Feeling a little harried? Relax. All you need is a personal mantra, a few quarts of wine--and someone to take out your dry cleaning.


Hi! Got stress? Bet you don't need it. Gives you a headache. Makes you cranky. Doesn't help you work at all. Fortunately, there are a host of highly effective solutions that top executives carry in their bulging pockets all the time. When they need 'em, they pull 'em out and whammo! You can do the same--if you've got the tools. Here are all you'll ever need:

--Get a mantra. A totemic word, repeated until it blocks out all others, can be a one-way ticket to a mental institution. But in the right hands, a little mysticism applied directly to where it hurts ya just might open your personal doorway to focus and repose. First, find yourself a small enclosure where no one dares to enter. Every bathroom has one. Now...close your eyes...concentrate...breathe in, breathe out...and obsessively repeat your mantra to yourself. Say only that word. Channel your entire aura into it until it obliterates all reality but your internal one. Feels good, huh? Any word will do. You might start out like most of us did with that old clunker "Om." Personally, I've found the word "kill" to have incredible restorative power. A couple of minutes letting that baby drum into my skull and I'm ready to hit the ground hard, and do what needs to be done.

--Visualization is the acid of the Nineties. So tune in, even if you can't do the other two things. The human imagination is a wonderful tool. Use it for more than generating next month's theme for the controller's conference. Just take a second to project what you want the future to be in your own mind--see it!--then go and live there. Maniac puce-headed hoopster Dennis Rodman, for instance, imagines himself guarding every member of the opposing team, then goes out on the floor and lets his vision unfold. And it does. Or at least that's what he tells us in his new, best-selling book. Do you think he imagined every person in America buying his book? I bet he did! And so they are! So can you, except instead of visualizing yourself as Dennis Rodman, see yourself as You--waiting for Leonard Brush the budget muncher to finish his presentation on internal synergies, then rising to your feet to puncture his specious argument and retain your cost structure. Imagine him hanging from his tasteless club tie in the freight elevator! The future is as big or small as your dream. Don't think tiny.

--Work your body. If God had meant us to sit at desks all day, blabbing on the phone and cramming down inexpensive meat sandwiches, he would have made us huge invertebrates with dappled green skin and suction cups for mouths. So every day, no matter what's going on, take 15 to 20 minutes to get your heart rate up to the point where it can be measured by an EKG from ten to 12 feet away. Getting a phone call from the chairman doesn't count; fright is not cardiac exercise. And no, you don't need to belong to some club that would have you--or, even worse, your management consultant, Lutz--as a member. Just find any old staircase and walk up and down on it until you feel your heart about to leap out of your chest and your temples straining to pop from your skull. Still concerned about the slight premonition you've been feeling about receivables in the near term? I bet not!

--Drink a lot of wine. I was reading the other day about people in Assyria, back when the wheel was invented, basically, who discovered how to plant grapes and immediately started out imbibing wine in large quantities. Believe me, those people felt less tension at work than we do. That's why busy executives, at the end of a day, often drink quarts of the stuff to replenish their mental juices and get back that feeling of bonhomie that's so much a part of their personal powerbank. The good thing about wine is that, unlike hard liquor, it's not really a drink at all, actually. It's more of a food, sort of, with lots of frisky vitamins and minerals. Apply it liberally to your stress zones, and watch 'em melt away.

--Get out of touch. Physically as well as mentally. The cellular world stinks. Did you know that one of the guys who died recently on Mount Everest had just called a couple of people on his cellular phone? Isn't that depressing? This thing has gotten way out of hand. Toss away your beepers! Let your batteries run down! Let the world know that there are times when you cannot be reached!

--Scream at people. At the same time you're asserting your human rights, strip others of theirs. This is one of the big perks of truly stressed out people. Wait until you're ready to molt out of your skin, then find somebody weaker than you and bark at him for a while. Sometimes a small "woof" may do the trick. But on Fridays at 4 p.m., when everybody decides it's time to pass along all remaining issues to you, nothing less than a full-scale "bow-wow-wow," complete with growls and occasional snapping noises, will do.

--Obsess yourself. Ultimately, however, these lifestyle choices, while vitiating much low-level stress, cannot be nearly as effective as full-blown business fixation, which is possibly the most effective palliative of all. Nothing can help you arrive at your destination more efficiently than inappropriate grandiosity--a really enormous idea that replaces eating, drinking, exercise, mantras, the whole schmeer. Okay, if you're not Carl Icahn, you can't buy Tasmania. But every business person, no matter how small or crushed by anxiety, can dream. Keep in mind that this is true, narcissistic, overweening ambition you're reaching for, some object so huge and unattainable you'd have to be either out of your mind to want it, or a genius. Once you've settled on your acquisition target, let nothing stand in your way. Think only about It. Plan in detail for It. Torment your subordinates with preparations for It.

--Surround yourself with people you trust who know what you need. Now that you're focused, it's essential to sweep all impedimenta aside. That means hiring staff who will anticipate your needs. Soften the edges on things a little. Take out your dry cleaning. Get you a soda when you're thirsty. Torch a rain forest if that's required, so you don't have to. Find those people. Then shut everyone else out. After a while your stress will be just a tiny little whisper behind the great facade of calm you have built around yourself.

--Grow your fingernails and hair very long and don't come out of your office except maybe once a day, when it's dark out and nobody will get into your face. It doesn't hurt to line your office with cork either. Cork keeps out noise and dust. Dust is really bad too. Dust has germs in it. There are billions of germs out there that can make you sick and cut down on your peace of mind and productivity. Doorknobs have germs on them. Spoons? Teeming with them. All those bacilli. Crawling over things. Causing...stress. Get rid of them. Now.

There. We've done it. Eliminated stress from our lives. And it hasn't been all that difficult, has it? In a world full of disorder, we've taken a few simple steps to put things in place, where they can be anticipated, handled, controlled. Yeah. Control is what it's all about. Control eradicates stress. Must maintain control. No surprises. So we can go about our business calmly, in a focused fashion, without, you know, going nuts. And we don't want to go nuts. Do we.

By day, Stanley Bing is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name.

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