Avoiding the potential devastation of stress

By Dr. Jack Singer

Psychologically Speaking, with Dr. Jack Singer, LLC


Robert Sapolsky, author of “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” puts the relationship between stress and health into clear perspective: “A critical shift in medicine has been the recognition that many of the damaging diseases of slow accumulation can be either caused by or made worse by stress.”

Steve's story: a financial advisor case study

Steven decided to take educational courses to prepare himself for an advising career. He obtained the required licenses and was excited about the possibility of providing a wonderful life for his family. He soon became completely devoted to his advising career, to the detriment of his family, but it was hard to slow down with the money pouring in. By now, Steve had a multitude of stressors (common to the advising profession) pouring in on him. Steve:
  • was burning the candle at both ends
  • got out of bed exhausted each morning, feeling like he was heading off to a battle
  • was reluctant to delegate any responsibilities, contributing to the overwork that was leading to a breakdown in his immune system
  • demanded perfection from himself and his staff, and was impatient with anyone who wouldn’t comply
  • micromanaged everyone and everything
  • excessively worried about making mistakes with clients’ money
  • gave himself little or no time for exercise
  • ate an unhealthy diet
It wasn’t long before Steve’s stress “kicked the health out of him,” and he was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, requiring surgery and, ultimately, three months of intensive treatment, which afforded him a remarkable learning experience. This unplanned absence from his job forced him to make some dramatic changes in both his life and job. He had plenty of time to contemplate, meditate and reflect about both his lifestyle and work style and what led up to his cancer diagnosis. He read several books addressing the relationship between stress and illness.

Steve’s solution

Steve began his recovery by participating in an exclusive mastermind group. Soon, he began taking the “risk” to delegate many responsibilities to the wonderful business team he put together. “I realized that my work-life balance was unbalanced," he said. "I had become a slave to building the business, and I neglected good, quality home time and time for me. I even neglected my health.”

When he returned to work, Steve continued making changes that would ultimately help his team and himself:
  • With the belief that he was responsible for keeping his employees healthy, Steve rewarded them not only with financial incentives, but with paid days off.
  • He dramatically lightened his work load and diligently took a day off in the middle of the week to go sailing.
  • As with his clients, Steve made a plan, with goals, so that he could retire with enough wealth in the next seven years.
  • He referred each and every one of his “difficult clients,” focusing on the rest and accumulating enough wealth to actually retire at the age of 55.
Steve’s health rebounded, and people close to him remarked that he had become a much nicer person.

Your action plan

Take care of your emotional health by taking care of your physical health. Develop and maintain healthy habits, such as:
  • Building a team of people you can trust to run your practice in your absence
  • Delegating as much work as possible and giving yourself a planned break during the week
  • Recognize that lightening your workload and focusing on your favorite clients will not dramatically cut into your income
  • Keeping your blood sugar low with frequent, smaller meals, including protein
  • Eating light at night
  • Getting ample sleep
  • Loading up on antioxidant-rich foods
  • Avoiding alcohol and tobacco
  • Keeping your weight in the normal range for your age and height