Stress. It’s become a competitive sport to see who has the most. It has a terrible rap. It’s deadly, at least for those who believe so. But that’s the thing, it’s not for those that don’t. And it’s highly correlated with drive, passion, motivation – eustress as opposed to distress.

I was listening to friends this weekend. One friend was saying to another that once their job ends they will have less stress and they can do more yoga and meditation and have even less.

Look, I get it. Stress can be exhausting. And yes, I have a 30-year meditation and yoga practice to stop and breathe and manage it.

But if that’s all I did all day, I’d be stressed over my lack of contribution. I have no desire to give up the things I do that while stressful, have impact and make the world better. Or to give up art which has its own stressors – is it good, will anyone like it and so on. I want to manage stress so I can make a difference.

Not only that, but I think we have this idea that there is an axis that goes from

Stressed>>>>>>>>>>>Relaxed and happy.

But what if there are two axes.

Stressed to unstressed and unhappy to happy. What if we manage stress not by giving up the things that give our lives meaning but make sure to include or add those that also give us joy – from fresh flowers to children’s laughter to live music or whatever makes you just smile?

Here’s a few tips:

Tip 1. Give up the things that make you miserable. Stress or no stress, those things need to go. Think you can’t, hire someone or barter for services or just stop for two weeks and see if you really need to go back to them.

Tip 2. Identify the stressful things you value. Remember on the stressful days why you do what you do, why it matters to you.

Tip 3. Find joy. I used to be terrible at this. I’d be happy after I saved the world. But I decided to get better at it at least for a month. So for 30 days, I wrote down something that gave me joy that day. And I learned a lot. Somethings are big – travel and trips to the beach, musical theater, and such, but some are simple. A dandelion. A little kid laughing. A beautiful photo that draws me in. What’s on your list?

Don’t give up your life, make it happier.