There is no such thing as stress. Got that? Good. Then why are you wasting so much of your time with “stress management” programs, lectures, coaches, books, articles and websites? Could it be because you really don’t believe that there’s no such thing as stress?

Oh, I know it’s a cottage industry from psychiatry to business consultants, from prescription medication to over the counter supplements and from one new food to another new exercise. These are great money-makers. But why are you spending so much of your hard earned money on something that doesn’t have to exist?

There was a tiny village in Switzerland that boasted the world’s finest ski slopes, with panoramic vistas that were breathtaking. People from all over the world would come, look out over the slopes and some would actually fall over to the bottom of the mountains. This caused panic among the villagers who called on their town council to intervene.

After hours and hours of meetings, the village wise folks decided to buy an expensive ambulance, two actually, to be placed at the bottom of the mountain ready and equipped with the finest medical supplies money could purchase. They contracted with the finest orthopedic surgeons they could locate, contracted with medical supply equipment manufacturers and suppliers, partnered with large pharmaceutical houses and reported to the villagers that they were well prepared to take care of anyone who fell off their mountain tops. This cost this tiny village $38,500 million.

I read about this. I called my cousin Joey who is a contractor. I told Joey about this. Joey chuckled and said for $759 he could—put up a fence. A fence! Imagine that. The village town council would hear nothing of it. They were too invested to pull back from treating something that could be prevented.

If that’s you, or your company, your family, or co-workers, remember this, when it comes to this invented expensive and deadly malady: THE LINK IS WHAT YOU THINK.

In my most recent book, the 25th Anniversary edition of my 1988 original, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff PS It’s All Small Stuff,” I point out that stress is a perspective on life.

Voltaire wisely noted, “Life is a shipwreck, but we must still sing in our lifeboats.” But Michael, my life is crazy, my boss drives me nuts, the kids are always sick, I can never make it to the gym and our finances are stressing me out…I don’t even see a lifeboat!”

When it comes to stress, there definitely is a lifeboat. You see, the Greek philosopher Epictetus was 100% right when he observed, “People aren’t disturbed by outside things and events, but by the views which they take of them.” There’s a lifeboat all right, and it’s right there behind your eyes, and between your ears.

We never go from an event to an emotion without thinking about the event first. It’d be like cutting off your head to even imagine an event “made you” or “got you” upset. Delete those words immediately! Nothing but YOU, your thinking, makes your or gets you upset, happy, worried, depressed or angry.

Here’s the important thing: unless and until you THINK ABOUT events, you won’t have any – any – feelings or emotions about events. Do you think if someone shouts, “boo,” while you are in a coma, you’d feel fear? No, you wouldn’t because you wouldn’t be thinking anything about that event.

So it is with stress. Hold onto your hat—seat belts fastened? Ready for the mind-blowing secret about stress? Here it is: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS STRESS UNLESS AND UNTIL YOU CREATE IT BY YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT EVENTS.

Many companies call on me to present stress management seminars to their employees. “No, I’m sorry I don’t do that.” “But Michael you sure do, company X told us you just did a terrific program for them.” “Oh, yeah, you see, that’s wasn’t a stress management program, that was a stress prevention program.” Why manage what you can prevent? Some people don’t get that. Now you do. And here are the 6 steps to do just that, prevent, instead of having to manage: 

S Smile more every day, especially at the first 10 people you see.

T Think rationally, accurately, logically, confidently and positively. That’s what position # 2 is all about. Think with fortitude, the right attitude, integrity, trust and humility (F.A.I.T.H.). Focus on the roses on your thorn bush, not the thorns on your rose bush. Don’t give away your self-power, self-control and happiness to anyone or anything. Don’t let any negativity even get inside of your ears. Walk away. Talk winning to yourself, not losing.

R Relive the good with healthy relationships, the pleasant, and the favorable accomplishments in your life to help you avoid recounting the bad. The rear view mirror, always smaller than the windshield, is designed to help you do just that. Relationships and regular relaxation are critical to reliving the good. That means knowing whom to walk away from and feeling ok about it. It’s called self-preservation. Don’t forget that you put your mask on yourself first when flying with children.

 E Eat right including such foods as asparagus, avocado, blueberries, warm milk, almonds, salmon, spinach and oatmeal (assuming you don’t have any allergies to these).

S Sweat more, but not the small stuff. Sweat through regular appropriate exercise for you, including high intensity interval cardio and full-body resistance training, Pilates, tai chi, and of course, don’t forget your mind—include meditation as a part of your regular full-body exercise. Don’t forget to add sleep, nature’s #1 restorative power—it’ll add the stress preventing serenity you are seeking. Build yourself up in the gym or on the track or bootcamp. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to build others up at work, at home, at your church or synagogue. 

S Savor your moments, your days, your time—these are gifts not to be ignored. There are gifts in every day—find them.Fill yourself with gratitude for every moment, no matter what happens TO you—if you will persist in thinking that everything happens FOR you, you will always look for the good and be filled with gratitude. Focus on what’s healthy by being aware and mindful, of events without predicting gloom and doom and without “awfulizing,” “horribilizing,” or “terriblizing.” Slow yourself down, take some deep breaths, ands see the beauty in your daily experiences and create relaxing moments in your life, no matter how filled your days are.

Release frustrations, irritations, don’t let any drama into your life, and avoid that “compare and despair” disorder (dis-order). But unless you find the answers in the S.T.R.E.S.S. I’ve pointed out above, you’ll likely follow the foolishness of the Swiss village.