Be Stress-Free Forever! 5 Simple Steps
PEACE. It does not mean to be in a place
where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.
It means to be in the midst of those things and
still be calm in your heart.
Dear Dr. Jed,
I just received your newsletter. It really
sounds like my husband is getting stressed out.
Three months ago he told me he hasn't been happy
for 2 or 3 years. He has been extremely irritable,
short-tempered, and mean. Weve both been
under a lot of stress lately and I know it has had
an effect on our relationship.
Were both busy professionals. Hes a
physician and Im an emergency room nurse. We
love our work, but its getting increasingly
difficult to practice. Budget cuts at the hospital
put pressure on everyone. He also had major surgery
on his shoulder two years ago and he hasnt
been the same since. Physically, hes fully
recovered, but he seems frightened that something
else will happen. He tells me he feels like his
body is falling apart, even though hes
In addition my mother has been sick and I have
spent a lot of time trying to take care of her.
Both she and my Dad are getting older and Im
worried that their medical bills are going to wipe
them out financially and theyll be dependent
Well, Im rambling on here. You get the
idea. I feel that if we could reduce the stress in
our lives or deal with it better, we could get back
to our old selves where we were a team. Now
its like were always fighting each
other all the time. Help! RT.
Stress is when you are worried about getting
laid off from your job, or worried about having
enough money to pay your bills, or worried about
what kind of future your children will have, or
whether your parents will be dependent on you as
they age. In fact, for most of us, stress is
synonymous with worry. If it is something that
makes us worry, then it is stressful.
However, our bodies have a much broader
definition of stress. To our body, stress is
synonymous with change. It doesn't matter if it is
a "good" change, or a "bad" change, they are both
stressful. When you find you find your dream home
and get ready to move, that is stress. If you get a
divorce, that also is stress. Good or bad, if it is
a change in your life, it is stress as far as your
body is concerned.
Even imagined change is stress. If you fear that
you will not have enough money to pay your rent,
that is stress. If you worry that you may get
fired, that is stress. If you think that you may
receive a promotion at work, that is also stress
(even though this would be a good change). Whether
the event is good or bad, imagining changes in your
life is stressful.
Stress is part of life. If there were no changes
in our lives, wed either be dead or wish we
were. The problem with stress is when we have too
much change, in too short a time, with too few ways
to release and relax. For most of human history
stresses were few and far between. Occasionally,
the wild animal would leap out of the forest and
wed have to run for our lives or fight for
our lives. Our bodies, minds, and spirit are built
for fight or flight.
But modern-day stress is primarily
psychological, not physical. We are bombarded by
worries. We are frightened by angry drivers who
wave their fists and fingers at us. We are
frustrated at the state of the economy and the
inability of our government to provide decent
However, the body doesnt know the
difference between an attacking leopard and a
criticizing husband. It cant even tell the
difference between a real threat and an imagined
one. When stress strikes, whatever the source, the
body mobilizes, thinking its under attack.
The body reacts with an outpouring of hormones
(i.e. adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol)
that increases heart rate and respiration, sends
more blood to skeletal muscles, dulls pain,
stimulates the immune system, and turns sugar and
fat into energy.
We used to get physical in response to stress,
whether running away or chasing the animal out of
the camp. Now stress is almost constant and we stew
in our own juices. Its no wonder we get
irritable and angry. So, what can we do? Here are
some tried and true ways for dealing with
Get moving immediately.
For millions of years of human history we got
moving in response to stress. The best
stress-reduction technique we have is movement.
Its a simple formula: If you have stress
every day (and we all do), you must move every day.
Start walking, jogging, dancing, playing
ballanything, but get moving. Find some
activity or group of activities you will commit to
doing every day of your life.
Reduce the stress in your mind.
In the world our bodies and mind were designed
for, the things to worry about were limited: Wild
animals, snakes, poison plants, jealous husbands
(yes, we had them back then, too). Now, our worries
are endless: Nuclear threat, terrorist attacks,
global warming, economic collapse, losing our jobs,
our children getting sick, our grandkids getting
into drugs, our health deteriorating, and on and
Here are two simple techniques to reduce the
stress in your mind. First, ask yourself How
are things now? Youll find the answer
is always, Fine or Pretty
good. Worry is always in the future. Stay in
the present and youll eliminate a lot of
Second, ask yourself, Do I plan to do
anything about this today? Most of us worry
about things that will never happen or arent
really that important to us. If youre not
going to do something about the nuclear threat, or
global warming, or your kids, or parents, today,
quit worrying about it. If there is something you
can do, do it. When were doing, were
Control the changes in your life.
We live in a world of a million changes a
minute. But the truth is we can control a lot
of it. Heres what you can do. Turn off the
T.V. You dont need a thousand new images
bombarding your brain. Take a break. Do something
else. Walk in your garden. Play cards. Read a
Stop buying new stuff and get rid of
the clutter. Look around your house. What do you
see? If youre like me, too much stuff. Keep
the things that truly bring you pleasure and get
rid of the rest. Each thing you look your stuff it
makes your brain go through changes. Cart it out,
give it away, toss it. Next time you think of
buying something new, ask yourself this question,
Will I still think this thing is wonderful a
year from now? Probably not! Resist the
corporate exhortations to buy, buy, buy. Remind
yourself you dont need more change.
Learn to breathe.
I know you dont think much about
breathing. You just do it. But most of us breathe
too quickly and too shallowly, particularly when we
are under stress. Conscious breathing is a great
stress-reducer. Here are two techniques I learned
from Dr. Andrew Weil, one of the worlds
leading experts on holistic health.
Sit in a comfortable position with the spine
straight and head inclined slightly forward. Gently
close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then
let the breath come naturally without trying to
influence it. Ideally it will be quiet and slow,
but depth and rhythm may vary.
- To begin the exercise, count "one" to
yourself as you exhale.
- The next time you exhale, count "two," and
so on up to "five."
- Then begin a new cycle, counting "one" on
the next exhalation.
- Never count higher than "five," and count
only when you exhale. You will know your
attention has wandered when you find yourself up
to "eight," "12," even "19."
Try to do 10 minutes of this form of
Here is another breathing exercise from Dr. Weil
that you can do anywhere at any time.
Although you can do the exercise in any
position, sit with your back straight while
learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue
against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper
front teeth, and keep it there through the entire
exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth
around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly
if this seems awkward.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making
a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through
your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making
a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and
repeat the cycle three more times for a total of
Note that you always inhale quietly through your
nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip
of your tongue stays in position the whole time.
Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. This
exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous
system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often
effective when you first take them but then lose
their power over time, this exercise is subtle when
you first try it but gains in power with repetition
and practice. Do it at least twice a day. Its
simple, but takes some practice.
Once you develop this technique by practicing it
every day, it will be a very useful tool that you
will always have with you. Use it whenever anything
upsetting happens - before you react. Use it
whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it
to help you fall asleep.
Remember, You Are Not the
In 1963 Laura Archera Huxley, wife of Aldous
Huxley, wrote a wonderful book, You Are Not the
Target. If offers one of the most helpful
techniques Ive ever found for reducing stress
and turning negative energy into positive.
Ive given many copies away over the years,
but keep my original. Her technique is simple, but
effective. I have been using this 4 step process
for the last 45 years:
Step 1: Remind yourself that you are not the
- When your husband complains
- When your boss is irritating
- When your friends are neglectful
- When your business partner is
- When your child is unmanageable
Stop! Realize that their irritability,
irrationality, lack of consideration,
coolnessin other words, their disagreeable
and wounding behavior is not really aimed at you.
You may feel as though it were, but in the majority
of cases it is not. You are not the target. You
just happen to be there.
Step 2: Decide which part of your body you
wish to beautify and strengthen. We all could
use some body toning. Pick a spot--Abdomen,
buttocks, genitals, chest, thighs, upper arms?
Where would you like to use the negative energy
coming your way to create a positive change in your
Step 3: Move your muscles. Moving from
here to there is helpful, but so is making our
muscles move while were standing still.
Contract and relax the muscles of the chosen part
of your body in regular rhythms until you find the
rhythm which is most comfortable for you. Now,
contract and relax the muscles in your abdomen,
buttocks, or wherever, while repeating to yourself,
I am not the target, I am not the
Step 4: Heal the past. The reason the
words from our spouse, boss, or friend hurt so much
is that they stimulate memories (often unconscious)
from the past. After the unpleasantness in the
present has passed and you can take some time
alone, see if you can remember an incident from the
past that was triggered by your present situation.
You may remember something your father or mother
said or did, for instance. Relive the moment of
unpleasantness, and as you feel the bolt of energy
flying in your direction, immediately convert it
into that rhythmical contraction and
Please share your own thoughts and feelings.
What are the things that are causing stress in your
life? What can you do to better handle these
* * *
Wealth can't buy health, but health can buy
wealth. - Henry David Thoreau
is the internationally best-selling author of nine
books including Male
Irritable Male Syndrome: Managing. The 4 Key Causes
of Depression and
Mean: Saving Your Relationship from the Irritable
Male Syndrome. His
upcoming book, Tapping Power: A Mans Guide to
Eliminating Pain, Stress, Anger, Depression and
Other Ills Using the Revolutionary Tools of Energy
Psychology will be available next year. For over 38
years he has been a leader in the field of men's
health. He is a member of the International
Scientific Board of the World Congress on
Mens Health and has been on the Board of
Advisors of the Mens Health Network since its
founding in 1992. His work has been featured in
major newspapers throughout the United States
including the New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall
Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and USA
Today. He has been featured on more than 1,000
radio and T.V. programs including The View with
Barbara Walters, Good Morning America, Inside
Edition, CBS, NBC, and Fox News, To Tell the Truth,
Extra, Leeza, Geraldo, and Joan Rivers. He also did
a nationally televised special on Male Menopause
for PBS. He looks forward to your feedback.
You can visit his website at www.menalive.com
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