In the 21st century we just can’t get away from stress. Everyone is stressed. From the top to the bottom of your company there are people suffering from the stress of work. Then there are those without jobs who are suffering from the stress of no work. There are students out there getting stressed out by the threat of no work. For all the progress that humanity has made, all the technological advances, industrial and agricultural innovations which should help us eliminate stress, the net result is a continuing explosion of stress from the moment we wake up until the moment we sleep.

In the USA, it has been calculated that stress costs the economy over $300 billion annually. And stress has enabled developed in huge parts of the economy, too – from pharmaceutical drugs to behavioural therapies, yoga sojourns, meditation videos. It is clear from the pervasiveness of stress that we are doing something very wrong. Can you guess what it is?

The problem is the rat race. We’re not designed for it. Ever since the first person decided to measure success with a number, we’ve been on a downward slide into a pit of stress, anxiety and depression. The daily grind of a middle aged, middle class, middle income human in a developed economy looks something like this: Get woken up by alarm clock. Despair at having to get up. Get washed and dressed into something they would never choose to wear. Rush breakfast while half listening to today’s bad news on the radio or TV. He or she might have to shout at the kids to get a move on. At some point (s)he will probably get in the car and prepare to join hundreds of thousands of other people in their cars in a mad rush get to the other side of town and find a parking space. Quite often this involves hammering the dashboard waiting for a different coloured light to come on, shouting obscenities at other drivers and risking lives on the busy roads.

Once at work, he or she will say goodbye to all natural light and step into a bland, brightly lit work environment in which people speak in idiotic jargon and passive aggressive pleasantries. After staring at a screen for most of the day, having paused briefly to shove a sandwich into his or her mouth and a few doses of caffeine, our little rat will repeat its morning journey, this time in reverse in time to get home to listen to the kids fighting, argue with his or her equally stressed partner, wolf down dinner and then pass out in front of the TV after learning who has died today. An hour or so later, he or she will exchange the sofa for the bed and the whole process begins again. It has to begin again because without the rat race there would be no car from which to shout obscenities, no house and no TV from which to find out who has died. We just have to keep going round and round accumulating stress until it kills us.

So, it’s clear. The way to get away from stress is to get out of the rat race. Most of us, unfortunately, just can’t do that. When you’re financially responsible for your kids, partner, parents, in laws etc. you can’t just go ahead and quit your job and go to sing songs and experiment with nature on a beach. But there are some things you can do:

Turn off the TV. In fact, turn off whatever beeps or flashes. Those things are designed to beep and flash to cause you stress, in order to wake you up or remind you that you’re late etc.

Get some exercise. Stress needs an outlet and falling asleep in front of the TV is not good enough. You need to keep your body fit and trigger the release of endorphins which will help you relax. Don’t have time for the gym? Buy something to train on at home – you might want to look here first for ideas.

Eat a balanced diet. You need to give your body the right fuel to deal with the stresses of daily life. That doesn’t mean caffeine either. In fact, caffeine and sugar often end up causing you to ‘crash’, and just add to your daily build-up of stress. The same goes for cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs. If you’re addicted to something, you’re going to have to deal with it at some point before it deals with you.

Lastly, get quality sleep. Prepare for bed. Don’t let yourself drift off in front of the TV. Allow yourself time to relax your body and reflect on today’s achievements. Try to find the reasons why today was better than yesterday.

If you can do these four simple things, you’ll be well on your way to reducing the stress in your daily life.