Ever since I was a kid, I feel like I’ve been addicted to sugar. As I work closer to a nearly sugar-free diet, I feel stress in not knowing how my mind will react to not consuming it. I’ve hired a coach to help me rebrand and expand the service lines in my coaching practice. I stress about whether or not the community will be interested in these new ways to engage me. My parents, who live in Michigan, are inching closer to retirement. I feel stress when thinking about living in Arizona or being on the road as much as I am and not seeing them more.

What is causing you stress right now? 

I think humans discount the value of what stress teaches us about ourselves. Attempting to avoid stress is wildly counterproductive. You’re not going to emerge from a stressful situation unchanged. Instead, flip the script and purposely engage stress. Approach these situations with a positive mindset knowing you’re going to learn from them. Be deeply committed to experiencing the stress. Turn off the rest of the world and simply be in it. When the experience is over, reflect on it. What will you do differently next time?

Over Labor Day weekend, I traveled to Michigan to invest time in my family. I’m really grateful they invested the time in me. I thought owning a small business was exhausting. Being Uncle Mike for four days is far more tiring! On the flight home, I listened to a handful of podcasts. I don’t remember which podcast I heard it on, but one interviewee said, “Stress is a sign of a lack of self love.” 

Then, on a different podcast, an interviewee said, “Living in stress is not a time to create. It’s a time to find quiet, peace, and meditation. Then, creation happens.

On the final podcast I listened to, the interviewer said, “In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.

If your brain is like mine, you’re looking for linear patterns. What’s the connection between stress, self love, being creative, and free access to unlimited information? The answer may be a process for overcoming stress. No matter what, you will experience stress. The question becomes, how will you use stress to grow, evolve, and gain strength?

I encourage you to acknowledge the cause of your stress. For two weeks, keep a daily journal that identifies your “pain” points. Consider changing your environment. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or sugar to reduce your adrenaline and cortisol levels. Introduce more physical activity into your day. Maybe breathing techniques, hikes, yoga or an hour at the gym will release pressure. I’m becoming a bigger fan of sleep. In years passed, my alarm would go off at 3:00 AM so I could get difficult tasks done before going to the gym. Now, I’ve reformatted my client interactions to start later and that’s afforded me longer, more rejuvenating sleep.

In making these minor changes to my day, I believe my level of self love is more robust. I’ve also become more committed to sitting peacefully and meditation. That investment has better aligned my daily activity with my life’s mission. I feel way better about saying “No.” to projects, meetings, and people who extract value and choose not to reciprocate. Thankfully, on the web, we have access to almost anything or anyone to help us with unlimited information about stress, its triggers, how to overcome it, what you can learn from it, etc. Be curious. Invest time in learning.

If you haven’t already, surround yourself with third-party experts. Gaining strength through stress may be about sharing your experience with trusted confidants. I am so blessed by two people who actively listen to my life’s events, offer loving and objective advice, and encourage me to grow through the experience. No judgment.

I’ve come to believe having a personal mission may be the greatest contributor to stress reduction and personal growth. By uncovering your life’s narrative and seeing how one stressful event is simply one data point on an incredibly long journey, you can continually feel connected to something larger than yourself. For me, I’ve felt like I belonged because I was valued for my authentic self; my unique journey. One minor stress-based event can’t outweigh all of my blessings.

Carl Jung once said, “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.

Don’t avoid stress or attempt to come out of it unchanged. There’s more to life than being “happy” all the time. Get deep with yourself. Face yourself and evolve. Incorporate new rituals into your day. Success, however you define it, is a side effect of growth through stress.

And, if you see me with anything sugary… take it out of my hand.