What Stresses You, and Why That’s Stupid

“We’re doing him a huge favor!  And do you realize how extreme this is to go from no debt to good old fashioned American debt?  That’s the way to do it.  Plus, I’ve been envisioning someone else paying for this thing the entire time.” – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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Yes, that’s stress.  And you didn’t have to spend 8 hours in the car with it.

Stress.  It will kill you.  That’s what I heard on a commercial once.  Or maybe it was the voices in my head.  I forget.  Anyway, probably it’s a good time to ask, “What causes stress?”

The American Psychic Psycho Psychiatric Association (APA) did a survey in 2010 that I found with a quick Google® search.  In it, they found a consistent pattern of stresses over a four year period, so I’ll generalize – the numbers are probably pretty similar today.  And I’m too lazy to look that up, so, if you’re real interested . . . you know how to drive Google©.  (Though, seriously, when the Internets were new, my boss thought I was a WIZARD for knowing how to find stuff with the search engines and directories of the day.)

Money – Yes.  Not having enough money is amazingly stressful.  At one point in my life after my ex-wife (PBUH) left (which made both of us happy) she handed me a plastic bag that represented my financial life.  It took three months to sort out and at least be paying everyone something each month.  And I realize how fortunate that makes me – some people go for decades like that.  And it is the single most common stress – up to 75% of people are stressed out about money.

I feel really fortunate – I’ve not stressed out about money since (really) 2005.  I paid off my last car in 2000.  There just might be a connection.

If money is a stress – change your situation.  The sheer discipline and communication required for a family to climb out of a debt pit might take years.  But the day you write the final check to pay off the car.  To pay off your credit card?  It’s worth all the time you spent.  And you won.

Lots of people have awesome plans, so there’s bound to be one that fits you.  If you’d like my comments on a particular plan, email me or hit a comment.  The plans all look the same on the basics:

  1. Stop spending now.   Necessities only.  Steak?  That’s for future you.  Current you gets rice, and Hamburger Helper® when you’ve had a really good week.  Eating at a restaurant?  That’s for rich people.
  2. Get extra income. Work a second job.
  3. Minimize transportation costs. Used cars you can buy with cash.  Bikes if you can.  Buy no new cars unless you have a million dollars in net worth (hint, when you get there, you won’t want a new car).
  4. Get cheap, healthy hobbies, like hiking. Or hobbies that create income, like crafts you can sell.

Work – A little over two thirds of people stress about work.  Sure.  We’ve all been there.  As a guy, for much of my life I’ve taken a significant amount of personal meaning from work, sometimes letting it be the thing that defines me.  I go there, and I want to do something important.  I want to go chasing dragons.  I want to do meaningful things.  I want to walk into a burning petroleum tank accompanied by two Chicago firefighters (spoiler, I’ve done that) and walk into stuff that’s just exploded to figure out how to fix it (spoiler, I’ve done that, too).  But a significant amount of work we do today isn’t meaningful.  And, based on observation?  60% of most people’s workday (assuming you’re in an office and not doing physical work) is wasted.  Outside construction work, for example?  I’m thinking about 40%.

TPS reports?  Yeah, we’re doing a new cover sheet.  Feel like your job has meaning now? 

I’m not sure how girls feel, or even if girls have actual feelings (beyond light/dark or salty/sweet, I mean) but I get the sense that the meaning they get from work is most often secondary to the meaning they get from “being mom” or their social circle and social interactions.

So, if you’re not getting meaning from work, get it somewhere else.  Be a kid’s sports coach.  Brew craft beer.  Find a passion to your life.  Heck, if you’re really boring, you could even blog.

Economy – A little under two-thirds of people stress about the economy.  This is borrowing future potential problems so you can worry about them today!  With no interest charge!  This was the most variable, but seemed stuck in third place.  What would a stoic say?  “Keep in mind you’re going to die, possibly in a painful and embarrassing situation involving a poodle, so the future economic indicators and the current price of bitcoin shouldn’t bother you.”

If you’re stuck worried about what might happen?  I can’t help you.  You will have problems.  They will get better.  The economy will tank again, hard, during your life.  The economy will grow again, massively, during your life.

Spend your energy improving you.  And, be like me.  When the stock market drops, microwave some popcorn and pull up a chair!  It’s always fun to watch New York people panic.

Family Responsibilities – About six in ten get tied up about this.  And at the point where I am in life, these take up about 50% of my free time.  The Mrs. does more, but she also has more free time.  But it really does seem like a vacation when you’ve had eight weeks in a row taken up by sports, Scouts or other kid activities and the ninth week you have NO PLANS FOR THE WEEKEND.  Sometimes I don’t get out of bed until 1pm on Saturday.  Delicious.  I love having kids around.  I also love time everlasting – time to play b-sides . . . and Blue Oyster Cult.

Okay, let me be the first to say, it looks like Blue Oyster Cult was right . . . according to our own Department of Defense.  No, not about their beautiful 1980’s beards, but about not being alone.  A future post on that, probably next month.

Relationships – More than half of people are upset about (romantic) relationships.  Blah blah blah . . . people.  I know.  I’ve been in a stable marriage for 20 years, so I don’t have as much as a foundation for discussing this.  For half the people to be stressed about relationships?  Yeah, sadly, that seems about right.  Choose your mate well – and for the right reasons.  Best case?  PEZ® heiress.  Worse?  Johnny Depp’s ex-anything.  Worst case?  Johnny Depp.

The biggest driver of this has been a group of societal changes that have really messed up the way that men and women relate to each other, and not for the better.  This will be a series of posts in the future, but I’m still working out the best presentation and point of view format.

Personal Health Concerns – A little over half of people are stressed about this.  And not that many people are really sick.  So, buck up, you hypochondriacs and stop worrying.  The rest of you who are really ill?  I’m with you, in spirit.  Get better.  I’m praying for you.

Housing Costs – Less than half are worried about this.  Much less than half would worry if you just moved out of expensive places to live.  Seriously.  Don’t live there.  Here’s a post on why your choice of location sucks (LINK).  Never spend more than 15% of your income on housing costs.

Family Health – Less than half are worried about this.  Math says that you’re worried about far more people than are worried about you.  So, pick some family members to care just a little less about.  Problem solved.

Personal Safety – This is pretty far down on the list of worries, but 30% get stress from this.  About (0.4%) of the people in the United States are the victims of violent crime each year.  If you’re that scared, I’d suggest you move from New York City if it bothers you that much.  Move to an area that’s high in Republicans – since gun crime is lowest there.  Oh, wait, stay in New York City.  I’m sure it’ll get better.  It’s not like you’d bring the same attitudes and values that made your location unsafe when you moved here, is it?

Author: John

Nobel-Prize Winning, MacArthur Genius Grant Near Recipient writing to you regularly about Fitness, Wealth, and Wisdom – How to be happy and how to be healthy. Oh, and rich.

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