How to Handle Stress (Hint: Don't Ignore It!)

04/25/2013 10:50 am ET Updated Jun 25, 2013
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 18:  Actor Adrian Grenier attends the 5th annual Tribeca Film Festival 2013 LA reception held at Th
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 18: Actor Adrian Grenier attends the 5th annual Tribeca Film Festival 2013 LA reception held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 18, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)

"Hollywood Unplugged," a new series on HuffPost Entertainment, shows our culture's most influential figures in a new light. Instead of focusing on their accomplishments, it examines how they continue to thrive despite the inevitable stress. In this installment, Adrian Grenier, producer of the Tribeca Film Festival documentary "How to Make Money Selling Drugs," describes his approach to coping with stress.

I can't entirely escape stress. No one can. Our collective experience requires that we endure at least a certain amount of anxiety, especially when we strive for bigger goals that take us outside our comfort zone. However, striving, and even stressing (a bit) are actually important to success, so I will try to give some insight into how I manage it, so it doesn't rule me and get in the way of achieving my goals. The key is not to run from it, but to embrace it so it doesn't overwhelm or become debilitating.

When presenting myself to the world, whether in business or entertainment I generally want to project an air of confidence, of being in control. I think this is common because we all want the outside world to get the impression that we are on top of our game and that we can reliably get the job done. We often ignore stress, or pretend that nothing gets to us; that we are undaunted. The causes of stress are also always shifting and changing, depending on the specifics of what is being demanded of us. Identifying the stressors may prove to be difficult or illusive.

So for these reasons, my main objective is to attempt to pay attention, acknowledge and almost welcome the stress. Stress is an indicator. It yields information and insight. It's important. I never all-out reject stress. I listen to it. I let it tell me what it is I should be aware of. Once I have recognized what the stress is trying to tell me, only then will I relieve it of its duty, dismissing it wholly, yet respectfully.

Those that ignore their stress and pretend that it doesn't exist allow it to build up inside, letting it fester until it erupts in unmanageable ways. Recognizing your limitations, but always knowing that you are able to grow to overcome them, is the way around stress. It is the type of stress that you can't see, or the stressors that you can't overcome, that ultimately break you. Meditation (and not necessarily the New Age variety) is of utmost importance. Make time to take a personal inventory . I don't flog myself for being nervous, I simply observe and breathe.

Laughter is a great way to relieve stress. Don't let your goals become too important, and try to maintain humility in every moment. Your goals and objectives are only part of your whole life experience. Being healthy and happy is first, and nothing should be so important that it precludes you from taking care of your mental and physical health. Regular exercise is another important way I manage stress. It is not only medically proven to relieve stress but also makes you stronger, keeps your body and brain chemistry in balance, and offers a necessary respite from work. I find this provides an invaluable perspective, enabling me to tackle problems, after stepping away from them, with renewed vision.

"How to Make Money Selling Drugs" premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 25 at 6 pm.