CHAPTER 3Unstress to Get Unstuck

“We don't have to become stressed by stressful events.”

When I was a fashion executive, I was addicted to coffee. I would start each day with it and schedule meetings based on where I could get the best cup. To say I lived on coffee while teetering on the edge of burnout is an understatement. It was my lifeblood in a fast‐paced and toxic work culture. While I liked the designer I worked for, there was an expectation that my life should revolve around work, and large quantities of caffeine helped fuel the lie. Some days, it boosted my ego, because the caffeine high can make you feel powerful, and I told myself that she saw me as superhuman and absolutely crucial to the company. But it also made me accessible every minute of the day because I was constantly anxious from the coffee, and my needs fell to the wayside.

Coffee became my adrenaline crutch. Whether in my hand, on my desk, in the car, or on the subway, you never saw me without it. I grew up in Denmark, where it's customary to sip coffee throughout the day, but I was downing espresso and cappuccino all day. It was noticeable enough that even when my parents visited, they asked me if I was okay due to the amount of caffeine I was consuming and the accompanying anxiety level.

Then everything came to a head when both my parents were diagnosed with cancer three months apart, and they came to live with me in the United States.

Despite this, I kept working insane hours, living on coffee, and ...

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