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Chapter 4 – Destress

Pillars of Health book
1. Pillars of Health
2. Preamble
3. The mindset
4. How to Use
5. Habit System
6. Chapter 1 – Sleep
7. Chapter 2 – Eat
8. Chapter 3 – Move
9. Chapter 4 – Destress
10. Chapter 5 – Learn
11. Chapter 6 – Connect
12. Weight (Fat) Loss Over Years

Download the complete Pillars of Health book now, preview the book chapters, or watch a short keynote on all the pillars.


Stress targets us. Eustress is our target. Destress to transform the former to the latter. Frankl said the moment in between stress and response is the key. We have the power to choose our response. That car that cut us off. That slow old man in the checkout line. That boss yelling at you for no good reason. These things happen. Accept it. They never stop. We control our attitude. The world is not targeting us. We control our response.

Prepare to choose better — create the space to pause, see the situation more completely, more accurately, and make a more informed choice. 

Sometimes punch something. Not a human. Or an animal.  

Destress Habits

  1. TAKE A BREAK. Take an hour off, a day off, a weekend off, a week off. Whatever you can manage take it. Your problems will remain when you get back. No matter. Don’t feel bad about taking time off. Much worse is overworking yourself to death. 
  2. PUNCH SOMETHING. Not someone. Unless it’s consensual Fight Club-style. Schedule these sessions once a week for a few minutes, maybe Friday, after work. Get a heavy bag, a pillow, a voodoo doll. Or find your punching bag substitute. It might be hard exercise, sprinting, yelling at the top of your lungs. 
  3. SOCIALIZE WITH YOUR PEOPLE. Start your week by planning a night with friends, family, a colleague. Go to lunch. Get a coffee. Workout together. Join a class. If you work a normal Monday to Friday and dread Sunday night, that’s the time to text a friend and make a next weekend’s plan.
  4. BREATHE DEEPLY. Take three deep breaths per day, every day you remember. Combine deep breathing with movement by trying yoga. Meditate as long as it doesn’t stress you out thinking about it. Just take a moment each day to focus on taking the three deepest full lung, full body breaths you can muster, maybe when you start or finish your day. Bonus points if you get out into nature, a park, the beach, a waterfall, anywhere with natural sights and sounds.
  5. PRACTICE GRATITUDE. Start your day answering, “what’s one, two, or three things you’re grateful for right now?” Repeat this every day for a month. Keep your answers as simple as you want. What am I grateful for? The sun, the rain, a light breeze, a fresh strawberry, my daughter and wife, good coffee. 

When You Have An Hour

MEDITATE FOR AN HOUR. This is painful. Hard. Try it once. I do it once a year. It feels awful when you start. At some point you might settle into a slower rhythm in your mind. Coming out of it is better than the best sleep.

BINGE WATCH TV. Sometimes we just need to rest. Do whatever works for you. TV isn’t bad. Excess tv is not good. Binge-watching an hour or two or even ten once in a while is a good way to destress.

EXERCISE LIKE A MADMAN. Get outside. Climb a mountain. Literally. Ride the waves. Swim until you can’t swim no more. Bike up the big hill. Feel the wind in your hair on the way down. Run five miles. Run ten. Run twenty. Destroy that heavy bag. Lift heavy weights. Grunt. Sweat. Repeat. 

Ways to Make Time

  1. Pair with a partner for time off. Whether it’s a day or a weekend, ask your significant other, a friend, family member to trade off covering responsibilities like kids or pets for your time off. You cover them. They cover you. 
  2. For longer vacations away from kids, use anyone with a blood bond starting with grandparents, working your way down to brothers and sisters.
  3. If your job doesn’t allow you to take enough time off, spend an extra hour now and again developing a strategy for finding a better career or job. Then take action. “Five-years-from-now-you” thanks you for the consideration.
  4. Setup regular dates with “your people” so you don’t have to think about it. Sunday night dinners with family. Saturday coffee with a friend. Monday night group workouts. The ‘set it and forget it’ guy sold armies of ovens for a reason. The phrase and strategy works.
  5. Pair gratitude practice with morning sunshine or deep breathing. Go outside and write what you’re grateful for in a notebook or journal. Take a few deep breaths. Three minutes. Three habits. Done.


  • total daily time in the present moment
  • total daily time in negative emotional state, healthy good stress
  • total daily time feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed
  • destress control (restraint exercised / total stressful situations)
  • sleep duration and quality
  • mental health assessment/check-in
  • total hours per day or week relaxing 
  • days per year taking vacation or relaxing time off
  • days per week taking any number of deep breaths
  • days or minutes per week meditating
  • days per week acknowledging what you’re grateful for
  • distressful punches thrown per week (not at a human, animal, or plant)

Bask in the glory of people loving you. Or being assholes. Whatever. They’re your people. Maybe they’ll come around. Maybe not. Your choice of what to do next. But if an asshole keeps being an asshole and we continue to let them exist in our life, then… really, who’s the asshole now? Same thing with jobs. Don’t let an asshole job ruin your life. Easy to say. Hard to fire your boss. But worth it. 

I imagine these people causing my problems are robots sent from the heavens executing their programmed instructions. Because who yells at a robot? 

Now shout the snowball down that hill. Destress before you explode. Combust the compost life throws at you.

Speech on Pillars and Destress

Watch this eight-minute video on the Pillars of Health recorded virtually and live at Oracle, specifically focusing on the Destress pillar.

a summary list of the five destress habits from the chapter already listed in the article