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Stress Is a Killer

March 11, 2021

Chances are that if you are facing financial challenges, you're not exactly the happiest that you have ever been in your life. To the contrary, the odds are that you are under pretty serious stress, and that you are worried and anxious about your future. In these challenging times, well, welcome to the club, and unfortunately its a club that has millions of members.

As a young lawyer, I was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1973, and I got a pretty good job with a small law firm in Vineland, New Jersey. To the average young lawyer at that time, it might have seemed like a terrific opportunity, except that as far as I was concerned, I was far from certain that I really wanted to be a lawyer. I had just spent the last 20 years of my life in school, and having been raised in a pretty traditional Jewish home, I took education very seriously, and that meant I had to get really good grades, and that meant I had to study real hard, and I had done all of that for the last 20 years. I graduated number two in my high school class, and I did really well in college and law school. The only problem was that having studied really really hard for all those years, I didn't have a whole lot of time left over for fun, and now as a single young lawyer at age 25, I thought that I was finally ready to have some fun. That's why I had studied so hard and worked so hard for the last 20 years. I figured I was now entitled to my reward - the world was now going to give me everything that I really wanted, and pretty much everything was going to be handed over to me on a silver platter.

The truth is that at that time I had no idea of what the real world was like. I wasn't even sure that I really wanted to be a lawyer. I would have much rather preferred to be a disc jockey and a playboy. Having worked so hard and studied so hard in school, I thought once I was out of school I would have it made - it would be easy money and I'd finally have lots of time to have lots of fun. Boy was I wrong. When I graduated from law school, I was totally not ready for the reality of the real world. As a result, I started experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety. I started to think that I had just wasted my last 20 years. My friends back then all were having lots of fun, while I was studying and studying, and now when I was supposed to be getting my reward, I suddenly learned that I was expected to do all of this work. I thought I was just going to make easy money, and suddenlty these lawyers that I was working for expected me to work much harder than I had worked in school. I was in total shock, and it probably won't surprise you that I got fired from that law firm after having "worked" there for only a few months. I put the word "worked" in quotation marks because I really wasn't working very much at that law firm. I was really just faking it, making believe I liked what I was doing, while I was doing my best to hide all of the fear, stress, and anxiety that I was experiencing on a daily basis.

Getting fired was totally unexpected for me, and that put me into an even greater state of shock. I became pretty seriously depressed, and I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I tell you this short story because I want you to realize that when it comes to stress, I've experienced plenty of it, and back then I started to worry that I was going to have a heart attack or all sorts of other health problems. I would say that during a typical day the normal emotions that I experienced were fear, worry, anxiety, stress, tension, and a very negative outlook on my present life. The future didn't look too bright either. One day I came across a book that made me realize that there actually was a way that people might be able to change the way they feel. That people could actually be happy and have fun, despite the fact that they were facing challenges and hard times. I was at the point in my life that if I continued living every day in all of these negative emotional states, a lot of bad stuff was going to happen to me. There were times when I even experienced thoughts of suicide. I was pretty much an emotional wreck.

That book got me started on a journey where I wanted very much to learn if there was any way I could control all of these negative emotional states I lived in on a daily basis. Was I going to have to live under daily feelings of stress, worry, tension, fear and anxiety, or was there possibly some way that I could control my emotions, and even more importantly, was there some way I could get rid of all of these daily negative thoughts that I was having? This was not the type of life I had expected to be living. I had previously convinced myself that once I finally got out of school, the red carpet would be rolled out for me. Life would give me everything I wanted on a silver platter. Life would be easy, fun, and carefree. Well, I finally came to realize that boy I sure was wrong about what life was really about. And I also soon began to realize that if I didn't make some drastic changes in my life pretty quickly, well, all of this stress that I was living under was probably going to lead to some very serious health challenges for me, and that I would probably experience a pretty early death.