I was leaning in for the kiss and she put up the hand. We were 22 years old. “I can’t,” she said. “I’m in a tough spot in my life. I’ve been through some things recently and my therapist told me I can’t do three things over the next year: change where I live, change my job, and change my relationship status – which is single.”
Of course I believed her then. I was young and foolish and my ego required that I believe her. Now, with 20 years of further experience, and many rejections later, I realized that it was a total blowoff. She just wasn’t that into me. But now that I’m thinking more about it (since its not atypical of me to dwell on 20-year old rejections) I realize that the advice this “therapist” gave is HORRIBLE advice in most situations.
In fact, if you have stress in your life, the number one thing you need to do today is SHAKE THINGS UP. When you are mugged or if a car is about to hit you, your stress hormones fire off and you FIGHT or FLIGHT. So here’s some ideas.
A) Do something insane. I’m going to admit something. A few years ago, it was a Thanksgiving. I was going through a separation with my then-wife . I was in a hotel by myself with nothing to do on a major holiday. I decided to do something completely insane. I went on Craigslist and advertised that I was a psychic and would help anyone with any problem. For the rest of that day I answered people’s questions (telling people in advance that I couldn’t see the future, or find objects, etc but could answer any other question – like a therapist of sorts). It was fun and took me out of my body and mind for a few hours. And I actually made one or two long-term friends out of it.
B) Save a life. Deep down you know you are a superhero. And in every episode of a superhero’s life, there’s a person that needs saving. Today’s an episode. Go do it. Stay anonymous so your secret identity is protected. Everyone needs saving of some sort. Keep your eye out and you’ll find who needs saving today.
C) Go jump in a river. A few months ago I had a particularly stressful day. It was bad from a trading point of view and other reasons. I hadn’t gone swimming in years even though I live right next to the Hudson river. So I went a few blocks from where I live where there’s basically a mud beach, and I went swimming in the river for awhile. It was nice and warm and made me forget about whatever was bothering me. Not everyone can just go jump in a river but certainly you can find something you haven’t done in years and just go ahead and do it. For instance, find a firing range near where you live and fire some guns. About twelve years ago I did this when I was undergoing a particularly stressful time involving the sale of my first business. It was looking like the deal was not going through. Firing some rifles at a target did wonders for my stress levels.
D) Return some emails from 2005 that have nothing to do with anything. Sometimes I go back in my emails from several years ago and I return, or follow-up on, an email from back then as if no time has passed at all. Like asking a co-worker who asked you for help in 2006 on a specific project, “Hey, do you still need help with that project. I’m available now.”. It’s always a surprise to the person on the other end to see a response from an email they sent in 2006. You never know what could happen. I have 93,311 unread emails in my Inbox at the moment (not counting the ones in the Spam folder). I have a lot of material to work with but you never know what you could find when you go digging back through your own archives. Its like an archaeological dig. If you are the type of person who responds to all emails, then respond again to a 2005 email.
E) Ask someone new for coffee. Basically, upgrade the average quality of your friends. Drop (or slow down) a friend that brings you down, and invite for coffee someone you think could be an interesting new friend. Learn something new over coffee. Imagine if you did this once a week. You’d have a pretty high quality group of friends after a short period of time. That’s shaking things up.
F) Send your resume around. The job market is like any other market. It has supply and demand and everything has its value. At least every two years you need to find out what your value is in the market. I’ll give an example. I once worked with a very talented woman who worked in the marketing department of a major television network. She was unhappy in her job so I arranged a dinner between her and the head of a new but growing ad agency. The ad agency woman loved my friend but , “She’s too inbred”. She had been at the tv network for 17 years and the ad agency would’ve been too worried she couldn’t adapt. Remain adaptable, and at the very least, keep careful track of your value in the marketplace. You do this by sending the resume around and making sure you get at least one offer, or at the very least, some good advice.
G) Unusual Love. Follow the 32 Unusual Ways to Love Ourselves:
H) Take an artist’s holiday. Do this by yourself. Go to a museum, look at paintings, think about art and what artistic things you can do. This is easy if you live in a major city. If you don’t, then go to any close city that has art galleries or someplace where you can spend a few hours milling around looking at creativity in action. Oh, and do this on a weekday instead of a weekend. Going to a museum on a weekend is like going to a children’s party at a public swimming pool. Someone’s going to pee on you.
I) Make a list of things one can do to de-stress. Trust me this works.
J) Forgive and Forget. Find one person to forgive. I have a lot of people that I feel have done me wrong. People I’ve done favors for, people I’ve made money for, people who I have really helped who have then in some way or other then treated me in a way I didn’t like. And I hold grudges. Pick one of them at random and forgive them. Really mean it. It will make life a little easier. One less person to think about.
K) Clean your desk. Throw out as many things as possible. I know the whole “hoarders” movement seems to be catching on in reality TV. But I find when I throw out as much stuff as possible, even things that I thought were desperately important or sentimental to me, I feel a little better.
L) Beg. If you live in a major city, lie down in the sidewalk for a little while with a sign that says you’re hungry and need some money. Believe me, this makes enough money for a McDonalds meal, which comes in handy because after awhile of begging you can get hungry.
M) Unusual Concentration. Pay attention to the 32 Unusual Ways to Practice Concentration:
N) The “I Did” List. You know how a lot of people make a “to-do” list? To-do lists are sometimes stressful for me. How are you going to get all that stuff done if you are stressed out? Even better, make an “I did” list. List all the things you did that day that were productive. Its probably bigger than you think. Do it again tomorrow also. It will improve. On days where I feel like I did nothing its amazing to me how many things I did once I make the “I did” list.
O) Wear all white clothes, or as close as possible to white. It worked for Mark Twain when he lost his wife and daughter. He switched to an all white tuxedo wardrobe and it worked for him.
P) The 60 Second Meditation. I’ll be honest, suggesting meditation or exercise to people might be an accurate thing to do on this list (both reduce stress) but its not overly realistic. People have a hard time setting aside a few moments to do either. Here are some meditations that are fun, take only a few minutes, and will reduce stress:
- Make a list in your head of all the people in your life you are grateful for. Only takes a few minutes, drastically reduces stress.
- Mentioned above, but think of one person you really hate. Now, truly and sincerely wish him the best in your head. This person is just trying to get through life also. Maybe they’ve lost some money, or maybe they are lonely. But there is some suffering that caused them to do the things they did. Wish him or her the best. And mean it.
- This borders on psychosis. But pretend you are Jesus, or Buddha. Really visualize it. You are the son of god. Or maybe you are Luke Skywalker, completely giving yourself over to The Force. Now, you know God has a mission for you, and just like that guy in Mission Impossible (the TV show, not the movies) you have to listen to that tape and do whatever it says. God is on the tape. Then it explodes (stressful) and you have to do what it says.
- Tense every muscle in your body for 5 seconds. Tense as much as you can. Then relax. Feels better, right?
- When you are walking around in the city, if you are anything like me you probably hate most of the people who you pass, even if you don’t know them or have never seen them before. Catch yourself doing that. Try the reverse. Try liking all of them. Not in a patronizing way (i.e. don’t give anyone sympathy). But try to really like them.
Q) Introduce two people to each other. It doesn’t matter the reason. Just write to both and say, “you two should definitely meet.” Think about it this way, the most successful businesses in history did this. Nobody goes to Google for its content. Google just introduces people to each other. You become Google or Yahoo when you are the guy in the middle. Most companies hate to link out to other sites. But that’s all wrong. When you are in the middle, you become the go-to person. You’re the person people go to when THEY need to shake things up.
R) A 25 Hour Day. Not every job or life situation will allow this. But try it if you can: Stay up an extra hour every day, but still sleep 8 hours (or whatever your normal sleep schedule is). In other words, unlike most mere mortals, who are living a 24 hour day, you are living a 25 hour day. Do it for at least a month (or 24 days) so you can see how it feels for a full cycle. Strange things happen when you live the 25 hour day. Trust me. A variation on this is to split your sleep cycle in half. Sleep 4-8 in the morning and 4-8 in the afternoon. Still 8 hours but…different.
S) Do All of the Above. In fact, you can do all of the above in a single day. Try the “Shake Things Up” day where do you all of the things suggested above in a 25 hour period.Share This Post