Dealing with Unnecessary Stress

Posted on October 6, 2015 by Robert Ringer


Stress is one of the most talked about topics in modern society. About 610,000 Americans die of heart disease every year, which accounts for about one out of every four deaths. There are many things that contribute to heart disease, the most agreed upon being smoking, excessive drinking, obesity, unhealthy diet, and lack of exercise.

But the one factor that is not as clear cut is stress. Even so, common sense tells me that excess stress cannot be a good thing for your body. I used the term excess stress because I believe that a small amount of stress is actually healthy for you.

As Viktor Frankl pointed out in Man’s Search for Meaning, a “tensionless state” is a bedfellow of a meaningless life. Because life is finite, there is an inherent urgency to life, so the trick is to become adept at finding the right balance — always giving the edge to less, rather than more, stress.

Even so, some high-stress events are unavoidable. However, I don’t believe that an occasional high-stress situation will do you any more harm than an occasional scoop of ice cream.

The problem is that most people experience far too much unnecessary stress, allowing themselves to get stressed over things that, in the overall scheme of things, simply aren’t that important.

I thought about this last week when my son came home from work and was upset because he had gotten a traffic ticket on his way to work. He was frustrated because he honestly did not know what he had done wrong.

The officer who stopped him explained that he was guilty of an HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) violation, which generally means you were driving in a lane designated for cars with two or more occupants. My son explained that if he was in the right lane (which he was), and since the far left lane is almost always the HOV lane, he couldn’t understand how he could be in the wrong.

The policeman told him that once he had passed the Beltway going east, he was automatically in the HOV lane. To which my son responded, “But if I was in the right lane, which I was, then what lane was I supposed to be in.” “No lane,” the officer responded. “You have to turn at the Beltway.”

It didn’t make sense to my son, nor did it make any sense to me when he explained it. He was upset about it all day at work and talked about it at length after he got home.

Aside from having to pay $200 for the ticket, the fact that he didn’t know what he had done wrong really bugged him. He talked about hiring an attorney and going to court to try to argue his case before a judge.

I explained to him that even if he really hadn’t done anything wrong (and from his description, it sounded as though he hadn’t), it was a bad idea to invest another $500-$1,000 for an attorney and spend many hours preparing for, and appearing in, court.

In most cases, it’s your word against the policeman’s, and the odds are overwhelmingly against you. But even if you win, you’re out perhaps $1,000 or more than if you had you just paid the ticket.

I told him that a much better idea would be to spend all those wasted hours on doing things to increase his income. Or just using the time to enjoy life would be a far better investment in his well-being.

To his credit, he then went to his computer and did some excellent research on the Internet and — Bingo! — he found a page that explained in clear, concise terms why he had gotten a ticket. And, guess what? The ticket was legitimate!

He had, indeed, clearly violated the law. I myself had never heard of this particular code before, so I’ve probably been guilty of violating it myself, perhaps a number of times.

The next morning, my son called me about 7:00 am on his way to work, upbeat and laughing. He said he had just seen the sign the policeman had mentioned — one he had never bothered to look at before — and it clearly stated that between the hours of 6:30 am and 9:00 am, eastbound cars on Interstate 66 must turn onto the Beltway rather than continue on to D.C. on Interstate 66.

And, after the fact, the reason was obvious. After you pass the Beltway, the long stretch of road leading into D.C. is only two lanes wide, so bureaucrats try to keep the traffic down as much as possible.

Isn’t it amazing that the main road leading into the most powerful city in the world from Northern Virginia is only two lanes wide? Wouldn’t it have been nice had the government taken some of the money it spent on building first-class infrastructure in Iraq and used a few billion or so to widen the roads leading into our own nation’s capital?

But let’s get back to unnecessary stress. The fact that it turned out that my son really had violated the law is quite beside the point. Even if he had done nothing wrong, or if the policeman had lied, the bigger point is that the most rationally selfish thing he could have done was just pay the fine immediately, throw the whole event out to the universe to handle, and move on with his life.

When anything negative happens, the first thing you should ask yourself is: Is this going to have a major impact on my life if I don’t become involved? In all but a handful of cases, the answer is no. And if the answer is no, dispose of the matter as simply and quickly as possible and move on.

Not only was this a great learning experience for my son, but I got a lot out of it as well. Sure, I’ve known for decades that it’s mentally and physically healthy to let go of little irritants, but I’ve found that it’s much easier to say than do, so I’ve made a commitment to renew my efforts to master this psychological skill.

The mental hurdle you have to get over is thinking about whether an expense is fair or unfair. Hey, the whole world is unfair — next subject. The question is how much of your thought and time (read, stress) are you willing to put into trying to save a few bucks?

It all gets down to pragmatism versus emotion. And today I think pragmatism rates much higher on my son’s list of priorities than emotion.

That said, you might want to monitor yourself and observe how your pragmatism fares in its daily battles with emotion as well. Remember, the objective is to eliminate unnecessary stress.

Oh, and one other lesson worth remembering: When you’re 100 percent certain that you’re right about something, it’s probably a good idea to go back and do some more research. The number of times I’ve been both certain and wrong is downright embarrassing.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

21 responses to “Dealing with Unnecessary Stress”

  1. Jorge says:


  2. Jon says:

    You touched on it, Robert, but the approach I've used for decades is a dollar amount. If it's below a predetermined dollar figure, I let it go and get-on with my life. When you set your own tolerance threshold, it greatly helps minimize your personal aggravation.

  3. retlob1 says:

    Been there, done that…good insight Robert.

  4. Gary Waltrip says:

    Thanks Robert, I needed that wake-up call. We need to choose our battles.

  5. Scott theczech says:

    "Rational selfishness." This is something most folks just do not understand. Your real life examples help teach these lessons which if applied, really do pay health and happiness dividends. I'm getting better at it but for me, it is still a work in progress.

  6. sixxfingers says:

    Extortion completely sucks! As do the pol'crats who run the racket.

    • Jim Hallett says:

      And that's the most important lesson RR's son needs to learn. The scum, immoral pol'crats are going to steal from you and coerce you every day of your life, and no "law" of theirs is EVER legitimate! They create a nightmare (I am so glad I no longer live in NoVA and have to deal with Beltway b.s. traffic!), put up a sign commanding you to do as they wish, Hitler-style, and then steal from you when you don't comply. That being said, it is good to release stress that will lead nowhere good. When the state controls the "justice" system, there will never be justice for anyone outside of the State!

  7. Ernie Zelinski says:

    Great article that puts things in proper perspective. Some additional words of wisdom.

    "When you think everything is someone else's fault, you will
    suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only
    from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy."
    — Dalai Lama

    "If you want to awaken all of humanity,
    then awaken all of yourself, if you want
    to eliminate the suffering in the world,
    then eliminate all that is dark and
    negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest
    gift you have to give is that of your own
    — Lao Tzu

  8. Paul Herring says:

    Some good points to digest there, Robert. Yes, in keeping with a positive attitude approach to life, it is better to just get on with it than make a fuss mostly. Even if you win you lose in many because of the business/work downtime. Unless an important principle is involved of course. And that (important principle) takes good judgement to determine at times. Thanks for your post, as always.

  9. Reality Seeker says:

    "throw the whole event out to the universe to handle"… lol, yeah, let the universe worry about it..

    Taxed too much? No problem. Just throw it out to the universe. Police acting like goons? Forget about it. What can one man do anyway? Oooops, Obama is just one man, and look what he's doing. But don't worry, the universe shall handle Obama, too. The government wants your guns? Pay no attention, kid, because it's a waste of your time.. You got better things to focus on— like a video game. Don't get mad as hell, just bend over and take it. Lawman. legal man, bureaucratic man and political man love it when you're not man enough to stand up to them. Now, I agree that no man can right every wrong, but please let's not teach the young men how to be a shit-stain. That's the real problem, men are crying over little traffic tickets instead of giving the goons in blue the middle finger and then focusing on how to get at the root of the problem.

    Sometimes stress is a good thing. Stress can make you a real man, because it forces you to face up to reality. And every once in a while somebody does an extraordinary job of acting like a man by facing up to and talking about stressful situations.. For example, when Stefan Molyneux calls Bill O'reilly a "shit" and a "triple chinned douche bag" that's acting like a man. Stefan fights back, he just doesn't throw it out to the universe. "Find a spine" is what I told my boys, and they did.

    Molyneux is a man with a spine. He's at his best when he describes the state as "Satan's dick" that the little effeminate boys whore themselves out to. This is how real men think of the state and the goon cops who represent it. I'll post an example of Molyneux's videos so you can see why he's fast becoming one of the most popular philosophers with libertarian minded young people. In the following video he speaks about the "migrant crisis in Europe" but what he articulates applies to government in general— including petty tickets.

    Man up. Grow a pair. Start filming the cops when they act like goons. Over the years I've gotten some great footage which I used to shove right back in the department's face. Sometimes it feels good to sling their shit right back at them.

    Sorry, but where not going to win against the state by being nice little boys.

    • Stephan F says:

      C’mon RS, lighten up a little. You of all people know that Robert’s phraseology, “throw the whole event out to the universe…”, was spoken within the context of the micro; that is, life’s petty little problems that we all have to deal with as individual’s living day to day. I’m not trying to put words in RJR’s mouth, but clearly he wasn’t speaking about the “reality” of the macro problems that you have clearly depicted. You are, of course, completely accurate in delineating the gargantuan problems we face on the macro level, but we’re talking the micro level here. You & I need to give RJR a little slack (I admit to being guilty of a similar sin(s) in the past). Upon reflection, I’m sure you’ll agree.

      Now, my two cents on Stefan Molyneux. He’s absolutely brilliant, a superb communicator, easy to understand, logical & rational; and could be a great spokesman for the Libertarian philosophy. Unfortunately, he’s a vulgar individual, which is a real turn off for me. He could learn a real lesson from RJR when it comes to being a bit more gentlemanly.

      • Reality Seeker says:

        Reply to Stephan:

        I understand and respect where you're coming from. Especially the part about politeness absent any profanity whatsoever. There's differently a time and place for every kind of verbiage. Many brilliant individuals ( you know their names, e.g., Ayn Rand, M Rothbard, F.A. Hayek, Henry David Thoreau, Gandi and so on and so forth) have effectively defended themselves against the state, including the Blue Shirts—aka the police force. And nobody appreciates those people more than I do. But it wasn't enough to make a polite argument. It didn't stop the advance of authoritarianism. So what did stop the state in its tracks? Not much, but there are a few examples of what really works.

        The potty mouthed hippies proved how effective flower power combined with F-bombs are against the overwhelming violence of the state. The dirty hippies actually forced the state to end the draft. Now that was an achievement. It wasn't the polite intellectuals who forced the state to back off. And that's my point. The state and its minions will levy onto the polite gentleman the exact amount of tyranny that the sheepish, effeminate public allows.

        Now, does that mean you and I should get upset over every traffic ticket? No, of course not. I get the point RJR was making, but there's more to being a man than rolling over on command. That's why I said it's best to give authority figures the finger and move on to the root of the problem. And that might just mean shutting up, paying the fine and moving on without giving the matter a second thought.

        It's more about living your life as a rebel. That's my point. And rebels don't get rattled when they are pulled over and issued a ticket by some puke dressed in a blue uniform—- a guy who is really working as revenue collector, not a peace officer. I'm sure that the cop could have issued RJR's son a warning, and from what I've read, that would have been enough..

        My message to young people is: speak up. Stand up. Man up. And when a cop pulls you over, record him on your smart phone, and make sure you have your phone up-linked to the cloud. Don't be intimidated. Tell the cop straight out as his equal that you're a hardworking person and you had no idea that you violated such a trivial law. Ask for a warning. Tell the cop how sick and tired you are of walking on egg shells trying not to go five miles over the speed limit or drive in a HOV lane by mistake. Meanwhile those in power are committing high crimes and treason and rolling down the road whenever, however and wherever they please. Tell him how you've watched off-duty police break every traffic law in the book, and now you're getting a ticket for an honest mistake when you should be issued a warning.

        Remember, not all cops are shitheads, so act accordingly. But if you get the sense that you're dealing with a schmuck, tell him straight out (as you're openly recording him) that there's a lot of bad cops on the force and he's acting like one by treating a good person unfairly. And you're posting him on Youtube as just another heartless, mother humper who wouldn't give an honest kid a break. Tell him you think he's a little revenue collector who has a quota to meet and a boss's ass to lick. A tax man with a badge.

        My message is real simple: fight back or be overrun, turned into a serf and/or murdered by the state.

        And regarding profanity. Personally, I'm employing the full spectrum found in the English language. If f-bombs work against the state, than I'm carpet bombing the collectivists by calling them what they really are: the fucking sweat of Satan's ass. I'm supporting people like Molyneux. He has a way with words— all kinds of words.

        I see the future, and it's going to be full of profanity slinging. My grandfather was a WW2 Master Drill Sergeant, and he had some mouth on him. Profanity has been araound a long time. I'm glad I learned how to talk like a man from guys like him. It's served me really, really well. And I intend to teach the young people the old-school, fine art of how to inflict a verbal beating. But not here. This site isn't the place for manly talk. RJR is waging a different battle here. And I respect that. It's his site. He's well suited and skilled in reaching people. he has a proven track record. His older books, like Looking Out for # 1, are what every teenager should read— twice.

        If you want to talk like a man, call Molyneux and have a real man-to-man discussion.

        • Stephan F says:

          You bring many salient issues with your rebuttal, as usual, and I feel like a piker of sorts. I invested a penny of my time & got back a nickels worth in response. I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for an IOU as time is at a premium right now.

          However, the gist of your response seems to imply that vulgarity, profanity, bad manners & generally rude behavior will somehow win the day for freedom advocates and pave the way to a bright future, and that one simply cannot expect positive results without them. Unfortunately, the probability is, you may damn well be right! With the average person’s morals & scruples being close to gutter level these days, it seems for some it is the only thing that gets their attention. But, on the other hand, because vulgarity is so popular & common nowadays it has lost much of its shock value as many are becoming numb to its effects. Go figure.

          But I will guarantee you one thing. If we collectively keep doing the same thing, and I see nothing on the horizon that will change that, then we'll continue suffering as a result of this: “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten” (sorry for using the cheap platitude). We will continue marching down the collectivist path that we’ve been on for oh so long, & will continue experiencing the grinding & suffocating economic consequences that naturally follow — for most people that is. After all, some actually benefit in this environment. (Shhhhhh, don’t tell anybody. You don’t want to start a riot do you?)
          Electing the same set of political clones over & over is exactly the main reason for Trump’s popularity. Many of the empty headed idiots who call themselves conservative republicans have finally realized that to change the system you cannot keep electing the same mealy-mouth, weak-kneed, caspar milquetoast politicians. After all these years, they have FINALLY realized that these despicable, retched humonoids will change nothing! The time has come to shout out, “NO MORE MR. NICEGUY”, no more Mr. Congeniality. The statists have been playing hardball from day one, and the republicans T-Ball. It’s been no contest; the game was over as soon as it started. The time for niceities has long passed. It’s time to take off the gloves, jump into the muck, and get down & dirty. I for one have withdrawn from supporting Rand & will now advocate for the Trumpster. His billy club is about 100 times the size of Rand’s, & he’s not afraid to use it.

    • Jim Hallett says:

      Well, RS, as part of the emasculating of men in the society as a whole, thanks to the State and its operatives, it is not surprising that everyone bows down to these immoral pukes no matter what! Molyneux is a great observer of this collectivist-run criminal cartel in amerika and elsewhere (he is Canadian, of course). Any court is nothing more than a rubber stamp for its revenue agents, so no citizen is ever going to prevail there. Obviously, the way to fight back is to nullify their b.s. and stop funding the vermin, and minimize your contact with the State and its hired hands. For many things in our personal life, it is often best to just release the stress at the moment, relax a bit, and often a rational solution either presents itself or has already relieved the previous stress. I think that was what RJR was advocating. I think he is well aware (living in Delaware, not far from the District of Criminals) of how corrupt, invasive and unfair the State is, but one does have to choose their battles, and Molyneux tends to focus on those big picture battles, and that is where the most effective fight will be fought. Most of the country is full of wimps, however, more interested in entertainment than anything substantial.

  10. Jay says:

    That sign could use two flashing orange lights during HOV time.
    A solar panel, battery, two lights, timer, some brackets and wire.

  11. larajf says:

    Husband, teenage daughter and I went to a rock concert 50 miles from home on Monday. Great time. AMAZING time. When we left, we were t-boned by a red light runner. By the time we took a taxi home, it was 2am. The next day, all three of us were not happy it had happened, but we were all able to accept it was out of our control and all we could do was what we could do (which meant I was on the phone a lot). We were grateful no one was badly injured beyond whiplash (hooray for our poor Audi). But we didn't worry if the car would be totaled. We didn't worry about what would happen next. We just accepted what was. And honestly, I was amazed and pleased. My daughter's facebook status mentioned it had happened but focused more on how great a time she'd had at the concert. I think we're all better off focusing on what we can do and the positives and shrug off the bad.

  12. Avery Horton says:

    As usual, words of wisdom from Robert J. RInger. Funny thing is I don't feel stressed when someone does something wrong that I feel I have to stand up against. I will do everything in my power just to prove them wrong for the fun of it. Nothing better than to publicly embarrass elected/appointed officials. But, Robert is correct to evaluate ALL of the costs and then let most things go and/or resolve them quickly and finally. Thanks again, Mr. Ringer.

  13. Avery Horton says:

    Where's the edit button?!?!?!

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