Monday, November 8, 2010

Obsession-Be-Gone - The story of one man's fight with his fight against bed bugs

Bed bugs are a problem in New York City (the NY Times ran four articles about them last month alone). So it came as no surprise when Barry started talking with me about his obsession with protecting his family from them.

He'd heard the horror stories from two close friends - about how the exterminators would come, but the bugs would stay. Of people leaving the city entirely after moving from an infested apartment, only to have the new apartment also be infested (the new landlord painted over the walls and didn't mention the issue).

Determined to avoid such a disaster in his home, in April, Barry started to insist that everyone put their bags and shoes into large plastic bins in the entry. He would also vacuum his home three times a week - not only would he vacuum behind the sofa cushions, he would unzip and vacuum the inside of them as well (just in case!). And it went on from there. All this felt like the sane thing to do in the face of a pesky danger to his son.

The problem was that the behavior was starting to feel obsessive - and ineffectual. The friends of his 7 year-old son who had been exposed to bed bugs would play in the apartment. The walls could develop a crack from where the bugs could seep in. There were too many variables. Too many possibilities that something could creep in. Even Barry's son started calling him obsessed and asked him to chill out. (His wife was lovingly accommodating, but still shook her head in wonder.)

This was the situation where Barry approached me. Between half-hearted jokes about his behavior, he mentioned that he'd like to stop. There's no point in trying to make a shift if a shift isn't desired. So I asked him directly, "Which is it? Do you want the behavior or do you want to stop?"

Had he said that he wanted to maintain the behavior, I would have gone along with it and enjoyed his company for the rest of the evening (Barry's a very funny guy). But as it was, he became somber and concerned. Barry said he really did want to change - even his 7 year-old was acting more mature and calling him out on odd behavior - but didn't know how.

I asked him:
Why do you want to stop? 
What do you get out of the behavior? 
How else can you get it? 
What's next (or even more important)?

As a result, Barry realized that he was spending more time and energy worrying about bed bugs than if he actually got them. Even though he could try to protect his son from tiny bites, there were other things that would hurt even more. And the most important lesson he could bestow at this point was that it's possible to get over an obsession and return to normal behavior.

The next day Barry and his son got rid of the bins.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Presentation on 11/18: Giving Thanks to Stress

Just in time for the holidays!

I will be giving a presentation at the New York Society for General Semantics called Giving Thanks to Stress.

Stress is trying to send a message - one of warning, care and protection - that either something you really don't want is happening, or that you're missing something important. During the holidays the messages often come more frequently and more intensely. Unfortunately stress can't say anything out loud. Instead it gets your attention by making you irritable, increasing your heart rate, tensing your muscles and contributing to 90% of visits to primary care physicians. 

When you act on the message that stress is delivering, not only does it go away, it pushes you along the path of living your ideal life. And that's definitely something to be thankful for.

Thursday, Nov. 18th, 6:30pm
45 E. 65th St, NYC (map)
(b/w Park & Madison)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

How long should it take to recover from a car incident?

On the way to her semi-final match Kim Clijsters got into an accident where everyone was okay (the car was totaled). 

Last month I blogged about why time doesn't heal ANY wounds. Clijsters chose to move on right away rather than do the socially appropriate/expected thing of let her thoughts get wrapped up in what just happened. In fact, "Clijsters served more consistently than she had all week" and is about to play in the WTA finals.

Way to set your own mindset and recovery schedule, Kim!

I've been in one major car accident. I was driving in Spain and was broad-sided as I tried to cross a busy intersection. Once I saw that I and everyone else was okay (the cars were totaled), I put my hand on my heart and breathed for a few moments. 

That's all I needed to be present and clear-minded. It was especially useful since the police officers who arrived on the scene pretended they were going to arrest me (no, I hadn't had any alcohol). As a result of my being able to be present and move on from what had just happened, not only was I able to enjoy their joke, I was also able to laugh at the tow truck that ran out of gas as it was about to lift my car.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why time doesn't heal ANY wounds

When someone is suffering emotionally we often try to comfort them by saying "It'll take time," or "Just give it a bit of time."

Unfortunately there's no special quality of time. Time itself doesn't heal wounds. 10 years never saved anyone - it's the new perspectives we discover and accept during those 10 years that makes the difference. They're the ones that helps us realize that things really are releasable.

So what are we really saying when we prescribe time? We're saying that time is what gives us that perspective (or ability to access that perspective) rather than that other perspective is available to us immediately. It may not be evident right away, but don't make your ability to recognize and adopt perspectives time-dependent. That's ceding control of an ability we all have available at any time. And not just any ability, it's the best thing to get you to move on.

What new experience are you waiting for? What are you going to know, feel, see differently later? Different perspectives are there for the taking. Seek them out! Explore them! The end of your suffering may be sooner than you think.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Take Your Pick of Reactions

There are lots of emotional reactions you can choose to respond with at any given situation. One thing is certain - regardless of the situation, stress is never the best reaction - it's just a warning that something needs to change. Heed the warning, then pick a different reaction to continue with.

So go ahead and pick a reaction you you feel would better serve you when you encounter your next "stressful situation." You don't need to pick "the best" reaction, as long as it's better than stress your experience will improve. All it takes to change your reaction is practicing your desired one and a mindset to do so.

Positive Emotional Reactions
Adequate Awe Assured Able
Capable Certain Charmed Cheerful
Comfortable Compassion Courageous Confident
Determined Delighted Eager Energetic
Enthusiastic Excited Exhilarated Expectant
Elation Empathy Excellent Fascinated
Glad Good Great Grateful
Glorious Glamorous Graceful Happy
Hopeful Humorous Inspired Interested
Joyful Magnificent Lust Love
Pleasure Playfulness Peaceful Pleasant
Powerful Prideful Upbeat Relaxed
Relieved Satisfied Surprised Sympathy
Stable Sublime Superior Thrilled
Negative Emotional Reactions
Annoyed Anxious Apprehensive Agonize
Anger Anxiety Apathy Bored
Burdened Cautious Competitive Concerned
Confused Contempt Depressed Destructive
Disgusted Distracted Doubtful Disappointed
Exasperated Exhausted Embarrassment Envy
Frustrated Fear Guilty Greed
Grief Harassed Hesitant Hostile
Ignored Impatient Indifferent Intimidated
Isolated Irritated Jealous Jumpy
Lonely Mad Manipulated Miserable
Obnoxious Overwhelmed Panic Pressured
Remorse Revenge Shame Sad
Scared Shocked Suspicious Stress
Tired Uncomfortable Uneasy Used
Wary Weary Wasteful

This list was compiled by There are lots more out there. Find and share them!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The other most important word in stress


adj: Situations individuals choose to react with stress to when a) something they really want is missing or b) something they don't want is present. Grouped in unique combinations based on individual preferences and history.

Did you ever look at someone stressing out and wonder what had gotten into them - that what they were making a big deal about was trivial if not utter nonsense? I guarantee others have looked at you the same way.

There's nothing that has to be stressed out about. It could be extraordinarily important or even life-threatening, but that doesn't mean you have to stress out over it (just likely that you will). You start regaining control over yourself once you start questioning if it does indeed deserve being stressed about.

The questioning begins with identifying the situations (and their underlying ideals that are being threatened) that trigger your stress reaction. Once you're aware of when you're stressing out you can decide which situations are really worth stressing about (it's a lot less than your current list).

Questions like:
Why is this not a big deal?
Why does this make my life better?
Why is this easy for me to handle?
Why will this take care of itself?

Still stressing about it? Fortunately, there's still a line of defense (or offense depending on your point of view) for dealing with stress without having to take any action on the situation - recognize that even if something is stressable, it's still releasable.

Thanks to Scott Grinberg, the Name Tag guy, for inspiring me to come up with this word. Check out his new book, -able, on Amazon.

The most important word in stress

Adj: Capable of being let go.

Everything you find stressful is releasable. Once you've decided what's really stressable in your life, your ability to succeed in moving on is dependent on how much you believe that it's releasable.

Releasing is a two step process: *
1) Awareness of where/how it's being held on to.
2) Using the relevant technique to let go.

Where are you holding something?
- In your hand? Open it.
- In your muscles? Breathe, hug, stretch, exercise, get poked (with acupuncture), massage ... whatever, try different physical/sense-releated activities and see which one works for you.
- In your mind? Don't think of an elephant.

You may have done this one in the past - someone tells you not to think of an elephant and you can't help but think of the many aspects of that elephant ... how big it is, it's color, trunk length, etc. You can't couldn't but think of the elephant. The same is true for this stressful thing you're holding onto in your head.

Do you remember how many vowels are in the title of this blog post?

By the way, you just stopped thinking of elephants. That's the key, thinking of something else. And if you recognize that you can let go of a thought once, you can do it twice, and if you can do it twice, you can keep doing it - each time for longer and longer periods. Eventually you'll release it forever. (Byron Katie talks a lot about this.)

Think anything isn't releaseable? Let me know in a comment!

* (Note: You don't have to do anything about the situation to make the stress about it go away. Please listen to what stress is indicating that you'd like changed and pick a different reaction when you attempt to deal with it.)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Presentation on August 11th: The Game of Stress

Please join me at the upcoming Applied Improvisation Network (AIN) NY regional meeting on Wednesday, August 11th.

The event is open to improvisers and non-improvisers alike who want to improve their applied improvisation skills and learn more about using improv games as a form of experiential learning in a business/organizational setting.

The evening will consist of some getting-to-know-you games, opportunities to share your favorite and most effective exercises, and I will present -
The Game of Stress. (This will be a mini version of the workshop that I will present in September at this year's AIN conference in Amsterdam.)

About The Game of Stress: Discover insights and workable solutions to even your most overwhelming situations resulting in an immediate reduction of stress in your life. Bring your stressful situations and we’ll apply improv exercises to the stress-release methods introduced in my book,
The Gift of Stress.

After the session, we'll discuss the exercises used, other ways it could have been facilitated, and conclude with a game swap.

Wednesday, August 11th
6:30 to 9:30 PM


Teachers College, Columbia University
525 West 120th Street b/w Broadway and Amsterdam


Take the 1 train to 116th (and Broadway). Walk four blocks North on Broadway, then turn right on 120th. The entrance is half-way down the block on the North side of the street. If you do not see Zohar or Caitlin waiting by the guard's desk, just tell the guard you are going to room 305 in the library. Take the elevator to the third floor, walk through the large reading room to the set of study rooms in the back. We will be in room 305.

$5 suggested donation to help cover snacks.

RSVP to so we can estimate supplies and room size.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Gift of Stress: the first edition is now a limited edition

The "good" news is that people have really enjoyed and benefited from applying the tools, tips and techniques in The Gift of Stress (check out the reviews on Amazon!)

In the process of promoting the book and getting it into retail outlets (Quest Bookshop being the first to carry it), it got into the hands of a literary agent (Laura Ross from Jill Grinberg Literary Management). Long story short, I'm now in the process of submitting The Gift of Stress to major publishers.

The "bad" news is that I won't be able to sell or print more copies of the book once the proposal I'm writing gets sent out. And if it gets picked up by a publisher, it'll be unavailable for another year.

All this is to say that I'm really proud that the book has been so well received, and bummed that it has to be taken off the shelves so soon. So if you were planning on purchasing a copy,  please don't delay. There are less than 100 copies left and they won't be available much longer.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What We Gain By Being Curious Rather Than Critical

Author Joe Queenan reread Ben Franklin's book, Poor Richard’s Almanac, and shared his thoughts in a July 4th NY Times article called, Ben Franklin s a Big Fat Idiot. It's a well-meaning piece on the man he considers to be a "titan" worthy of his "esteem and affection". That's why it seems odd to me that Queenan doesn't give Franklin's work - one that he has admired for decades! - enough credit. It was the article's concluding paragraph that particularly bothered me.

I still admire Ben Franklin, and will never cease to do so. But from now on, that homage will be qualified. Much as I hate to admit it, sayings like “If it were not for the belly, the back might wear gold” and “A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things” just don’t cut the mustard. They’re the kind of pointless, obtuse, third-rate flapdoodle Franklin himself would have hated, and for which there is only one proper response: Hey, buddy, go fly a kite.

First of all, one's homage should always be qualified. Admire, believe in, follow, but never blindly.

Second, Queenan abandons much of his favorite historical figure's work. In his race to critique, he misses the opportunity re-find wisdom in the words. One should look to their past inspirations not with a critical mind but a curious one.

In the conclusion, Queenan dismisses the line “a life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things.” Rather than seeking fault, he could have tried to find Franklin's reasoning by asking questions like "How could Franklin's words be right?" and "What's special about them being "two things?"

As a guy whose life revolves around releasing stress, Queenan's dismissal of this line was particularly disappointing to me. I regularly talk with people who feel that if they don't work hard (avoiding leisure) nothing will get done (laziness). Franklin's words correctly state that leisure does not necessitate laziness. They are two separate things. You can get plenty done in a relaxed manner. Plus, the fact of the matter is that everything can't get done, nor should everything that can be done actually be done. This is often overlooked in our do-more society (the Story of the Mexican Fisherman comes to mind).

Third, the attitude of "Hey buddy, if it's not going to be brilliant after 200 years, don't write it!" is a really hostile and unproductive one to have. I have a feeling that Queenan wouldn't ever write a word (let alone this article or his books) if that standard was applied to his own writing.

Lastly, "go fly a kite"? I know it's a historical quip, but in our society it's also a blow-off. If you wouldn't say it to your titan's face (and I have a hard time believing Queenan would), don't write it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Boring + Fun = Not Boring

When we take the time to add fun to a situation it gets transformed. A lot of people use stress/deadlines/self-flagellation as motivation to do something. Yet we all have things that we do because there's an inner motivation - have you ever had to give yourself a deadline to get dessert?

VolkWagon has a campaign that shows innovative ways they've gotten people to do "boring" things - they call it The Fun Theory. Their most popular video shows how to get people to use the stairs instead of taking the escalator. (Thanks to Shreedevi for reminding me of the campaign.)

For those who want to take the stairs more, but are on a budget, feel free to substitute "piano" for "humming a song" as you walk up.

Yesterday I played croquet with some friends - it's a fun game, but can become boring quickly. To add some fun I came up with the idea of giving each player the opportunity to place an obstacle (usually a bag) on the field once per game, at least 18 inches from a wicket. This addition created a sense of excitement and unpredictability that changed the tide each game.

Have you added an element of fun to a "boring" activity? Share it in the comments!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Stop Stressing Radio Show: Being Alone, Driving & Texting

The latest episodes of the Stop Stressing Radio Show are available for download!

In the May 3rd episode my co-host
Michele Lamoureux and I discussed how the stress of being alone impacts our health and relationships, as well as what you can do about it. 

In the May 10th episode we discussed the impact of the new laws on driving and texting, and how they relate to other times where something we've grown used to gets taken away.

Lots of stories, tips and concepts are shared! Particularly how to apply the Four Diffusers to each of the situations and points of view.

Listen to the podcast directly or download it from our station's site.

New shows are
recorded live every Monday at 2pm, audience call-ins are welcome! (347) 857-3382.

Have a topic you'd like discussed? Leave a comment to this post or send me an email: zo AT StopStressingOut dot Com

Friday, May 7, 2010

An Interview About Stress and Humor

Earlier this week I was interviewed by Drew Tarvin of - a site dedicated to helping corporations, companies, managers, employees, and even your average Joe (or Joe-ette) bring humor into the workplace and life in general.

Highlights from our talk include:

  • The Gift of Stress (0:35)
  • Why We Suck at Handling Stress (5:50)
  • Can You Become Stress-Free (9:40)
  • The Seven Rs of Stress Release (16:30)
  • The All Important Reminder (20:14)
  • Humor as a Diffuser (27:15)
  • The Stress of a Haircut (32:06)

You can listen to the interview and download the transcript here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The first episode of Stop Stressing with Zohar, Michele and Scott is up!

We discussed how allergies impact our health, cause us to shift lifestyles, and give a lot of new things to be aware of while taking away some of the control and freedom we usually take for granted. Lots of stories, tips and concepts are shared!

Play directly or download it:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Announcing the Stop Stressing Radio Show

Are you stressed out? Would you like to access new ways to deal with your stress better? Join experienced life coaches, Zohar Adner, Michele Lamoureux, and Scott Shane Holt, as they take on the daily stressors in our lives -- Money, Relationships and Health. 

Each week you'll gain a new perspective and tips to manage your own stressful situations. This series is effective, fun, and insightful - you're gonna love it!

Listen and call in every Monday at 2pm Eastern Time starting on April 26th.

(Call-in number: (347) 857-3382)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Supporting a Charity

I believe that programs that give creative outlets and opportunities for people helps people find meaning and passion in their lives which in turn makes the world a better place. 

In that spirit I've donated three coaching sessions and a copy of  The Gift of Stress in the support of the great people at Figure Skating in Harlem - a pioneering not-for-profit organization that provides girls ages 6-18 with vital educational and skating opportunities that build self-worth and promote physical well being and academic achievement. 

Please support their efforts with an auction bid on too and get a bargain to boot! As they say, Do Good, Live Well.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Stressed-Out Job Search

As happy as I am that the healthcare reform bill passed, we're still a long way from living lives without stress and with the other reactions we'd prefer to take its place.

Until then, here's some other good news (as reported in the Maplewood Patch) - the members of the Professionals in Transition group that meets in the main branch of the Maplewood, NJ Public Library are closer to releasing their stress - insurance or not.

We covered how searching for jobs, particularly those searches that extend far beyond initial expectations, have many unfamiliar and unexpected aspects - like explaining a job you do well in the space and format of a resume, cover letter, and interview. After all, these people have been learning how to do their jobs well for decades, not how to write about or discuss them.

Are you dealing with a lot of new situations?

A peek into a recent workshop

I recently gave a talk presenting the Key Points of Stress Release from in The Gift of Stress:
Stress is Optional
- My definition of stress
- The Four Diffusers: Gap, Attachment, Familiarity, and Mood.

Join me at my next event where I'll go into more detail and gift the audience with bookmarks that have the Key Points on them as well. Or contact me and we'll create an event just for you group.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Book Launch Party!

The 2/22 book launch party was a big success!
Over 50 people turned out to celebrate the release of The Gift of Stress.

As part of the festivities, I was able to bring together local friends and business to donate (i.e. give gifts) their products and services towards a free raffle! Everyone who showed up was given a raffle ticket, and could get more raffle tickets for each copy of the book they bought. They then put the ticket in a box designated to the prize they wanted to try for.

I would like to extend a special thanks to my donors: - Level 1 improv class - Feng Shui for more money or a new honey - 4 tickets to a any upcoming show - 4 CDs: "Speak" by Michael Olatuja; "Sira" by Ablaye Cissoko & Volker Goetze; "Abyss" by Jacques Schwarz-Bart; "Like Water" by Anne Drummond - 1 CD: "Numbers, Colors, and People" - 1 DVD: "A Good Uplift"