Only under stress can we function optimally. Let me clarify, only under the right kinds of stress can we function optimally.

In this day in age of business, technology and information overload, and multiple bottom lines we are experiencing more stress than ever. Every day on our social media feeds we are used to seeing headlines like:


The truth is, it is not without stress, but only through stress, that we can achieve happiness, joy and contentment. Not only is stress a part of life, but it is only through the right types and doses of stress that can we actualize our full human potential.

Most reading this post have either struggled with, or know somebody who has struggled with, drug and alcohol abuse or dependence. This is not the helpful type of stress. This is what is more accurately called distress. This is the type of stress that we are all familiar with that breaks us down mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Eustress, or positive stress, are stressors that we purposefully set in our path or step on the path of. These are stressors that are related to our values-based goals and the commitment it takes to continually strive to achieve these goals. These are the physical, mental, psychological and emotional positive stressors that we experience on January 3rd, when the novelty of our New Year’s Resolution might be starting to lose its shine, when we want to pat ourselves on the back for doing well for a couple of days, and, after all, no one is looking.. Postive stressors might be related to setting and working to achieve a diet, nutrition or fitness goal. Choosing to move into a new home that fits your desired lifestyle, choosing to have kids or to start your own business are all values-based decisions that come with the kind of stressors that allow us to become stronger, and to build more resilience and confidence in pursuit of them as long as we can always keep our “why” within reach.

It’s important for all of us, but maybe even more especially for those recovering from drug and alcohol or mental health issues, to know how to handle daily stressors skillfully. Many handle stress through drugs, alcohol, zoning out in front of the tv for days or decades, or a myriad of other unhelpful ways. Only to wake up to this fact after far too much time has passed. As we are all growing up faster in this day and age I hope that we can learn how to more effectively relate to and utilize stress as a catalyst for positive change rather than as a reason or excuse to get stuck indulging in habits that are diluting our precious time on earth and keeping us from living the life we have written on our hearts.

Working with my clients for the last 15 years I’ve always found it essential to support them and learning how to match intensity of their addictions and everything surrounding it. What we want to do is create some healthy habits that mimic the stress response, but in a positive way that will be self-reinforcing of positive outcomes. We also want to look at the reward centers of the brain and how those have been over stimulated and what kinds of pleasurable and enjoyable activities we can incorporate.

So if somebody’s use was intense and daily, we also will likely want their exercise to be intense and daily. Very often there was a community around use, sometimes alone. It’s helpful to mimic some of those factors and the context as well. Nutrition and diet often changed so we want to focus on those aspects. We want to look at all of the ways we can support our body in maintaining, and healing from some of these new positive stressors that we are placing our body under. This is all for our growth, health and wellness,. The physical side of this is obvious. We set goals related to nutrition, exercise, sleep, body composition, etc. But we can also set other goals related to more of the internal aspects of developing optimism, resilience, grit, determination, consistency, etc. As we place our body under certain positive stressors physically, we are also placing ourselves under positive stressors mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Here we are briefly referring to exercise or physical goals because these are both essential and easy to illustrate. But the same internal/external benefits are present with any values-based goals that we set. This is where we get the fully benefit of these self-imposed stressors. This is where we grow to become bigger and better than we were before. Or, simply, more fully us.

Rather than striving to live in a state of stress free, suspended animation, we grow stronger and more authentic under the weight of this tension. I’m taking a little liberty with this equation, but;

Resistance + time under tension = (internal/external) strength

This combination of internal and external stressors in pursuit of a goal create the ideal environment that can turn coal into diamonds and can be the path that allows us to grow into who we had hoped we could be.

So, choose your stress wisely. And when that bowl is passed around again, you might even take a second helping. J