You can reduce the stress in your life without selling your company, as Fred Gabourie did. But it does require some changes in your routine. "Behavior is something you develop over a lifetime," says David Feffer, a partner at Health Incentives, a Montana health-promotion firm. "To change it, you need to make a commitment."
Joel Schwartz, president of LCA Sales Co., in Tuckahoe, N.Y., didn't make that commitment until the vertigo started. While he was making sales calls a number of years ago, street signs and office buildings started dancing before his eyes. "I was very dizzy," recalls Schwartz, who was just starting his first business in the electronics industry. "Then everything just started swimming around in front of me."
When stomach pains followed, Schwartz finally saw a physician. The diagnosis: "He told me I absolutely had to slow down," Schwartz says. Since then, he always schedules an extra 20 minutes between appointments. If meetings get too tense, he goes outside and takes a brisk walk. And he reads a few pages of a novel before going to sleep, so business problems won't haunt his dreams. "You have to force yourself to stop thinking about business," he says.
Dickon Pownall-Gray had health problems, too. After being promoted to executive vice-president of Health Care Systems Inc. two years ago, he seemed to have the flu often. The internist's diagnosis: stress.
When he went home to think about it, Pownall-Gray understood one source of his stress: his home itself. He lived in a one-room flat just a mile from his office in Washington D.C. To "escape completely," he bought a two-level condominium overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. He also realized that his hobby was causing him more strain that relaxation. A championship squash player, he worked out a few hours a day. "It had become another treadmill," says Pownall-Gray, who cut down on practices and now competes at a lower level. "It was compounding my stress, and I needed someone to spell that out to me."