or irritated?
  2. Does it feel like you are always worrying about something?
  3. Does it seem like you don’t have time to take care of yourself or do the things that you enjoy?
  4. Do the smallest inconveniences seem like too much to handle?
  5. Do you always seem to catch colds or get infections?
  6. Have you been relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol to manage your stress?
Worse still, sometimes stress is accumulative over the course of our lives. According’s to a medical article on child psychology and stress responses stress can accumulate throughout our lives without us actually realising it.

 “Negative life events such as loss of parent, parental divorce and conflict, low parental support, physical violence and abuse, emotional abuse and neglect, isolation and deviant affiliation, and single-parent family structure have all been associated with increased risk of substance abuse.” In this regard, early life stress can lead to chronic stress experiences and seeking addictive rewards.”

The problem with the modern world is we want it all. We want to feel busy and productive to get the chemical rewards that stop us feeling sad, lonely, exhausted, irritated etc. We also want to feel fulfilled and engaged, as well as centered and relaxed. Consequently, our addiction to busy-ness and need for productivity may mean that we are less willing or able to engage in healthy stress management practices.

You may not be able to avoid stress in your life, but you can employ daily strategies to stop feeling the negative effects of stress. Remember if you are chronically stressed try one strategy each day to see which one makes you feel better.

Here are 10 useful strategies to help you balance up stressful lifestyle

  1. Q: Do you thrive on tight deadlines?

At the end of each day reflect on what you’ve accomplished and acknowledge the good parts of your life

  • Q: Do you often leave things until the last minute?

Learn to say “no” to demands that are time-consuming or energetically taxing

  • Q: Do you have a difficult time doing nothing at all?

Practice 5 minutes a day of breathing exercises (4 in, 4 hold, 4 out, 4 hold) followed by clearing meditation

  • Q: Do you constantly worry that you might be missing out or things might go wrong?

Spend time with people who keep you calm, make you happy, and provide emotional support.

  • Q: Do you feel stressed when you’re disconnected from your cell phone or computer?

Make time instead engaging in interesting hobbies such as reading, listening to music, and painting, designing, or even gardening.

  • Q: Do you find it difficult to turn your brain off at night?

Use calming essential oils, adding a drop or two on a tissue and tucking it under your pillow before bedtime.

  • Q: Have you been relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol or gambling to manage your stress?

Go for a 20 minute walk daily to boost your overall mood

  • Q: Do you feel as though you’re constantly running from one thing to the next?

Practice self-care by eating healthy, putting your feet up at night, and getting enough sleep.

  • Q: Do you feel as though there is never enough time to get things done?

Try to avoid negative self-criticism and practice positive self-talk instead

  1. Do you find it hard to control food cravings?

Find outlets for high stress by engaging safely in high intensity or explosive activities such as martial arts, golf, H.I.T or even building something useful



Our next 30 Day challenge starts Sunday 15th November, and finishes Monday December 14th

Gain health, well being, energy, and get yourself ready for summer
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is challenge-1.jpg

Hello and welcome to the 2020 YOGA & WELL-BEING CHALLENGE.Ali Hale Tilley, director of the NZ Yoga Centre, will kick start the next challenge to inspire you to get the most of your pre-summer cleanse. You can join remotely from anywhere and get same the benefits as group practice. The overall challenge is FREE to participate. Scroll down for challenge updates and registration details.



The 2020 Yoga Challenge includes 5 main parts: 
PART 1 –  Physical wellbeing cleanse  
    1. Practice minimum 3 yoga sessions per week
      • You can do 2 of the 3 classes as home, online, or at another studio. However, one class per week must be our Sunday class, with an option for you to do a make-up class at a different time slot if required. Regular yoga practice brings radiant health benefits and is the basis of a deep system cleanse.
    2. Clean and declutter parts of your home, car, garden, or office
      • Unless you are a neat freak, there is sure to be one or more areas that need sorting out. Use this de-cluttering process to create more clear spaces in your environment, so you can feel more mentally at ease. 
    3. Do a deep body scrub once a week  
      • Mix salt or sugar with natural oils like olive or coconut oil. Removing dead skin cells from all over your body helps your skin breath and renew itself. 
    4. Set up a place for regular yoga and meditation practice
      • Find a place where dogs, goats, and kids can’t disturb you. Face your mat east in the morning and north in the evening. Return to this place for each session to increase your vibrational imprint.
    5. Avoid using chemical cleaning and beauty products – use natural products
      • Avoid artificial deodorants, chemical hair products, mineral oil based skin creams and cosmetics. Go online to get inspired by natural product recipes.  You can buy basic low-cost ingredients like aluminium-free baking soda, coconut oil, white vinegar, tea tree oil locally.
PART 2 – Nutritional cleanse
  1.   Eat a pure vege diet using Ali’s 85+10+5% rule (no meat or eggs)
    • A pure vege diet is outlined in the post below. The food really tastes amazing and this way of eating allows you to be super healthy before the big Xmas binge.  We will share recipes on out private chat page. We will also come together for potluck feasts that were so inspiring and were the highlight of last year’s challenge.  Going plant-based is the way forward for a healthy planet.
  2. Avoid all processed and refined foods, and read labels
    •  No white sugar, white flour, no biscuits, cakes, and slices. No deep fried chips, takeaways, or plastic wrapped food with more than 1 or 2 chemical numbers (additives, colours, flavours). No gelatine, which means no standard cream cheese or cottage cheese, Read every label and purchase accordingly.
  3. Research and use well-balanced vegetarian recipes
    • There are so many amazing vegetarian and vegan cookbooks and articles, both online and in the local library. Tag the recipes that make each meal a mini feast and impress the doubters in your family with delicious nutritious fare.
  4. Limit alcohol intake to 3 units a week (i.e. 3 classes wine or 3 beers)
    • Time to hang up your party shoes and go sober. Look for ‘virgin’ cocktail recipes online or in cooking books and have a jug of healthy refreshments ready to quench your thirst. You skin and organs will love a break!
  5. Stop food dependencies and avoid eating all unhealthy foods
    • How are you going to handle cravings that come as a stress response to work, family dramas? Perhaps buy some sulphur-free dried fruits, organic berries, or 85% dark chocolate. Try chewing cardamom, fennel or caraway seeds. Make a small platter filled with fresh healthy produce. Get creative and get to know when and why you seek out unhealthy options.
PART 3 – Mental cleanse
    1. Practice daily meditation (5 minutes minimum)
      • Sit in silence and watch your breath flow. Observe your thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them. Check in and find a deep sense of inner peace. Focus your mind on one thing like the rising sun.
    2. Limit entertainment habits such as watching soaps and reading fiction (2 hours a night minimum)
      • Like junk food, junk entertainment is a distraction that pollutes the subconscious mind. If you need to be entertained to feel happy and preoccupied, put on instrumental music, read an autobiography, start a hobby like sewing or woodwork, or journal your inner feelings. Start s social group, join a book club… we are only limited by our imaginations.
    3. Observe your moods in relation to natural cycles
      • New moon, full moon, and planetary phases can impact how we feel. Check to see what is happening with the sun’s cycles.  Check how you feel on a grey day as opposed to a clear day. Our moods are related to larger patterns of weather and plantary systems.
    4. Resolve negative mind-sets with self-reflection
      • Like meditation, self-reflection asks us to look in and experience our deep inner state. Does that idea scare you? Are you terrified of what is lurking in the mind’s shadows? Have a chat with the ‘universe’ or inner self and make friends with your shadow side. Ask yourself why do you feel a certain way? Document or mind map the outcome
    5. Establish  a weekly self-care ritual
      • Soak in a bath with essential oil, walk on the beach, light up your home shrine, dance naked in the moonlight, or sit by an outdoor fire. Create a ritual that nourishes you and allows you to feel more connected with the sacred energy that is all around.
PART 4 – Emotional cleanse
  1. Rise just before sunset
    • In the Southern Hemisphere the sun rises around 6 am. Check sunrise times and be prepared to leap out of bed when the alarm goes off. Set your alarm a minute earlier each day as the longest day approaches. 
  2. Write up a daily journal or a 100 word summary of the week
    • Keeping a journal helps keep you accountable and allows you to check in with how you are really feeling. Why not write a passage to read out at our potluck gatherings? Sharing our feelings in a safe space can help with our mental wellbeing. People do not have to read out what the write but you will be encouraged to share your experiences.
  3. Cleanse your personal space with incense, sage, or blessed water
    • Sometimes negative energy builds up around our homes, workplaces or cars. To cleanse this energy try sprinkling salt on the doorstep, light a bay leaf to clear the air, ring a bell to dispel tension, fill a spray bottle with filtered water and essential oil to spritz your space. Become a shaman with your own domain. Chant, sing, act!
  4. Avoid where possible toxic or emotionally draining people
    • If you are listening to someone for more than 3 minutes at a time without saying much, it is a monologue or a download, not a conversation.  If you find yourself in a place where someone is talking about themselves exclusively, about a situation that doesn’t really involve you, say something like ‘breaker, breaker’, or ‘can I jump in here’ … Try to invite conversation rather than be a vent for other people’s self-obsessions.
  5. Cut emotional chords and reroute relationships through the higher self
    • This is a powerful visualisation exercise. During the challenge period, cut psychic ties with anyone who continually drains your time and energy. Reestablish a new relationship  through the plane of the higher self by sending them positive thoughts. 
PART 5 – Spiritual cleanse 
  1. Practice two hours of silence once a week
    • If family members or your thoughts won’t leave you in peace, find a place out of range, without cell phone, or any artificial noise, where you can sit quietly and practice complete silence… not ear phones, no podcasts, no talk back … silence! Once you make a commitment to silence, it feels like a deep cleanse of the soul.
  2. Practice forgiveness and acceptance 
    • People and problems can get under our skin. If we practice forgiveness and increase our compassion we can see ourselves and others in a different light. Accept that there are some things you cannot control. Rather than trying to control the actions of others, try controlling the flow or your breath instead.
  3. Sit or walk in nature and silently observe colours, smells, sounds
    • Small children are enamored with nature. However, as adults, sometimes we lose that effervescent joy. Take your inner magical child on a play date. Find places where nature actively expresses itself and see how it lifts your spirit. Or go to an art gallery or museum and enjoy the experience of the senses
  4. Do some devotional practices
    • If you are spiritual light a candle or incense and dedicate it to someone special. If you are atheist look up at the stars and try to find planets. If you are religious go to chapel, church or temple. If you are pagan create rituals that harmonise your world. How do you connect to that which is bigger than you? Make a ritual to celebrate the day.
  5. Read spiritual or religious texts
    • Each day or even once a week, do a close reading of a spiritual chosen text and see what meaning it offers. These texts can spark inspiration for your own writing. Contemplate the power of the written word and dwell on the deeper meaning of what is said.


Start Up Class – Sunday 15th Nov. 9.30 am-11 am (doors open at 9.25 am)

We will kick off our 30 day Yoga Challenge with a systems cleansing yoga class, followed by an informal gathering strategizing how to get through the next 30 days following a strict yogic lifestyle.  Please note, remote attenders can join us by Zoom if required. This is a great opportunity to get to know your fellow challenge participants so that you can each offer encouragement along the way. 

  • 2 Fortnightly potluck brunch gathering after Sunday classes from 11 am -12 pm: 22 Nov/6 Dec/
  • 2 Fortnightly potluck dinners or vegetarian restaurant outing (optional) Sunday 6-7 pm: 29 Nov/13 Nov

Bring a plate of fresh fruit, or healthy home cooking sweet or savory, or raw juice, or a fresh beverage to share with challenge members. Also we will encourage you to share ideas, recipes, or your journal insights. Please note, in keeping with good karma yoga practices, everyone will be expected to help tidy up and do any dishes before leaving.

  • Challenge will close Monday 14th December

Please contact Ali at or phone 06 3274108 for more information


With uninterrupted views of National Park, and Mounts Ngāuruhoe and Ruapehu,

our Eco Lodge was the perfect setting for a yoga retreat.

This was 3 days and 3 nights of blissful yoga, with 9 stunning women.

2020 wahine yogis

The deck spanning the Eco Lodge faced due East, making it the perfect setting for morning and evening practice.

the view from our lodge

During morning practice, we watched sunrise in perfect silence, with bird song rising out of the surrounding bush and trees.

In the day there was free time to explore the natural beauty of the area.

In the later afternoons we settled in for 2 hours of silence, giving us a chance to be creative or rest as we wished.

At night people sat round the table for 3 course vegetarian meals. I was chef and got some amazing help when the pressure was on.

On night 2, we had a wild fancy dress to let off steam, with a in-house show, which had us all in fits of laughter and pure enjoyment.

On the final night, a deep red moon rose up into the expanse of the Milky Way, offering us majestic reverie and solidarity.

Nine women worked like a dream, participating in yoga, meditation, silence, and sharing of insights.

The next yoga retreat will be in April 2021, and then again in October 2021.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to join is for the next one.

Contact Ali at or call 06 327 4108 to find out more about future retreats

Guru Purnima 2020

The Guru full moon often takes place in July on any given year. The guru full moon is meaningful to me because it is one day on the moon calendar where I know enlightened teachers, gurus, dedicated students, and spiritual ancestors can come together for meaninful interaction and discussion.

Many religious traditions give meaning to this day. Yet, for many, this day is about remembering the wisdom, love, and teachings of your personal guru. It is also about checking in with members of your spiritual community and rekindling connections.

Whether our spiritual community is a community of yoga practitioners, meditators, satsang attendees, or tribal members, the rising of the guru full moon dispenses blessings and tranmits shared meaning so we can remain awakened and deeply reflective.

Mt Kailash from the shores of Lake Manasarovar

Hotpools and Snow

Wairakei Thermal Pools Taupo

On our yearly pilgrimage to Wairakei Thermal Pools, just north of Taupo, we met with snow. As we travelled north from Marton, we saw snow drifts as far south as Taiahape. Cows and sheep in icy fields grazed carefully through the snow drifts. Everywhere was bright and cold. Clouds lifted to show a clear blue sky!

From the deep snow drifts of the Desert Road, Mounts Ruapehu and Ngāuruhoe ruled supreme. We pulled over on the Turiko Mountain Road and I ran joyously into the snow drifts and paid homage to the mountains.

At the hotpools, we soaked in temperatures ranging from 30 degrees celcius to 40.6! The silica infused waters were sublime, all fed from a natural geyser only a few hundred metres away. Members of the group and I soaked and chatted and spent quiet time taking in the amazing setting. Such an amazing place! We will do it all again next year … fingers crossed!

Why not join us next time? Email Ali at or call 06 327 4108 for more info.

Play Covid-19 Snakes & Ladders


        Covid-19 Snakes & Ladders - April, 2020 - © Ali Hale Tilley

During Lockdown I designed and painted a new Snakes & Ladders board. Digital prints of the game are avaialble for $10. If you would like a full size digital copy, just email me at nzyogacentre@gmail .com or message me on

The proceeds of digital sales go towards 3 families I support in India: Ravi’s extended family of 9 who live and work in their own Laundry business in Haridwar; Ratu’s extended family of 10 who live in a small villiage near Barsana; and, my guru bais, Sukanand, Ramdevanand, and Ravianand who have a humble ashram near Barasana.

Latest Yoga updates!

Thanks for supporting the NZ Yoga Centre once we are in Level 2 

Are you itching to get back to your regular yoga class?

So we can keep each member of our Yoga Community healthy, safe, and happy as we move out of Lockdown, please read the updated information below. There are new infographics for the new timetable, class etiquettes, and price plan.
Thank you for supporting us as a small local business. We hope to reopen the Yoga Centre once we move into Level 2. In the mean time, why not join our weekly Zoom classes on Monday at 6pm & Wednesday at 2.30pm? You can message us at NZ Yoga Centre on Facebook.

New Timetable

While we were all in Lockdown the world changed.  We all had to follow new rules on personal hygiene, social distancing, and contact-tracing. As a result of these changes, there will no longer be casual class attendance available. This allows each of us to practice good contact-tracing. Each class will now have its own bubble for each month.

timetable 1

New Etiquette

During Lockdown, businesses like ours were forced to shut our doors. The only way we could trade was by doing classes on Zoom that excluded all physical contact. To comply with new Health & Safety regulations for businesses, we have put new rules put in place around hygiene, social distancing, and general conduct. Here are the Top 9 tips. You can read the full complience of Health & Safety on our Homepage. Look for the Covid-19 tab.

new chart

A limited number of handtowels will be available for $2 if you forget to bring one. This covers laundry fees. If you use the bathroom please spray all touched surfaces with disinfactant provided and always wash your hands. Also if you have been in public spaces prior to class please wash your hands.

New Prices

If you miss class, you can make up a class during the set month by attending another class at the studio or by Zoom. However if you can’t do a makeup class, for whatever reason, you may need to forfeit the missed class. So we can maintain efficient business practices, no classes will be carried over to the next month. Payments need to be made in advance by the 1st of each month.

If you know in advance you are going away, and you are a class regular, please let us know in advance so we can accomodate your schedule, and if necessary adjust your monthly class fee. Thank you for your compliance.


Once again, thank you for supporting us as a small local business. We hope to reopen the Yoga Centre once we move into Level 2. If you have any questions, you can either message us at NZ Yoga Centre on Facebook, email, or call 06 327 4108

Look forward to having you back in yoga classes soon! And, if you can’t see your class on the timetable, let us know and we will put the class back on once 7 people are keen to go!


Lifting the lid!


My new podcast series ‘Lifting the lid!’ weaves together an autobiographical account of my life, with art appreciation, mythic narratives and wild, wild adventure.

Listen along as I run you through hidden symbols of each painting and show how these symbols tie into different aspects of my wild wild life.

Picture 1: Sati-Maa


Picture 2: Medicine Buddha

Medicine BuddhaWEB

Over the next few days and weeks I’ll be adding more art works to this page. Feel free to drop in and leave your comments if you enjoy these podcasts — Ali