Let me start off with a disclaimer. I am NOT a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV, but there are some things that I just don’t need a doctor to tell me.  Stress is bad! For years, I have operated under the notion that I do not enjoy stress and therefore, I don’t participate in it. I don’t give it to others, and I expect the same in return from them.  When someone tries to inflict stress on me, I go to great lengths to deflect it until I can get away from it entirely.

I worked real hard over the past few years to remove stress from my life. I don’t like how I feel, and I don’t like the person that I am under stress. When I don’t like something, I change it as quickly as possible.

Stress does many things to people.  Stress ruins marriages. It can make you sick, literally. As your stress level increases, your immunity to illness decreases. Your body is working overtime without compensation. My stress indicators are exhaustion, awful back problems, and acne.

Life is too short

About eight weeks ago I made a life-altering decision. Four weeks into that decision I had a “Holy Crap” moment wondering what I’ve done to myself. All of a sudden, the next 20 years of my life flashed by without me living it. My new and exciting decision turned into my worst nightmare. I thought about the line in The Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss about placing my life on hold indefinitely for the promise of some future reward.

Regardless, I was in the situation and I needed to find a way out.  My back already started acting up, and my face was breaking out. I attempted to reverse my decision with grace by offering alternatives and new solutions. I tap-danced all the way through the negotiation process only to later learn that while I was tap dancing with my marionette, my opponents were waltzing with Fred Astaire.  I lost every battle. One more week of that stress and I would have been in bed with the flu and crippled with more zits than an Irish teenager. Finally, one day, I just ripped the bandage off and removed myself from the situation.  Let me assure you, it was not one of my finer moments in life.

As a result of this major change and reversal, I found myself behind in my work and woefully under-financed. Fortunately, money is not difficult for me. If I need money, I know how to make it. Of all the things in life I can stress over, money is not one of them. However, on “Reversal Day,” I was the happiest poor person I knew. I felt liberated and alive again with a whole new outlook on life and business, and two empty bank accounts. A week later, the money problems solved themselves – they always do.

My eight-week life diversion taught me more lessons than I learned in the entire past year combined. Life is short so live it your way. Find work that you like and excel at it. Money is not (always) a motivating factor. If you don’t enjoy your drive into work each day and the drive home each day, do something else. You can look forward to your work as much as you look forward to your weekends if you plan it right. And finally, my dog has no idea how high up he is on my priority list in life.

Here are some ABC tried and true stress tips for you.

How to recognize stress

This is not a complete list. Some of these things may be caused by other factors, get to a doctor if you need medical help.  Also remember that stress is often a delayed reaction. Some symptoms may appear days after the stress-related incident is over.

* Trouble sleeping or waking up in the middle of the night

* Trouble breathing, chest pains, constant cough

* Irritability, short fuse, general feeling of unhappiness

* Unusual physical ailments – high blood pressure, headaches, muscle spasms

How to Reduce Stress

Find an activity that you enjoy.

* A happy relationship and home life goes a long way to reducing stress

* Light a candle, read a book, write a book (or blog post), meditate

* Go for a walk or run, exercise, ride a bike

* Connect with nature – pull weeds from the garden or sit by the ocean

* Spend time with your pets.

What not to do

* Drink alcohol – a glass of wine or a beer is fine, but you won’t solve any problems by drinking a case of beer in a day.

* Drugs – your body is under enough physical turmoil, don’t make it work harder just to breathe by adding drugs into the mix.

* Misdirect your frustration – The car in front of you may not be going fast enough to suit you, but the driver really has nothing to do with your stress. Take a deep breath and figure out what’s really bothering you.