Sarah Kugelman once suffered so much work-related stress that her doctor told her to change her lifestyle or risk dying before the age of 40.
She heeded that advice and launched a line of anti-stress skincare products as well, part of the booming so-called stress industry that experts say is worth more than $11 billion a year.
With overworked, overwrought consumers seeking cures ranging from aromatherapy to Zen meditation, the industry is predicted to grow to almost $14 billion in the next two years, experts say.
Job-related stress alone affects as many as two in five workers at any given time and has caused one in five people to quit a job at some time in their career. It costs business some $300 billion a year, research shows.
Like any type of problem, there's an industry around it, trying to solve it, said David Lee, an expert on workplace issues based in Bar Mills, Maine.
Consumers are trying lots of tactics to battle stress -- counseling, company wellness programs, massage services, self-help books, spas, stress balls, potpourri and products from laundry detergent to bedroom slippers to oral sprays treated with scents designed to calm them down.
Even a mail solicitation for a popular celebrity magazine offers subscribers free issues that will make your stress melt away.
Everything marches under the name of stress, said Dr. Paul Rosch, head of The American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, New York.
Kugelman said her anti-stress products, called skyn Iceland, were developed with a group of doctors and scientists to help battle the affects of stress on skin.
A lot of people talk about stress relief but they're relieving stress with a red lip gloss, she said. There's not a lot of credibility in that.
What's so hard about this business is there isn't a lot of regulation so it's possible to make claims that are not real, said Kugelman, who spent several years in the high-pressure world of marketing and product development at major cosmetics companies before founding her own company.
That's what gives the industry a bad name, she said.
It's hard to tell what works, given that stress, or the lack thereof, can't really be measured, Rosch said.
Stress is different for each of us and there's no stress reduction strategy that's a panacea, he said. You can't say whether these things work or not.
It's not really a science and a lot of it is commercially motivated.
But demand for anti-stress products and services is unrelenting, said Dr. Alan Hirsch, neurological director of the Smell & Taste Research and Treatment Foundation in Chicago.
We've seen a spike after 9/11 because people are overall more anxious, Hirsch said, and people seek situations that make them reduce their degree of stress.
One way of doing it is by using aromas, another way of doing it is eating comfort foods, another way of doing it is to drink alcohol or to seek psychological intervention. We're seeing all of these things increase, he said.
Also driving the stress industry is a population that is more affluent and self-reflective than earlier generations, and lives that are arguably more stressful, experts say.
In the old days, to survive you had to be like a tug boat or a river barge, Lee said. Now you need to be like a white-water kayak.
The stress industry creates its own demanding market, argues Angela Patmore in her book, The Truth about Stress.
What is actually wrong with people who say they're suffering from stress is they're really experiencing fear and anxiety, she said.
This fear hasn't happened by accident. It's been deliberately engendered by the stress management industry itself, spreading what it calls stress awareness.
And it's harmful, Patmore said. It's making them psychologically weaker, it's turning them into hypochondriacs and it's suggesting to them that quite normal emotions and normal psychological mechanisms are a sign of disease.