Handling Stress

Stress is a subtle monster. It lurks around every corner, weighing us down like mud caked to our boots. Most of the time, it's so sneaky we don't even notice what's happening until we explode and let loose on family, coworkers, other drivers, or even the poor dog.

I can't claim to have figured out a way to rid my life of stress. In fact, I've pretty much concluded that it's a fact of life. But I have developed a few techniques to help me put in hectic 12-to-14-hour days without coming apart at the seams:

  • Exercise
    The single most effective thing I can do to get my day off to a good start is to slip on my running shoes and pound two or three miles of pavement while I watch the sun come up. Endurance exercise—walking, running, bicycling, swimming, or, even better, a combination—has consistently been shown to be a great stress reliever. When I miss a session, I feel it.
  • Get Organized
    You don't have to change your life. Just establish a few habits such as always putting your car keys in the same place (a hook to hang them on helps), picking out what you're going to wear the night before, and setting up the coffee maker before you go to bed. At work, divide materials by priority: now, today, tomorrow, next week. Stress is knowing there's something you should have done but not knowing what it was.
  • Don't Postpone
    Procrastination is natural for most of us, but it lets stress build. A big bill wallowing in your brief case is going to cause more anxiety in the long run than if you face the music and just pay it. Likewise, don't wait until you're on your way home to get gas. Do it now, and you won't have to worry later about running out.
  • Take Stock
    When you can feel the stress level heading sky high, stop what you're doing, take four slow, deep breaths, and analyze what's getting to you. If you don't understand the source of your stress, you can't control it—and it will control you.
  • Take Time for Yourself
    Each of us needs a little time occasionally for indulgence—a hobby, reading, or a simple afternoon nap. It's not easy to find the time among the responsibilities of work and home, but it's something you and your partner can do for each other. The time will be a good investment for everyone involved.
  • Finally, do something for love
    Take your kids to the ballgame, take your spouse to dinner, volunteer at a homeless shelter. Nothing puts stress into perspective more quickly than love.


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