How To Murder Stress, Part 1

Tuesday, 3:29pm
Reno, NV
I can’t seem to face up to the facts, I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax…” (Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer”)


What’s the matter, Bunky?

The news got you down?  The economy keeping you up at night?  Are sales in the toilet, creditors stalking you, clients not returning calls, the sheer angst of living in a modern tech-drenched world chewing holes in your gut?

Would you like to hear how grizzled veterans handle the evils of stress?

It’s good stuff… because, as everyone should realize, you don’t get to BE a grizzled veteran if you can’t handle stress.  Cuz that shit will eat your ass alive and send you to an early grave.

In fact, this is easily one of the fundamental tools for surviving the Bidness Never-Ending Cage Fight.  I noticed, in the first years of my freelance career (when I was searching semi-desperately for clues on how to become successful), that there were biz owners who were having fun… and there were other owners not having any fun at all.

Age had nothing to do with it.  Nor health (though the fun-havers consistently were in better shape).  Nor gender, nor — and this is important — how successful they were.

The difference was simply how they handled stress.

Not what they KNEW about stress.  Jeez Louise, some of the worst ones could quote verse-and-chapter on the latest Ivy Tower studies, and would rattle off their blood pressure, pulse and Vitamin D levels at the slightest provocation.

No.  What mattered was how they dealt with it.

Because if you’re alive… dude, you’re gonna encounter stress.  Rich, po’, self-employed, unemployed, smart, dumb, pretty, pretty ugly, alert or half-asleep…

… humans have been guaranteed an unrelenting marriage with stress ever since we left the real jungle for the asphalt one.

So, basically, forget about avoiding it.

What you want to do… is learn how to kill it.  Over and over and over again, as often as necessary, whenever you need to do it.

You can develop your own way of doing this.  And good luck to ya.  Stress is a Class Triple-X Monster that has ground down many a good man to a sobbing little nubbin’ before.  It changes you at the cellular level… where brain synapses snap, where your DNA percolates, where the microscopic Engines O’ Evil fire up and start generating the crap that will clog you up.

Most folks “deal” with stress by waiting for it to boil over into crisis-mode, so they can spend their savings and every moment of consciousness left trying to fix what’s broken.

There’s a plan for ya.

Much better plan: Just gather a couple of good tools for your Bag O’ Tricks, and use them.  And gird your loins, and get after your dreams knowing you’ve prepared the best way possible to engage with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

To get you started, here’s what I came up (which has worked fairly nicely for 30 years):

Stress-Murdering Tactic #1: Moderation in all vices.

I am not a guy to emulate, if you’re looking for clues to a perfect lifestyle.  Got my faults (yeah, yeah, I know it’s a long list), and did some dastardly things in my time…

… but you know what?

I yam who I yam, and I’ve come to terms with it.  I used to fight with myself over the little things, like “how to be the best person I can be.”  And that just caused problems.

Because I was defining the word “best” the way OTHER PEOPLE would define it.  I was comparing myself, constantly, against measurements erected and maintained by someone else.

Once I let go of that ridiculous pursuit, I kind of settled into a nice groove.  I’m not the healthiest guy you know, but I’m not a walking keg of butterfat, either.

What I realized is that I like my little line-up of vices.  And life would not be as happy or — gasp! — successful as it is, if I didn’t cut myself some slack.

The first rule for battling stress — if you can’t walk away from it (which is actually the best rule, when you can pull it off) — is to be healthy.  Because stress destroys everything good in your system, and uncorks massive floods of the bad stuff.  Your endorphins get smothered and gang-raped by adrenaline and stomach acid.

We all know the recipe for being “healthy”: Clean up your diet, get your ass outside and exercise, and stop partying so much already.

Still, how you do that has a little flexibility.

For example: I love me some hamburgers.  Yes, I do.  So once a month (sometimes — sometimes — twice) I treat myself to a burger-and-fry orgy at In-And-Out.

Not every day.  Not every week.

Every once in a while.

I’ve got friends who are fit and thin, subsisting on twigs and lawn clippings, who never, ever, ever, ever even think about eating a slice of pizza.

Okay, they’re happy (or smug) about being healthy.  But no pizza, ever?  That’s not enjoying a successful life in my book.

I also have aggressively-clean-living friends who are nice people… but everyone is always waiting for them to leave, so the party can get started.  They’ll live to a ripe old age… but remain boring-as-fuck until the end.  I’ll take a few less years, and stay with my plan of going for the gusto, thanks.

Make up your own mind about what “healthy” means to you… and then get after it.  A fit, clear-headed, well-rested dude will be able to withstand more stress than the guy with the perpetual hang-over, bulging gut and wheezing arteries.

Still, life is for living.  Passion, desire, and raw urges are part of the deal… as long as you maintain moderation according to your system.  (That means, some of you can’t indulge in some things, because you can’t moderate it.  So you don’t do those things, or drink that stuff, or subject yourself to situations where you lose all sense of moderation.)

Stress loves it when you go overboard, on anything.  Work, romance, sports, hobbies, day trading, video games, whatever.  We’re an obsessive species, for sure.

That still doesn’t mean you have to live like a monk.

To start getting the better of stress, examine your life choices… from what you eat, how you treat your body and what you spend your time at, to why you’re punishing yourself with immoderation and too much of a good thing.

Wanna know a secret?  I’ve hung out with athletes, trainers, health guru’s, doctors and other health-oriented experts for decades…

… and most of them do NOT live a strict life of no-fun.

In fact, they’re some of the randiest bastards I’ve ever dealt with.  Healthy body, sleazy mind.  Sometimes, somehow, they make it work.  The really successful ones have… wait for it… mastered the art of MODERATION.

So being healthy puts some mojo on your side in your battle with stress…

… but it doesn’t make you immune to it.

Stress is like your psycho ex, absolutely committed to stalking you for the rest of your days.

So get healthy, which gives you some breathing room.

But you still gotta find a way to HANDLE incoming stress when it slams into your system.

Which brings us to…

Stress-Murdering Tactic #2: Write up private “Status Reports”, constantly.

One of the ways stress gets you is to weasel into your brain and set up camp… so you’re thinking about bad stuff all day long, and waking up in the middle of the night (coated in slimy fear-sweat) to go over it all one more time, in detail.

Sometimes stress arrives like a car crash — sudden, violent, earth-shaking and dominating all your senses.  Like getting a call from a lawyer who gleefully announces you’re going to have to dance with him now, while he sucks up your net worth and lifeforce like a vampire.


Other times, the stress sneaks in under the guise of repeated, relentless tiny thumps against your heart and head.  It’s insidious, and you may not even notice that you’re a stressed-out nutcase until your hair starts falling out in clumps.

Or your doc notes that your blood pressure has spiked to “Dead Dude Walking” levels.

This is when you essentially hand over script-writing duties for your life to Mr Stress.  And his idea of a great plot line is the one where you’re sleep-deprived, leaking bile, and developing an alarming little twitch over your left eyebrow.

You wanna bust Mr. Stress in the chops?

Here’s my main tactic:  Write yourself a letter.

Take the phone off the hook, lock the door, and give yourself a solid hour to do this.

In this letter, you are writing to yourself 24 hours from now.  You are writing out a “Status Report” of your life at this moment.

Lay it all out.  All your troubles, all your faltering plans, all your suspicions about coworkers, all your fears about your health, happiness and future.

Be specific.  I like to use numbered items, so I don’t have to bother with segues between paragraphs or sentences.  Just lay out one thought, hit “return” on the keyboard and start on the next numbered item.

Don’t limit yourself, in any way.  You’re going to take pains that no one else sees this Status Report… so don’t hold back.

Stay focused on the fact that you’re writing to yourself, 24 hours hence.

What you’ll have, when you’ve exhausted all items on your mind, is a combination “To Do List”, and a candid assessment of your state of mind right now.

If you’re stressed, your plans for dealing with any of this stuff may actually be horrifically wrong.  But don’t get analytical about it while you’re writing.

What you’re doing is a very cheap psychological trick.

See, your brain is obsessing on what’s stressing you out…

… because it fears you’re going to forget about the details.

So it wakes you up, and eats at you all day long, just going round and round in a loop.

Writing it all down — all of it, the bad ideas and the brilliant realizations and the mundane shit that you can’t quite believe you care about — allows your brain to relax.

It’s all down in the Status Report, brain.  It’s safe.

Like a dog napping near his buried bone, you can relax.

By giving yourself a 24 hour “grace period”, you can REALLY relax… because you’re not giving up on what’s bugging you, you’re just putting it aside for a bit.


… go do something else.

Anything else.  Hell, go have some fun.  Leave Mr. Stress back with the Status Report, where he’ll be just fine for one day, and get jiggy with some vice (in moderation).

Here’s what will happen: Your unconscious will continue to mull over what you’ve written.

You’ve taken much of what was probably vague and non-specific, and made it “real” in your Status Report… so your unconscious now has much more to go on than before.  It will examine your thinking, deconstruct your plans, and poke at your soft spots.

Meanwhile, the conscious part of your brain is getting a much-needed respite from obsessing over your problems.  You may even be able to sleep like a baby, knowing your letter is safe somewhere, and your internal genius is cooking everything nicely.

And when you get BACK to your Status Report in 24 hours…

… you will suddenly have perspective you couldn’t muster before (because obsession blocks it)… you will be able to see your plans in fresh light, more realistically… and lots and lots of stuff that is kick-starting your stress engines will be visible.

Do you doubt this can work?

I can only tell you this “let the unconscious work it out” is a primary tactic for people who write professionally.  The great adman David Ogilvy slept on problems, after assigning his mind the task of arriving at a solution when he awoke.  I (and many other writers I know) stuff my head with info, and then go take a nap or a walk or engage in a hobby… knowing that when I return to my desk, I’ll have multiple headline ideas flood my consciousness as soon as I hit the keyboard.

The headline that bubbles up may or may not be the one that makes it to the final draft.

Nevertheless, the hard work of sorting through the vast amounts of info has been done, and clarity ensues.  And you will have a fresh view of things, which is impossible when you’re down in the trenches of stress.


Stress-Murdering Tactic #3: Change things around.

Armed with your new clarity about what’s stressing you out, and why…

… you now have options you may have not believed were possible before.

My favorite consulting tactic for a long time has been the “Two Lists” technique.  You make two lists about any subject — your job, your new product, your love life, whatever — and on List One you write out all the things you want to happen, or want to engage in…

… and on List Two you write out all the things you do NOT want to happen, or have to engage in.

Then, as much as you can, arrange things so the items on List One happen, and the crap on List Two do not.

Get moving on changing things.  Mr. Stress HATES it when you’re proactive.

Simple, but profound.  You want to make a ton of money, fast?  But you don’t want to go to jail?  Then drop your plans of heisting gold from Fort Knox.

You want a steady income, but also a lot of free time?  Then don’t start a boutique biz in a mall.

You want a great, lasting relationship, minus the drama of strange-fruit romance?  Then stop dating hookers.

And so on.

Much of the stress in your life — and please trust me on this — is from your internal “Fight or Flight” instincts… which are the default options all humans have, which are also thwarted, teased, and stalled in perpetual high gear when you try to navigate modern life.

Sometimes, you just gotta man up and deal with it.  But in your ape-mind (the primitive part that has no clue whatsoever we aren’t still in the jungle lollygagging in ponds and gorging on bananas) every threat has a beginning, but no END.


… even when it’s just a voice message from the IRS about some deduction you took a year ago.

Or even if it’s an earthquake that knocks all the books off your shelf.  Or news of a stroke in the family, or the stock market tanking, or a glimpse of your psycho ex hiding in the bushes across the street, or I dunno.

Choose your poison.

The thing is… sometimes you’re under stress because you don’t know what to do to resolve a problem that wasn’t your fault and you couldn’t have foreseen.  You’ve got to wait, and you feel out of control.  And that sucks.

Or… sometimes you’re just hitting yourself in the head with a hammer, and you’ve somehow convinced yourself you HAVE to keep doing it, because

… well, there’s the rub.  And that “because” may not hold up so well once you examine it, let your unconscious get after it, and give it a fresh look.

Maybe your stress is coming from the fact you’re doing something you don’t really need to be doing.

Mr. Stress doesn’t care why he’s in your head. Legitimate reason, or bullshit reason, it’s all the same to him.  Rubbing his hands together, he’s just eager to open the valves on your adrenaline and cortisol and other poisonous reserves.  For him, it’s heaven to have the Stressed-Out Movie play all day and all night long, over and over and over again.

You’ll never get rid of the little bastard completely.  He’s a weed, a zombie that returns from the grave without notice.

But you CAN murder him when he arrives.

It’s justifiable homicide, too.  And life is soooo much nicer in a low-stress groove.

I’ll bet there are twig-eating, fun-deprived folks reading this in a lather right now, seething about being called “boring”… and outraged that anyone would defend pizza.

So, have at it in the comments already.

What’s your stress-busting tip?

Stay frosty,



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  • Adil Amarsi says:

    Love the fact you’ve wrote this John… Okay seriously how do you know what I’m thinking – well not for the news but rather because of other things.

    I hope you’re well and going to doing strategy one right now 🙂



    • John Carlton says:

      Let us know how it works out for ya, Adil.

      • Adil Amarsi says:

        All right, having my macbook “Towed” away from me for repairs means I had to hand write this sucker! – Very grateful, I remember how to use a notepad and pen after those hours of rewriting Gary’s letters by hand :).

        Anywho went through it. Gotta say this exercise coupled in with a free 30 minute coaching session from a friend of mine = peak thoughts.

        Seriously let my stress go, got more done – wrote 3 letters today. (1 for myself and 2 for my business)

        And now I’m letting my macbook get fixed in 6 hours time, so going to follow through with a clear concise mind and write out those 2 lists!

        Goodnight all,


  • Martyna says:

    Hey John!

    Thank you for the article, the tips you gave work for me as well. You mentioned people who try to avoid taking risks in order to be free of stress… stress doesn’t exist until we realize how great life can be, and it also gives us the power to beat the monster.

    I would say… live your life! dream BIG and take action, take risks, they will take you to the lands of pleasure, and through seeing the difference it will be much easier to conquer stress.

    You mentioned the 24 hour “Status Reports” and taking a nap. This is great, I will do it. I know that it works, when I was a kid something incredible happened.
    … I was obsessed with maths. my teacher gave me a logical task that was difficult at that time. She said…” you have got seven days, solve it…”
    on the seventh day I still did not know the solution. I was crazy about finding it. Evening came, and there was nothing in the head.
    the next day was the day of the meeting with her.
    I went to sleep, and in the middle of the night I had a dream, where I dreamed about this logical problem, and saw the solution. The solution woke me up…

    it was solved.

    thank you

    • John Carlton says:

      This dream-solution thing is a constant in the history of Big Ideas. Modern folks turn their nose up at sleeping as any kind of tactic, believing (wrongly) that our brains just shut down and snooze. So it’s a definite advantage for anyone who gets hip to the awesome power of the unconscious (which, at times, is a gazillion times more smart than your conscious thinking processes)…

      Thanks for the post.

  • Fabulous post, John.

    Especially resonate with the second stress-busting tactic. I do some journaling for 10-20 minutes, twice daily. First thing in the morning, last thing before hitting the sack. Just brain-dumping everything.

    In the morning, it gets you in a nice, groovy state, and more often than not you’ll end up breezing through the day. At night, you go to sleep thinking about useful stuff.

    It started out as me following the advice of Perry Marshall, which was to “write down a daily victory”, at the end of every day. Puts you in an automatically positive state. An amazing habit to have, which will definitely change anyone’s life who does it, especially if they’re in a shitty place in their lives.

    It’s grown to be much more than just writing down a daily “victory” now… but I’ve never really thought about it as a stress-busting tool before. But when I think about it… I’m almost never stressed about anything. I’m guessing it’s because I view most everything significant that goes on in my life with crystal clarity.

    Again, great post, and a great read, and the way you’re slingin’ those words blows my brains to bits every time…


    • John Carlton says:

      I know Perry very well, but I never heard his “victory” idea before. I like it. I’m NOT a huge fan of blowing smoke up your own ass with too much reliance on “feel good” chants, but these sensible nods to your unconscious brain are very proactive, and really can affect your mood and ability to get stuff done. Thanks. I’ll have to bug Perry about where he got his idea from…

      • Joe says:

        I think he got it from Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology, which is great stuff. He talks about writing down before bed, “What Went Well Today.” It works for me.
        Thanks for the stress busting tips. Unfortunately, my floods of stressful thoughts come when I can’t write, like in the car. When they aren’t bugging me I don’t want to rehash them and write them out, but I guess I should.

  • Dang it how did I miss a new post?

    I love the stay informed thing that you put up…i might swipe that…

    John, exercise cannot be over-stated. Getting out and giving your body and mind a stress-reliever is awesome.

    Also, i juice now too. Veggies and fruits.

    • John Carlton says:

      Yeah, I have a juicer but I’ve never fired it up. I do homemade protein shakes, big cold globs of fruit and yogurt and mix, though… it’s kinda fun to jack your health up a notch with new exercise routines…

  • Bill Davis says:

    Awesome stuff, John. It’s funny how I’ve forgotten nugget #2. In my past, when I was experiencing success in one field or another, THAT is exactly what I did. Now, caught up in the riffraff of life, I neglect this one simple thing.

    Thanks for bringing it back to the forefront!

    • John Carlton says:

      We ALL forget this shit. There’s a lot to remember when your career and life gets into double digits. I’ve had to relearn most of the important lessons over and over again, and I doubt I’ll ever get to a point where I’ve “got it down pat” on the critical stuff. We’re just too brain-scattered as animals, and there are too many pitfalls in life that trip you up…

      Still, the really good tactics always pop back up somewhere, even when we’ve ignored them for a long time…

  • Dana Houser says:

    Great post John.

    One thing I’ve learned to do is keep things in perspective. I had a retail business with my wife. She ended up getting ill and not being able to run the store in the start up stages while I was still working a job to make ends meet. This required me to be 2 places at once… not possible. So I’d start my job early, and have to leave to go to the store. And whatever was going to happen was going to happen. My point is sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do and you can’t do shit about it so there’s really no point in stressing out about it. When you realize you’re doing everything you can, you just have to take what comes and be satisfied with it.

    I did get out of that biz though and I don’t recommend retail to anyone.

    These days to keep the stress level low I have a gratitude list because no matter how shitty things seem, there’s always something good to be thankful for. I also exercise, pray, drink beer(in moderation most of the time), journal and write a to-do list for the next day. I realized I can’t get everything done everyday, but I can get something done that moves me in the direction of my goals.

    And I’m present when I’m doing something. Meaning when I’m with my wife or kids or friends, I’m not thinking about the bad shit. I’m having fun and enjoying life because it’s too freakin short to miss out on the good times.

    Just replying here took away some stress.


    • John Carlton says:

      It takes a special kinda person to handle retail… but they exist, and we need them out there manning the tough work behind stores.

      Most of my readers are entrepreneurs, and have different DNA… so getting away from J.O.B. stuff is paramount. But what they replace it with can often bring more stress… thus, these tactics…

  • One of your most salient posts, John.

    Dane Cook (a shitty comic) had a joke about how some girls get together and are like, “OMG, Tina, no guys tonight, I just need to dance. Let’s throw our purses in a pile in the middle of the room and dance.” More than occasionally, my head is a dizzying whirlwind of budding ideas, old ideas, reliving scenes of stressful situations, “what if”‘s, “how could you say that to John”‘s, etc, etc… The point is reached where I *have* to find a tree to park under and explode my brain onto paper – the sensation is reminiscent of having nic-fits from when I quit smoking.

    One hour later, after I got my fix, the mental seas are calm. Ahh. The sun seems brighter, I feel lighter, taller, in control. I feel like I’m *in front* of those thoughts, not stuck behind the wall of static they create — I feel normal.

    Just like you say, my brain knows the thoughts are logged, therefore it no longer needs to maintain that low-voltage drain sapping away from everything else.

    I don’t have any sort of additional tip about how to deal with stress once it’s there (you covered it), but I do have a tip about avoiding it in the first place…

    Over the last few years, I’ve been able to recognize that most stress seeps in during the window of time between Arrival of Circumstance and Applied Volition.

    The longer the delay between the two, the more stress you’ve allowed into your system.

    Usually when when a stressful circumstance rears it’s ugly head, *you already know what to do,* but instead of springing into action, we often hem and haw about this or that .. THEN we go ahead and do what we already knew we’d do in the first place.

    Don’t sweat it: choose, act and move on. Accept your circumstance, employ your decision and let the pieces fall where they may, because you will never EVER have more control beyond that.

    Follow your intuition. It’s there for a reason and (for me, at least) is the smarter one.

  • Lisa says:

    I have often dreamed solutions… so much so, I keep a notebook by the bed so I can scribble it if the dreamed solution wakes me in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning… otherwise, I’m apt to forget what it was.

    I like the commit the worries to paper idea and the two lists. I’ll be trying them next.

    My favorite stress and fear buster of late is to do at least one thing a day that you know you should do but you don’t wanna do… I did one today and felt loads of relief. I find the more I do them, the better I feel, and the easier I move toward my goals.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Lisa — I use that “do one thing you hate” tactic, too. It’s just a good habit, to taunt your fear and show it who’s boss… AND to get more of the hard work done and out of the way. You avoid festering sticking points that way…

  • Ken Ca|houn says:

    Another great post. You’re the best writer on the internet, John at least you’re my favorite. Reading your writing is always like watching a good Quentin Tarantino movie… edgy, relevant, fun, full of surprises, hip and worth the ride. Looking forward to whatever book/compilation of these posts/whatever you release, someday.

    Stress seems a function of choice. The more choices one envisions one has, the less stress. The more bottled-up, backed into a corner with little choice, like a wolf in a cave, the more stress.

    I like your lifestyle points, they describe me and my wife well (she’s Japanese, does aerobics daily, eats lots of tofu and vegetables, weighs less than when I married her 13 years ago, cooks healthy food and discourages me from anything that’s not good for me, bless her. It really helps, having a wife who’se from a healthy culture, so no fast food in 10+ years, eat like rabbit.).

    What causes stress is she’s a neatnik and I’m a typical “books all over the places in stacks, and a home office that looks like something blew up in there”… my values are production and business expansion; organizing my home is about #1millionth on my priority list, like felix unger vs oscar madison (I’m oscar).

    Vices? In moderation, definitely agree. A little Chivas, cheesecake, scallops and steak now and then is good. But no junk food, nothing unhealthy, as it takes away from productivity.

    Only thing that stresses me in life, is low sales. So whenever sales drop, I scramble and launch new products, make a lot of money, and all’s well in the universe til sales drop again. Like a cycle. Stress? What me worry? Not really. I live for daytrading and high-stakes poker, so stress is an oxymoron once you get used to the life.

    I like your ‘letter to self’ approach; I’d write that longhand, will try that, thanks.

    to peace of mind,


  • Henry Bingaman says:

    First of all, I gotta ask… what the hell is that animal and did it eat your ball or was it trying to eat you?

    Recently my stress buster is crossfit, which is essentially the hardest workout you can imagine times two, done 4-5 days a week.

    If you want to talk about the “fight or flight” reaction, then exercise helps the body transition better between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems…

    Or if you want to geek out less, that type of intense exercise forces you to clear your head because you have to focus on forcing yourself to complete the next rep/run/row/pull up/etc. Just having an empty head for a little while can knock the stress level down a notch.

    I like the letter-writing tactic. I’ve tried to keep a journal on and off over the years. I get to it in spurts. Maybe if I think of it as the “occasional letter I wrote to myself” book, I’ll feel less guilty about neglecting it… and be more likely to use it when I should.

  • Amanda says:

    My stress-busting tip? Laughter. And you just had me guffawing while I scrolled down. Yep, not ladylike giggling or even snorting but right out there belly laughs.

    Thanks, John – you’ve just provided the perfect antidote to that poisonous caffeine I’m glugging as I write. Oh and you’ll probably counteract the glass of wine or two I plan on having later.

    Laugh it off, folks, as John says…it’s all a game after all. Besides, when you’re laughing you can’t hear your creditors beating down the door or see your psycho ex hiding in the bushes opposite…

    • John Carlton says:

      Excellent point, Amanda. I know my stress-busting is working when I can laugh — really laugh — again. And it’s a warning flag when your laughing is restricted and short and weak.

  • Viviana says:

    Greetings, John –

    Thank you for another superb post. I’ve been using the methods you describe for some time now. They work! Plus, I keep a gratitude journal to give me some perspective.

    I also find clearing out your junk – physical & emotional – works like garlic and crucifixes against Count Stressula (“Don’t mess with me, I’m a declutterer!?”)

    And life without pizza??! Who ARE these people? Did aliens do something to them?

    BTW next time you’re in London, John, the burgers are on me.

    Warm regards, Viviana

  • Lina Nguyen says:

    Heehee, Carlton said “erected”.
    My stress busting tips? I love to run, for a couple hours at a time. Puts me in a meditative state. These days, I also just allow myself to feel the stress, without judging it. I take it as a sign that I need to change something, and carry on.
    Thank you for this post. I hope more people on this planet read it.
    Now, I want to know who your psycho-ex is… Is she stalking you on facebook?

    • John Carlton says:

      I envy runners — I’m not built for it, and get no pleasure from running. Walking, yes. And I’m not positive, but I’m pretty I’m not currently being stalked… though I do have psycho ex’s in the history… a few of ’em, in fact… just took me awhile to work through that part of my mating-urges…

  • Drama says:

    Hey JC,

    This post came at the perfect time for me. Had some “interesting results” from the neurologist yesterday. Stress levels are running high.

    I’m going to put your stress bustin’ tips into action. I’ll let you know how I get on.


  • marcus says:

    Perfect timing John. I went to bed last night thinking I’ve got to get my mind, my worries and my stress under control. And I think your ideas really put things into perspective and offered some direction. Thanks a ton.

  • Virginia says:

    Hi, John

    When I need a smile, all I have to do is read one of your posts.

    You do a masterful job of getting the point across in a very entertaining way.



  • Joe :) says:

    Great post John. You’re like that sassy voice in my head that nudges me along with ideas that seem strange at the time, but butt-saving brilliant when the dust settles.

    Morning exercise boosts my capacity to handle stress. The exercise is a grind, but it sure beats dragging my sorry ass through the day with a gloomy outlook.

    Joe 🙂

    • John Carlton says:

      I wish I could do morning exercise… but I’m a wreck in the AM. I’ve experimented with it for decades, and I’m doomed to be an afternoon or evening workout dude. But I do it. Today, workout with a trainer at 2, tennis with TC at 4. Long walk with the terrier around dusk…

      You just do what you can.

  • Marvin says:

    Damn good post John. Ya nailed it down real tight – as always.

    As for my own personal stress-murdering tactics, here are a few things I do whenever that little monster shows up:

    1. I bring out the ol’ axe – there’s nothing more soothing than a couple James Taylor tunes and then trying to play some half-remembered tune from high school – y’know, those mushy plucketty-pluck songs that made the girls drool… (sigh…)

    2. I take out the weed – literally! I go to our small garden right up front and start pulling out weeds that gang up on the rose bushes. Good therapy. Usually, after a good half an hour weeding, my mother’s happy with me, my wife’s smiling at me with a gleaming glass of ice-water and I feel like the roses are beaming at me too!

    3. I talk to myself in the second person (and sometimes, including the third – depending on my own psycho-analytic mood) – I don’t want to elaborate… but it darn works for me like a charm!

    4. I try to beat my own record in Super Text Twist – what? It makes me happy and calm.

    5. I read, read, read and read – I read anything (and that includes giving some of your posts a quick second, third or even fourth pass – no smoke up yer ass)

    6. Something secret I keep between myself and my God 🙂

    That’s about it.

    Again, darn awesome post John. Kepp ’em flowin’. 🙂

    • John Carlton says:

      Ah, the axe. An essential tool for breaking away from work, for exercising the mind in different ways, and for pure bliss just for the hell of it. I play every day I can, and I tell every parent I know that one of the BEST gifts you can bestow on a child is to have them learn an instrument… it pays off forever. NOT learning an instrument is a huge mistake, even for adults. Everyone should be able to create music.

      I may have to do a blog on that subject. Thanks for the nudge…

      • Marvin says:

        You’re right about having kids learn to play an instrument (and adults too!).

        The discipline that comes from practicing day in and day out until you become good at it, the keen sense of awareness of the bits and parts your bandmates are playing (if you’re in a band), the improvisation you sometimes have to do, the continuous improvement you need to aspire for – all these concepts and principles that come from playing an instrument are almost always applicable to most aspects of our lives.

        I’ll be looking forward to that post John. 🙂

  • john lloyd says:

    Great post John.

    My nightly list keeps me sane and able to juggle all my business and lifestyle commitments.

    Two notebooks, two lists, never mix business with lifestyle, works for me.

  • Mike Singer says:

    Great post John. Re taking a pizza chill pill on occasion, amen brother! There’s a great book by Steven Bratman, MD called Health Food Junkies, about Orthorexia Nervosa: “the obsession with healthful eating.”

    It’s no joke … and with the media giving everyone conflicting info as the experts all weigh in with contradictory advice on a weekly basis, it’s a rare person who–even if they don’t obsess about their food choices–doesn’t feel guilty about not obsessing about them. That causes LOTS of stress.

    When “the meaning of life has been displaced onto the bare act if eating,” you got yourself a serious mental health problem that at root is no different from more obvious eating disorders.

    As any WISE spiritual guru will tell you, the game is not really about relinquishing desire. It’s about relinquishing desire’s nasty hold on you. Sometimes ordering a pizza and staying on the couch for the night is the best health choice you can make. It’s scary how fearful of fun we’ve become. I eat twigs, so I’m speaking from experience. Sometimes this land of light living is a dark dark place …


    • John Carlton says:

      Obsession is part of our wiring, but it doesn’t have to rule us our entire lives. Learn what your obsession default settings are, and deal with ’em. Nobody was dealt the same hand in this world, so we all have our idiosyncratic problems and stuck points. I can tell you (as I think you now know) that from the perspective of looking back on a long career, you “win” as long as you keep plugging away and mostly do the right thing…

  • Michael Cole says:

    Hi John,

    I haven’t been to an In-N-Out in over 20 years. Your mention brings back memories of blacking out the B and The R on the bumper stickers they had at the time. Got the urge?

    I stopped drinking a couple of years ago, didnt really quit, just kind of lost interest and drifted away.

    The 30 or so pounds I’ve dropped this year are a big help, makes riding my bike fun instead of a chore.

    Next time Mr Stress pokes his head up I’ll give tactic #2 a shot, simple, elegant, and effective.


    • John Carlton says:

      Congrats on the pound droppage. I know how tough that can be, and what a victory it is to get ‘er done. I grew up near the FIRST In-n-Out, and yes, we manipulated those bumper stickers to read “in and out urge” (by clipping off the b and r of burger)… which is all the more funny now that I’ve learned the chain is owned by a very conservative family…

  • “Like a dog napping near his buried bone” – You crack me up John. Just picturing that in my mind relaxes me.

    I ride the BIG pendulum swings – Mr. work out every day and eat cleanly for a while. Then right on over to a box ‘o’ mint chocolate chip every night and maybe 4 ears of corn with a 1/4 pound of butter right before bed.

    I haven’t learned too much about moderation… hey, I’m a work in progress.

    I think I’ll write myself a letter tonight!


    • John Carlton says:

      Yeah, I’ve done both the long-haul moderation thing (which works best for me), and the pendulum swings (which I still fall into… especially after a weekend with the college buddies who never grew up — goodbye moderation, diet, and exercise for a week or so…). Life is a marathon, not a race, and as long as you stay true to yourself (and not try to live to other’s expectations, in life or biz or handling booze) you’ll stay afloat and brush up against real happiness…

  • Mike Murphy says:

    Very timely for me John.

    Having left the confines of my j.o.b. 3 months ago, I’ve been hammering hard to get clients and rebuild.

    The “strategy” so far has been to work 11 to 16 hour days doing what I hope will bring success, happiness and steady income with lots of free time.

    Now that I read your post and stop and think, the biggest thing I’ve created is an enormous ball of stress and anxiety, baggy eyes and time away from the kiddies.

    Time to re-group, Mastermind with “Schramko” and the boys and spin things a different way.

    Status report and two lists coming up.

    Thanks John

    • John Carlton says:

      “Re-group” is the operative word, Mike. That’s what these letters to yourself are all about. I do them around once a month, or whenever I realize I’ve lost perspective…

  • Roxana says:

    Thanks for the post. It’s ver y healthy thinking and I’ll do my best to follow tour advice.

    Right now I’m a bit… Desperate seems the right word:

    My aunt who raised me like a mother died.

    My beloved dog who loved me like nobody else and who accompny on the good and a lot of bad times died

    My computer crashed and it’s in the workshop for 3 weeks.

    Many customers have abandoned me because they cannot wait for my problems to be solved.

    My tv died lastima night.

    My car is at the workshop for over a month.

    I do not have money to pay my bills because I cannot work and I cannot work because I don’t have money to get my computer or car.

    Finally, today they will probably cancel my phone, electricity, etc. Etc. Etc.

    Any thoughts on to how to get out of this deep black hole?

    • John Carlton says:

      Nope. I can only tell you that I’ve been in that situation, and it sucks, and you just have to work your way out of it the best you can with the resources available to you. And your story seems a tad overblown, since you’re obviously on a computer to post this comment…

  • Hal Hoadley says:

    Thanks John, you most always come through for me when I need it. I’ve been keeping a journal for the past few years. i write down my ideas, when I get one, haven’t thought about keeping two journals – one for the good the other for the bad in my life. I’ll give it a try. WTF – it can only get better from here.

  • Muriel says:

    Your stress-murdering tactics are right on! However, your language was a bit hard on my stomach. I really don’t enjoy the macho “street language” expressions that many IM writers use nowadays.

    Keep sending quality info out. The best to you.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Muriel. Sorry, but I’m a First Amendment freak, and I write like I talk. I do sympathize with your unhappiness with my language, since I get offended myself when others abuse what I feel are the best rules of communication. But the line for what’s acceptable in adult teaching venues like this blog moved a long time ago. The best magazines in the world, like The New Yorker, do not censor language at all… and for those of us who have always loved communication above restrictions, it’s refreshing and a Golden Age of writing.

      You always have the option of never reading my posts. And I know you’re just voicing your opinion, which is welcome, and not “demanding” that I conform (which is how most offended people react). Just be prepared, when you log onto my blog…

      Thanks for the note.

  • Hi John,

    I suppose different people handle or don’t handle stress in a variety of ways. For myself I found listening to relaxation audio that I listen to on my MP3 player does the trick.
    All it takes is 30 minutes a day every day and for the most part my stress levels are under control.
    Even to the extent that it lowers my hyper tension substantly.

    • John Carlton says:

      I tried dozens of relaxation tapes over the years… my favorite was the recording of the ocean shore, where the dude had obviously just set up a microphone for an hour and split. For 10 minutes, you get relaxing sounds of surf… and then you hear this seagull about 50 feet away, squawking… and coming closer to the mic… and then for the last half of the tape, the gull is attacking the mic and screaming. Soooo relaxing…

      You bring up a good point — different people are affected through different senses. Meditation is achieved many ways, and “proactive” sleep is the easiest for Americans (who don’t understand meditation at all).

  • HoneyJo says:

    A friend and business acquaintance sent me this because I was born worrying, and though I concisely know that hardly anything I worry about ever comes true, I still worry and yes it has caused me physical problem.

    It seems I have always had to be the BEST at everything I do, and am never satisfied until I am!

    From the smartest, completing the project first and best, right down to being the classiest dressed or best looking woman for my age in the room!(Which I know ain’t gonna happen!) Stupid HUH?

    When I finish writing what I have write today, I am going to sit my butt right back down and write myself a letter!

    Will let you know if it helps!!

    Thanks for such a great article,


  • Alan Little says:

    Great rant John! Stress is indeed a sneaky bastid, and yes one of the best antidotes is Doing Something Else. When I feel an attack of Chief Inspector Dreyfus coming on I get proactive, which usually Katos my inner Clouseau – for awhile. I know he’s impossible to kill and the inevitable sequel brewing, but this keeps him stuffed in the murphy bed long enough to go feed the pigeons in the park. Keep on chooglin dude!

    • John Carlton says:

      Being proactive is the key, Alan, you’re right. (And you’re the second guy to haul out that Creedence Clearwater Revival “chooglin'” reference this month… is there some nostalgia bug in the air?) Thanks for the note.

  • Stress is a funny thing. I’ve found that different situations create different “types” of stress for me.

    For instance, when I’m about to start work on for a new copy/marketing client, the “blank page” can sometimes feel overwhelming. To deal with this, I like to use a version of #3. I’ll write down every possible item that is worrying me and, voila, I’ve got a pretty good to-do list.

    With all that on paper, I now have a map for what I need to do. I scratch each item off as I finish it and find that the momentum of doing so turns that stress into optimism and excitement.

    On the other hand, sometimes I hit the road block of, “Man, when are these problems going to end?” The funny thing is, as you get more successful your problems only seem to get bigger, since there’s more on the line in each decision you make.

    When I feel this tidal wave coming on, I’ll step back and use a version of #2. I compare where I am right now to where I was 6 or 12 months ago. What have I learned? How does business compare? What experiences have I attained?

    When you put things that way, it’s almost impossible to be disappointed with what you write down (unless you’ve done zilch, in which case you have deeper problems). I find this works amazingly well at putting things in perspective and generating some positive vibrations.

    • John Carlton says:

      Mike, there’s a sweet spot in biz and in life where you can enjoy real success, but not have the avalanche of problems and stress that seems to accompany the Big Bucks. It’s a balancing act — and it was the essence of “The 4-Hour Workweek” book: Why not be happy with a few hundred thou a year and lots of free time to enjoy, rather than keep pushing for more, more, more? The big moguls like Murdock, Jobs, and other mover-shakers live for work — 20-hour days are their norm, and they’re probably the kind of guys who die soon after retiring. They suck up nourishment from the stress and drama of high-end biz that would kill normal folks. Finding your own sweet spot is tough, because you have to live through variations of it to really know where it is — you can’t guess, or just assign yourself a level of success that works. I’d say 10 years, easy, of experimenting with what levels of stress are acceptable to you as a biz owner is required.

      Still, when you find that sweet spot, your success is more enjoyable. It all comes down to money — how much is enough, and who’s deciding what that number is? You? Or someone else in your life?

      Oh, we could go on and on about this…

  • dean says:

    Hi John, hope you dont mind me pinching
    most of this rant and selling the info
    as a report.

    • John Carlton says:

      You absolutely do NOT have permission to do that, Dean. You can send people to this blog — that’s how it works (and has worked quite nicely for many years). In exchange for FREE advice and info on this blog, I expect people to respect my brand and behave as good colleagues. I hope you’re just pulling my chain here — but if you’re not, you’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’ here…

  • Mark says:

    another great blog about life, John!

    Brain dumping is great. Only works for a short while, but allows me to destress. Too many projects bouncing in my head – can lead to overload and shutdown.

    Another useful tip – keep a pad and pen by your bed for those I just dreamt/semi-woke up with that wonderful idea/solution.

    Dr C

  • Well…I think the last guy got your stress levels going… LOL! Having a go at you I hope…

    Anyways…great post…love the honesty and tips. I’ve been practicing similar one’s for the last few years…and they work, heck I used to be a grumpy young man bitch til I worked out how to cut out the crap.

    I just wish my mate would work it out, I’m sick of hearing his crap…
    I’ll share this somewhere, maybe he’ll read it, if he has time over his bitching…

    But for me, its happy days, in between lists, and plenty of laughs…they help make the world go round with all the other moderation’s..

    Thanks again John…


    • John Carlton says:

      Yeah, we have a few trolls roaming the comments here this time around, James. “No good deed goes unpunished”, as they say, and publishing good info on a free blog seems to invite abuse and asshole behavior.

      Tip: Don’t even try to “change” your mate. It’ll just add stress to your life. Give ’em enough rope, and allow them to change on their own — if that’s in the cards. Much easier to find new mates, than to try to change the ones you have. I have many friends and colleagues who are annoying after short times… so I just arrange it so I’m only with them for a short time. It works…

  • Eric Nygren says:

    A good massage relieves my stress.
    I use my own product to enhance it.
    However, finding someone to give that massage creates stress.
    I use my own product to keep myself beautiful to help that.
    Pitching my product relieves my stress.
    However, finding people to pitch creates it.
    I use my own product to create the laughter that relieves that.
    Living for my product relieves my stress.
    However, thought of losing it creates that.
    I could not endure elevators with nothing to say between floors.
    I use your blog to relieve that stress.
    Thanks, man. I feel better already.

    • John Carlton says:

      I’ve gotten weekly massages for decades now — without them, I’d be dead. Seriously — I didn’t want to get into this detail in this post (thus, the “Part 1”), but massage and meditation are essential to living well…

  • Shawn Lebrun says:


    Your posts NEVER cease to amaze me… cause they always seem to come at the right time.

    You’ve been someone I’ve admired and turned to, for over 10 years now. You helped me grow my fitness business back when I was one of your Insiders.

    And it was YOU who inspired me to become a full time, freelance copywriter.

    And just like you said, stress and burnout happens. Not if, but when.

    Copywriting was something I found pleasurable.

    But, like anything else, it has its stresses.

    And before I knew it, when I was trying to handle writing copy for literally 5 to 10 clients at a time… I got stressed and burned out.

    Why? Because I didn’t know how to manage stress.

    So, I’m working on it more now, so I can get back to loving my copywriting career. But it’s amazing, no matter WHAT career you have… it can all lead to burn out if you don’t manage stress.

    I’ve been a personal trainer and full time freelance copywriter, both of which are dream jobs to some.

    But me? I was miserable for both of them… simply because of not knowing how to handle stress.

    So thank you, once again, for giving me some much needed advice during a much needed time.

    You truly are an asset to the internet community.

    Shawn Lebrun

  • Julie Herckenrath says:

    Love this post John.
    Particularly like the idea of using status reports.
    It’s sheer genius!
    Thanks again for another mind altering post.

  • Mark Meador says:

    Great insights, John.

    Reminds me of what Twain said about moderation. Any time I’m around a squeaky-clean geek for long I start looking for an exit ’cause I’m certain they’ll go postal any minute.

    For some time I’ve adopted a daily twist on your Status Report technique–20 minutes of meditation and visualizing the ideal outcome to whatever is vexing me.

    Leaves me energized and inspired.

    Thanks for the beacon.

  • Lesley says:

    Hey John,

    I don’t have a “stress busting tip” but I sure appreicate the ones you give, cuz I NEED them!

    It helps to even realize that I’m not the only one who suffers from being over stressed, asif one could be under stressed…

    I remember when I was a broadcast negotiator and we were in the middle of annual buys I would stay at work until the panicky feeling subsided, temporarily.

    I do have one quote I try to keep in mind when the situation gets super stressful and that’s “You can’t roll up your sleeves if your busy wringing your hands.”

    Great post and very timely too…thanks!

  • dean says:

    Just jokin John,wouldnt dream of sellin
    your free stuff. Hope i didnt get your
    stress levels up.

    Want and not want list reading before
    bed works great for me,
    cheers Dean.

  • Mike Noone says:

    This is great stuff John.
    Your tip for writing stuff down is what I used as a very wired and totally stressed insomniac back in the 80s.
    Running 12 million quid’s worth of construction projects over a 10 week contract period is a definite stress inducer. Didn’t sleep for weeks until I discovered the power of the pen…



  • Jorge Chavez says:

    Great post! And a great follow-up discussion in the comments thread here!

    As we get older, we no longer need to be taught as much as we need to be reminded.

    As you say, John, each of us is wired differently; there is no one-size-fits-all simple solution to dealing with stress. It’s dif’runt strokes for dif’runt folks!

    We all have to design our OWN personal solutions. Then we have to re-work them from time to time as we encounter different challenges.

    But there ARE basic principles to be learned, as were discussed here. Some things DO tend to work better than others.

    And so it’s a really valuable, eye-opening and idea-generating experience to read your post, to learn about other people’s experiences. Learn what worked (and didn’t work) for them.

    Thank you, John!

    And thank all of you who contributed to this thread!

  • hector says:

    Thank You John,
    Great Post & glad I open your email.
    I been writing on my Journal for almost 12months & write about how great & thankful I’m to have my Family & kids & someone that really loves me. I also, write about how can I improve my business on a daily basis & all the crap you need to deal with when running a business. It does help put life into a positive perspective. I really like the status report Idea. Thank You Compadre (smile)
    Have a Fantastic day,

  • Facing three 30″ monitors, 15 lbs lighter than 6 weeks ago, I can think of three stress killers:

    1. Forgive yourself – me, for somehow learning to drink wine all over again since coming to California 10 years ago, gaining 40+, “vicing” with friends every day.

    Forgiving helps me shed the guilt standing in the way of taking care of myself.

    2. Be real in your conversation, be now – fuck the past and future. Distress chatter dies and you (I) live, every time.

    3. Set high standards/goals (expectations) for yourself and your business in the service of others – stop managing others (your expectations of their performance).

    They don’t work out, any relationship doesn’t work out, fire them, hire/relate with other people who deserve to be empowered, for they will empower you.

    Oh, John, about day trading and the markets you wrote – big stress, distress potential – 4 things may be missing to flatten (kill) this one:

    Stop trading old-school; start trading new school (with – below) – or stop trading.

    Get a world-class trading consultant / coach – like all world-class game players. (Never trade on your own – your stress guy loves it when he has you to his own.)

    Focus on winning, not the money.

    Learn to lose, and then you can learn to win, then consistently and very profitably win.

    Thanks for the journey in the valley of killing stress.

    John McLaughlin, StockCoach (heh, he)
    Videos: YouTube “daytraderswin”

  • Mady says:

    the very fact that I reached till the fag end of this post, is proof enough of the brilliance of this rant. (sorry, hafta say some commenters take the shine out of your words, so i’d rather just hit the close button once m done with your bit)
    you’re doing a great service by dishin out such priceless enhancements as freebies, John.
    many thanks, the ‘Carlton way of life’ rocks! \m/

  • Rob Joy says:


    J.C. ‘the-man’

    Firslty…another friggin GREAT-post which allows me…to get better grip on how to handle stuff…

    I’d like to know what is that ‘thing’ on the golf green with you?

    …looks like you need gun or somthing to take care of it (hahaha)


    I was like…

    …little bumbed out with couple of the random comments…

    …which where left…

    26. ‘Muriel’ with respect to that person they should nto be on this blog post and I feel disapointed for you that those types of comments are posted…

    …feel need to also say Muriel needs to ‘get-a-grip’ this person…does not understand,appreciate,value of your wisdom as the rest of us do…

    Maybe Muriel needs to also be mindful those of us who look forward to your post do not appreciate such anal retarded comments…

    …I’m hip with freedom of speach…man that just blows!

    31. Dean…what is up with that man-do you not have any respect for John he is trying to help us all…

    you want to ruin (harsh the mellow)post with some silly comment like that…


    …seriously that is not very respectful to John and I think you owe him some sort of appology…

    …John…I know you have stated openly you are most ripped off writer on the web…

    Deans comment was waaaay outta line man…glad he did not say that to you in bar or somethin..

    O.K. now to your post (now I’ve had my bitch)…

    I had been feeling little ‘off’ centre for few days to today, (right-now) after reading your post…

    I feel back on ‘track’ with stuff…your post reminded me of few things…which had ‘slipped’ outta me head..

    One thing I’d like to share which will greatly upset the tee,grass,leaf,tofu eating hippy’s is this..

    I eat pizza,drink beer,I eat what is called ‘meat-pie’ here in Australia which is pastry, filled with mince and whatever else is left in the slaughter house…(Aussie tradtion) not good for you…

    BBQ chicken & hot chips,potatoe chips,chocolate,mixed with some healthy stuff (juicing-veggies)

    …it has not effected my workout routine at all in fact…

    I think it does me wonder of good (some how)

    I think best thing anoyne can do is just MOVE…do somthing…like Gary said in interview-I have…”best way to write is movement on the page”

    All I do to keep fit…

    …walk,bike,run on the beach,swim (when its warm nuff)

    …little bit of strength training (less reps-more weight)…I fire on all cylinders quite well…

    Biggest thing I have learnt from your post-today…is the status report…that is like…gold-man!

    Again as I have done more recently than ever before…

    …I feel enriched for readin your post…cant beleive the random ass comments left by douche bags!

    …who have little respect for you…or for those of us in the ‘biz’ who look forward (appreciate-value)reading your post like…

    …teenager who find’s his dads secret stash of ‘stick’ books…in the garage…

    Take care man!



  • Charl says:

    I like the stress reports. It helps you gain much needed perspective. Adding how you’ve dealt with certain issues and how you’ve overcome them makes for some great reading in the months and years to come.

    Also recording your screw ups is good so you can be reminded of where you did the wrong thing so you can prevent it from happening again.

    Amazing how we possess the ability to just forget stuff and make the same mistakes repeatedly. We’re an interesting bunch!

  • Orestes says:

    Hi! John,

    Thanks so much for the wonderful post.This is the only Blog I visit and and the people here are just great.

    I´m going through the most difficult time in
    my life with great stress but I will do your
    formula and I´m pretty sure I´ll overcome that buster that has bother me for years.

    By the way just reading the way you write has
    put me to laugh and I already feel a lot

    Thanks again for all the great things that
    you always share with us.

    My blessings to you!

  • Geez John,

    This post has me laughing so hard I forgot the reason for this bottle of pills in my hand. ROFLMO

    I believe that “like fine whine” (no I didn’t mis-spell that) age makes us a little better in handling stuff. For example, I’ve truly had a psycho ex-wife so I don’t get too rattled when the phone rings at 3 am.

    Here’s my stress buster cocktail. Drink a beer while watching a National Geographic special on skinny kids from Africa or read a good book like “The Diary of Ann Frank”… something that makes your pathetic life look really really good.

    When you discover the above does not work and reading another Tony Robins book isn’t cutting it, you might just take off all your clothes and run down main street flipping everyone off with the bird and then go rent the old movie “catch 22” and watch this stuff live (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest might be better).

    Bottom line? It just ain’t that important.

    Mad Guy

  • Bob says:

    Hey John. Its your friendly Divorce Lawyer here. Loved the post. Stress is part of my job description. I have to deal with the client’s stress and my own similtaneously. Judge’s and clients going through a divorce can be a serious source of stress- right off the charts. Here’s how I deal with it:

    1. I don’t work for periods of more than a couple hours at at time. I take alot of breaks.

    2. I exercise with as much intensity as I can muster 4-5 times a week for one hour each time.

    3. I don’t personalize other people’s stress. Its their problem–not mine. I’m just a hired gun.

    4. I have other interests that I am passionate about and that I integrate into my life. I love learning from the experts (that’s why I’m here) and applying new ideas. Learning and Doing are great stress slayers.

    Thanks for sharing. I am learning and doing and the stress is at bay.


    PS. The one part of yur psot I have to take exception to is:

    “Sometimes stress arrives like a car crash — sudden, violent, earth-shaking and dominating all your senses. Like getting a call from a lawyer who gleefully announces you’re going to have to dance with him now, while he sucks up your net worth and lifeforce like a vampire.

    …their net worth, yes..their lifeforce, its a cesspool, otherwise they wouldn’t need me..they can keep it.

  • Matt Gallant says:

    John — amazing post! Probably one of my all-time favs.

    How to deal with stress is ALWAYS relevant unless you’re living in the woods.

    Thanks for sharing!

    P.S. Stop telling people I’ve moved to Philly. I was just visiting Claude for a few days. You’re wrecking my international man of mystery street cred with that kind of non-sense.

    P.P.S. Ping me about Burning Man. Our camp is bad ass. TedX is coming for a full day to our camp. BOOM-CHAKALAKA!

    • John Carlton says:

      Thanks, Matt. You said “I’m in Philly now.” No clarification that it was for a visit. So I spread the rumor. I think your street cred will survive (otherwise, it’s not really street cred, is it…)

  • Janet says:

    “health guru’s” …
    what’s that apostrophe doin’ in there???

    • John Carlton says:

      I do stuff like that occasionally, just to piss off English teachers. Actually, it’s for clarity. The correct term — gurus — looks odd to most readers. The apostrophe gives it room to be the word I want, in plural form. I’ve discussed this before — ad writers slowly change the language as much as anyone, because we never use the correct usage when slang, or making shit up (like my near-absurd overuse of parentheses and elipses and — my favorite — the double dash instead of the long dash) works better to get our point across. We write to communicate, much like songwriters ignore grammar to keep the rhythm. Make sense? If not, it should after you’ve read my stuff for a while…

  • Sharon A says:

    Hi John,

    I have three stress-busting tactics that I use regularly.

    #1 is my journal. This journal is my “dumping ground”. Whenever I get stuck in a crappy place, I grab that journal and let it all hang out on the page. Nothing and no one is safe in there…I keep writing until I feel lighter inside: then I close the journal and walk away. Getting the crap out clears room for other things to come in.

    #2 is my other journal. I use this one every night. Before I go to sleep I take it out and write down every single good thing that happened to me during the day. Sometimes it takes conscious effort to find something; but it helps me to stay focused on the good. I could be in real trouble otherwise.

    #3 is my Ipod. When my “dumping ground” doesn’t do the trick, or if I’m having an all-out shitheap of a day, I put on my headphones, go to work on one of my community projects, and sing my heart out. I will sing the darkest songs I can find about suicide, violence, abuse—you name it. After an hour of that I feel great and I’m happy again. Don’t know why it works, but it always does.

    I will be adding your letter suggestion to my toolbox. Between managing a chronic illness, an ex (husband’s) who takes $500 a month of our income, a husband who just lost his job, and a bipolar, alcoholic landlord, there is a little stress floating around at times. Thanks for the tip! I loved this one. 🙂

  • Robbie says:

    Funny, I was just thinking this morning that no matter where you live, life is stressful. Maybe there’s no war or blood-thirsty dictator where you live, and maybe you’re not waiting in line for a crust of bread every day. But I’ll bet you have troubles anyway. Too much month at the end of the money, illness, loved ones in hospital or dying, un-controllable teens, maddening neighbors — we’ve all got troubles. It’s all relative. And John’s reminder that we do have control over how we respond to those stressors is so much fun to read, it just might stick long enough for me to get back into the habit of keeping the shit at bay! Thanks, John.

  • Amy says:

    G’day from Australia John.

    Just wanted to say there are a lot of people who really appreciate what you do and I am one of them. I have my online business to run and organise, plus I have enrolled in a full time course- back to school full time. I’ve been stressed out of my mind, most likely from mental and physical fatigue mostly. Its very stressful so the timing of your article was excellent.
    Good on you and thanks heaps.

  • Jimmy Curley says:

    John… fab stuff as usual.

    I myself have tried to address this by recently taking up racquetball… something I never played before. AND I started playing with guys who really knew what the hell they were doing.

    I figured it would help keep me in shape,(because mindless pedaling on the exercise bike was just waaay to friggin’ boring).

    It worked. Even those these SOBs had fun with me for a while making me run the court like a madman, the playing field is starting to even out.

    And there’s an added bonus — hammering that little rubber ball is the ultimate stress release.

    Played one match with FOUR guys on the court. THAT one turned blood when someone got caught in the nose with a racquet.

    Thanks John…


    • John Carlton says:

      Wait — you had to wait for 4 dudes playing to finally realize the joy of sending a ball up someone’s yazoo? You’ve been missing one of the great joys of raquetball, my friend…

  • Thomas Fouts says:

    You are addictive! Right when I think I have read the best post ever, you write a frickin brain whizzer that speaks to my cells in tongues!
    Thanks I’m on my way to the happy smiling jello state.

  • Jeremy says:

    I just wrote out over 3 single space pages in a collage rule notebook for my “status report”. And you know what, I do feel better.

    Thanks for the advice.

  • Krisztian says:

    I read your post a few days ago and thought it was brilliant and went on to do my ‘things’… Last night I could not fall asleep as I could not stop thinking about some stuff that I’d been working on in my business … I was kind of ‘stressing’ over things I would say. Your status report came to my mind and I got up and started to write… Not only sent me to sleep right after I did about 10 minutes writing, but I also have a great list of actions I am diving into this morning. Cool stuff and lots of wisdom John.

  • i’ve started running recently, at the beginning i ran like 20 minutes and then more and more! Now i can run for 1 hour without stops. It helps you to get rid or better to say “run away” from bad emotions and negative things that have happened.

  • Michael A says:

    Hi John-

    Just found your site an hour ago and have been enjoying your posts and the comments. Here are my bits on stress:

    I learned to ski when I was around forty years old. Spent some time looking at why it was such a good stress reliever for me, and decided that it was because it took all of my attention to get down the hill; there simply was no room in the head for anything else. Where I live now, in the southern Caribbean, I replace skiing with a bicycle on a rough beach trail. Those sort of things work for me, not just mindless exercise, but physical activity that requires all of my attention. I’ve also found the same sort of stress release when working in industry, running machinery that is not safe and there’s no way to make it safe. You have to do it right, all the time. In some ways that could be seen as stressful, but at the same time it’s a respite from human problems; there is no room for them.

    Another thing that works for me is to believe in the worth of what I’m doing, which means that nothing can be only about money or personal gain. If I truly believe in the worth of what I’m selling, the inevitable stress is just part of the job I have taken on.

  • udo says:

    The calm does not precede the storm,
    it resides in its center

  • mike griffin says:

    These albums are all to new for me to recognize. You need to get some geezers together and do a real contest.

  • sam says:

    not a big fan of stress john. good article =)

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