How to disconnect, distract, and de-stress now.

It’s Christmas time. It’s a time that’s supposed to be all about peace or the Prince of Peace (if you’re faith-oriented), or both.

Unfortunately, for many people, it’s anything but peaceful. It’s all too stressful. Christmas simply adds more stress to your already stress-filled life.

You may fall into that category once in a while. Just look at the stats that show self-reported stress skyrocketing.

  • 50% of adults say stress is negatively affecting their behavior (American Psychological Association, 2020)
  • 75% of adults report symptoms of stress, including headaches, tiredness, or sleeping problems. (American Psychological Association, 2019)
  • 80% of U.S. workers say they experience too much stress on the job. (American Institute of Stress)

The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way at Christmas or any other time.

So what’s the answer? I asked my good friend John C. Adams, an FBI-trained hostage/crisis negotiator and author of Three Keys to Living the Dream, for his input. After all, if his program works for law enforcement officers who have some of the most dangerous, stressful jobs on the planet, it will work for all of us.

As I interviewed Adams, he said we all have an emotional tank in which we store our stresses. The stresses might start slowly, but over the months and years, the stresses take up more and more space in your mind and body if you don’t know how to empty your emotional tank. Symptoms start to show up and eventually you turn you into a different person. You may go down the road of entitlement, become a constant complainer, spout poisonous cynicism, or exhibit any number of stress behaviors.

So Adams devised a 3D system that will empty your tank before it becomes a severe liability to you and everyone else around you. It works.



You may have a job or there may be parts of your job that are draining you. You may have some toxic people in your life that are sucking up your energy. You may have some negative situations in your life that are beating you down.

Whatever it is, you need to occasionally disconnect from those power drains. It’s like putting your car’s transmission in neutral. You need to take the load off.

For some of you, that won’t be easy. You may be like some of the leaders I coach who struggle with disconnection because of the guilt they experience. They’re constantly asking themselves, “What if they need me? What if they don’t know what to do? What if it’s not done right?” As John Adams puts it, “You need to be an accessible servant without becoming a slave.”

Others of you may need to disconnect from some toxic people or circumstances. I call it creative neglect.

For example, I used to have some people in my life who would call me several times a week, always complaining about something. I would listen, encourage and coach them for weeks, until one day I noticed no matter how much time and help I gave them, they never changed. They never got better, because they never did anything to improve their situation. All they wanted to do was complain.

Then I learned to disconnect from them with creative neglect. Instead of taking every one of their phone calls and listening to them complain some more, I would occasionally interject a quick comment such as “I’m really sorry to hear that. Wish I had more time to listen. Got to run. Wishing you the best. Bye.”

Something wonderful happened. Those complainers called less frequently, complained less often, and started to make some positive changes in their lives. And I felt less stress.

The key to successful disconnection is DISTANCE.



In the second step of this process, you must shift your focus from whatever is piling too much stress on you to a focus on something else. Indeed, the key to distraction is FOCUS.

There is a caution here, however. Stressed-out people often turn the focus to life-diminishing distractions. That could be spending too much time watching TV, surfing the internet, or playing video games, all of which has a depressing effect on your psyche. Or it could be inappropriate uses of food, alcohol, nicotine, drugs, sex, or whatever else causes more harm than good.

Effective stress management means you focus more often on life-giving distractions.

Do you have one or more life-giving distractions? I hope so. And if you don’t have some, I urge you to add some to your life.

One of the best life-giving distractions is exercise. Physical stress actually cleans out your emotional stress, partly because it changes your focus. Doctors and psychologists say thirty minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week is a “wonder drug” when it comes to emptying our emotional stress tanks.

One police chief learned that when he took up running. When Adams asked him what he was thinking about when he was running, he answered, “You know what? Now that I think about it, I really don’t think about anything. I just run, and it’s good. I watch the scenery go by and notice my surroundings. It really helps me.”

He had learned the key to distraction is changing his focus. Try it.



If you disconnect and put some DISTANCE between you and your stresses, if you distract yourself with a change in FOCUS, you’re on your way to recharging your emotional batteries.

Yes, you’re on your way, but to create a healthy lifestyle that continues to work for you, you must add this third step of de-stressing. The key to de-stressing is TIME.

It may seem easier to just continue to plod forward, to keep on keeping on until all your problems are resolved, but that’s never going to happen. Indeed, if you take that approach, you will become like a damaged battery that can no longer hold a charge because it has been drained too far, too many times.

To truly master the art of de-stressing, you have to take TIME OFF. You have to set time aside for you and your family and loved ones. 

“The man who works from …

8 to 8 everyday …

will be both very successful …

and fondly remembered …

by his widow’s next husband.”

What you need to understand is that by not working you are working on you, filling your emotional bucket. That means you will last longer and have more good things to give others. And isn’t that a part of the peace that Christmas promises? I think so.