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The Holy Grail: Defeat Stress While Improving Performance

The Holy Grail: Defeat Stress While Improving Performance

I've been wearing my Garmin watch when I sleep. I don't think it's the most accurate measurement of sleep quality, but the HRV (heart rate variability) measurements seem accurate enough.

What's HRV? 

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat. HRV is an important indicator of the ANS balance and, by extension, the body’s stress response. A higher HRV generally indicates a relaxed state and good health, as it reflects a strong and responsive autonomic nervous system. Conversely, a lower HRV is often associated with stress, fatigue, or underlying health issues. By monitoring HRV, humans can gain insights into their stress levels, overall heart health, and even the effectiveness of their relaxation or stress-management techniques.

It's essentially a measurement of stress. It can be over-training, or your body constantly being in fight or flight - chronic stress. 

Well, I haven't been over-training. But my HRV has been horrible. Meaning, my stress levels are high. Stress, of the chronic variety is useless and destructive, we don't need it. In fact, it clouds our judgement, saps our energy, and reduces the quality of the effort we put toward our goal.

We ought to work well without stress, it leads to better work and eventually better outcomes.

If you're dealing with stress ineffectively, you'll want to continue reading...

The Dream and the Reality

When you're ambitious, and there's a gap between your goals and dreams and where you currently are, and time - as it does - keeps flying by, you can get stressed. 

Any little hiccup or bump in the road can make you think the worst is about to happen. It never does - and even if it does happen, you figure shit out anyway - so it's useless to overreact to these micro-failures as if they're final-failures.

Do you identify with that at all?

Unhappy with where you are, the amount you're achieving, what your prospects of success look like?


Keep reading, I'm with you on this.

Stress, as in the form of worry, is useless. It's the only way I can describe it after having thought about it and written about it for a long time. It does us no good.

Sure, we can get into a frenzy and get a bunch of work done, but, there's an alternative.

Enter, my wake-the-fook-up moment.

The Stress-Killing-Day

When we're trying to achieve, we think we have to stress in order to do the things we need to do to achieve the things we want to achieve.

We think we ought to feel stressed, that we deserve to feel stressed, because we haven't gotten to where we want to be and thus, we deserve to be stressed the fook out!

That's how my brain works, at least.

But, after tracking my HRV for a month or two, I'm seeing the stress even if I'm not fully aware it's there, and the reality that it's completely mental - at least for me.

So, how does one do the work that must be done, without incurring the stress that clouds thinking and ends up being destructive to one's pursuit, but also one's health?

I tried to figure that out today, and there are a few things I need on a weekly or daily basis to remove stress but get more work done.


I try and get this in once or twice a week. There's a peace and calm that nature provides us that a cubicle or office or home cannot. 

Breathing the fresh air at the top of a mountain (like the one below), is spiritual, calming, which comes along with a sense of achievement from literally climbing the mountain.

Chad Howse


I did it today. 30-60 minutes, sitting there, letting the mind go where it goes. Somehow, it helps. I'm new to it. I'm not into the hippie stuff, but I combine mediation and prayer and it helps.

Lifting and boxing

Both are hard. That's the point. To push through the pain, but also the act of getting your blood flowing and your muscles burning.

I prefer, for sleep's sake and for time's sake, to get this done in the wee hours of the morning, at 5am when my gym opens. Earlier workouts get the workout out of the way, so the rest of the day can be spent working without the nagging thought of having to stop work and workout at some point.

Plus, it improves sleep.


Improving your cardiovascular health is a great way to reduce stress.

Doing hard shit in and of itself, is a great way to reduce stress. Push through the difficult and the seemingly difficult becomes less so.

A long walk daily (saunter)

Specifically, a long saunter. Not a brisk, trying to improve health walk. But an aimless, I have nowhere to be walk. Even if it's a pattern with a clear start and ending, walk as if you have all the time in the world - even if you don't - and let the stress drip away.

Reading good philosophy

This is the best way to clear your mind of incorrect thought patterns.

Whether it's the Bible, Stoicism, or any other good, practical, applicable philosophy that helps you separate what you can and can't control while improving your hopefulness, it's worth spending 30 minutes a day reading.

A good sleep

Maybe the most impactful thing you can do for your health - along with cardio and weight training - is getting a good sleep. 

Want to be motivated, energetic, but not stressed? Get a good sleep.

Set a sleep schedule, take Man Sleep before bed, make sure your room is cool and dark, and have at it.

Journalling/thinking time

Thoughts can't just remain in the head, sometimes they need to be put on paper to see if they're viable. 

I don't journal enough, but when it becomes habitual, daily, stress dissipates. 

Write down your goals and dreams, but also what you're struggling with. Get it on paper and see it for what it is. It's not life and death, and even if it is life and death, so what? 

A cigar

Yes, this is a company that helps guys get healthier. And cigar's aren't 'healthy', or are they?

A look at all the data available on cigars shows that it takes two cigars smoked per day to increase the risk of mouth/throat cancer (you don't get lung cancer from cigars because you don't inhale).

So, if you enjoy them (and I'm not trying to sell guys on them), and the time spent sitting and smoking is meditative and peaceful, a cigar can be a valuable addition to the routine.

You may be different.

Example day:

Lift (5am)

Read (6-630am)

Work (630am-930am)

Saunter (930am-1030am)

Work (1030am-230pm)

Meditate (230pm-330pm)

Work (330pm-630pm)

Journal, read, time with the sweetheart, then bed at 830pm.

10 good hours worked. Health taken care of. Mind clear.

Mental Switch

One thing I will add here is a mental switch that's rather hard to create, takes work, but will improve your life and what you achieve.

It's the Amor Fatprinciple, or 'God's Plan' principle, or the 'Forgone Conclusion' principle combined with the love for work.

As I was sitting, 'meditating', I suppose, I envisioned my life having achieved everything I wanted to achieve. There was nothing left. I was bored in my day-to-day, searching for the next thing to build.

What we inevitably realize is that the difficult times are valuable, and we typically end up looking back on them with fondness. We end up loving the struggle, because it makes us antifragile, able to withstand what would break many.

The answer: appreciate where you are, now. Love where you are, now. Love the problems you have to solve, the work you have to do, the struggle of figuring out how to win. Now. In the moment, instead of relegating that love for the future when you can only look back on it.

Combine that with a love for the struggle, the work, the process, the practice, and you'll do what you have to do to win, without the cloud of stress hanging over you, and with a clear mind, allowing better thoughts and better work and better decisions.

Finally, Amor Fati - or the love of fate -, God's plan, and the foregone conclusion.

That is, love what may come, it's a part of God's plan, and if you simply persist, learn, and love your work, the successful end is a foregone conclusion, so be at peace even in chaos, it's all going to work out over a long enough time, you will become the man worthy of the surroundings you seek.

These 'surroundings' you seek will change. Maybe you're young and you want a yacht, as you age you want security for your family, health, strength, energy.

Knowing it will all work out has a powerful effect on the work you do, too.

When you're stressed and worried about the future, you'll do anything and everything. You'll do useless work, spread yourself thin. But when you're thinking clearly you'll do the work and adopt the habits that actually matter.

In your health and performance, that simply means a good diet, good workouts, good habits. You're not trying every hack under the sun, you're focusing on what actually moves the needle.

Love the process.

Love fate.

Love the struggle.

The Choice of Stress

What you realize, hopefully, is that stress and fear and worry are things you can simply opt out of.

What keeps us in these states is the belief that we think we need to be in them until we've achieved what we want to achieve. But we truly don't need them.

Today, for example, I went on a 5k walk, meditated for 30 minutes, lifted at 5am, read for 30 minutes, journaled, and got more work done than I had in the 5 stressful, busy days beforehand. 

Stress is something we can work our way out of as well. Through the things above, and through just thinking - which, for me, is where the cigar comes in.

Not only do we not need stress, but it's counter-productive, as in, it prevents us from reaching our goals let alone enjoying our present.

Opt out of it by working on opting out of it and you become antifragile - immune to the ebbs and flows of life, a constant, a rock for your family, and a winner.

Get after it.

Supplements that help reduce stress hormones with full doses of adaptogens shown to mitigate our body's stress response:

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