Journey into the High Holidays with Amichai Lau-Lavie, founder of Storahtelling and the spiritual leader of Lab/Shul. It’s a daily dose of inspiration to get you focused and ready for the new year, featuring daily intentions, simple tasks, and tools for living better.


Stress can literally be a major pain in the neck.

For the past 48 hours I’ve been having difficulty breathing, and a familiar pain in my head, neck, and left shoulder refuses to relent. It has ‘stress’ written all over it—a physical manifestation of my emotional angst that sometimes takes over for days at a time. I try doing what usually helps: breathe deeply, drink water, swim, take Advil, go for walks, put on quiet music and remind myself, gently, that worrying will not be helpful and it’s time to relax. Which only makes me more anxious.

Stress and anxiety, familiar to so many of us on many different levels, from mild to chronic, inspired today’s Prepent intention, whether I like it or not. I think I know why it’s creeping up now; major tasks and deadlines piling up, including this very 40-day journey, which requires that I dredge up dreaded patterns and problems I’d like to fix. No wonder I’m stressed out.

The prevalence of this issue is reflected in the astounding number of books and articles that offer every remedy under the sun. At the airport today, I stopped by the bookstore to check out the self-help section. It’s LA, so there’s a wall full of reminders of what I’m doing wrong and what I should be doing right—immediately stressed, I walked right back out.

“It’s worse for Jews. We are an anxious people,” my friend Maya reminds me when I call to vent. “So many generations of exile and persecutions had to leave a mark on our collective being. And this annual judgment day deadline is not helping the pressure either. Forget the books. Take a nap. Or a Valium. Most important: take a break!”

So I go find a quiet corner of the crowded airport and sit and close my eyes. The problem, it occurs to me, is that I worry too much about possible future outcomes instead of just taking it one step at a time and dealing with what’s on my plate at any given moment.

When I was a teen I used to stutter. My speech coach told me that my brain ran too far ahead and stumbled on its words. He taught me to speak more slowly, and eventually I got better. Every advice column, like this one for example, sends me back to that same basic advice: slow down to de-stress. Stretch, don’t kvetch. And if possible, find something that will make you laugh.

How do you de-stress?

Follow along with the Scroll’s daily Prepent series here.