Question for men: How do you handle stress?

Women support each other under stress. How can men handle it more effectively?

Lets start with some basics: Stress affects both men and women. But growing evidence suggests that women do a better job of getting support from others, and in general, they manage stress more effectively. Take a look around you in the workplace. With more women at work and in management positions, which sex does the better job of supporting each other? Hint: Would you be surprised to hear at work, “Let\’s meet at lunch and talk about it, girlfriend.” Thought not. Yeah, guys sit down together too, but how often is it for emotional support.

In this era of seemingly unending financial and job uncertainty, how do men reverse the trend and begin dealing effectively with stress? The first steps are to recognize that you are stressed and then to figure out where the stress is coming from.

Your major stressors

According to recent studies, men are stressed most by the following:

Money. Duh! Who is not worried about the economy and our personal finances during these difficult times? Are you carrying these worries around like a piano on your back?

Work. The logistics and politics of our jobs have become far trickier as businesses cut close to the bone and ask for more effort and accountability from each employee.

Family expectations. Your spouse and children are depending on you to maintain the status quo. You can handle it in most cases, but stress and its effects—including irritability, anxiety, and depression—are the price you pay.

Marriage/relationship difficulties. Not smooth sailing between you and your S.O.? You can push it to the back of your mind when you leave the house, but relationship stress affects you all day long, unless you do something about it.

Health. Has your health been slipping over the years? This is often one of the areas you can address effectively—and it helps reduce stress in the other areas.

Not enough downtime. How much time do you give yourself to simply chill? Or are you stuck in your man cave wrapping up unfinished business after dinner? Read a good book. Watch a favorite show with a spouse. Walk or run in the woods. Take the bike out. Do you plan vacations, or do you get away briefly as an afterthought?

Sex. Is the physical intimacy in your marriage or relationship a stress reducer or does it add stress?

Little stuff. Taken together they add up, don\’t they? Your commute, the leaky faucet, household chores (which become harder to outsource as you look to save money), finding time to pay the bills and balance the checkbook—the list goes on.

How to cope—and thrive!

Most men experience stress from some of the areas listed above. The question is: what do you do about your stressors? How do you get unstuck and jump off the stress merry-go-round you ride on each day? Here are some healthy, tried-and-true ways to do it:

  • Solve your financial problems. People worse off than you are taking big steps. Make a plan. Reduce expenses. Share the management of your finances with your partner. Put your plan down on paper and reserve a time—Saturday morning, Wednesday evening, doesn\’t matter—to spend a specific period of time, no more, no less. Get help from your bank, your creditors, or a well-respected credit counseling service. You will be surprised at how much they will cooperate and offer realistic solutions.
  • Develop a new interest. There\’s an adage in the business world: “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” Make yourself busier by finding time to do something for the pure passion and enjoyment. Take a course at one of your community resources. Join a meetup group. Whether it\’s hiking in the woods, writing that story you always thought you could write, joining the local sports enthusiast group—think outside the box and try new ways of bringing energy into your life. There\’s a payoff to doing something just for yourself. It makes your work and home obligations seem less daunting by changing how you think about them.
  • Exercise. That thought that you have? That there\’s just no time? Let me tell you up front: that\’s a self-deception. Making it a top priority to exercise will reduce stress, increase your energy, and lead to a “take care of business” attitude that will get you moving in other areas of your life. Walk, jog, bike, get to a gym—whatever it takes, because this is a big one.
  • Eat right. Recent studies have shown a correlation between weight gain and stress. Are you numbing yourself against the stress with thoughtless snacking or overeating at meals?
  • Sleep. Get the sleep your body needs—7-8 hours a night. Sleep heals you both physically and psychically.
  • Get yourself checked out. Research has shown that men delay doctor visits more than women, often waiting until major symptoms arise. Get to the doctor now, find out what toll your stress has taken, especially on blood pressure and your heart. Follow a good plan to reverse the trend.
  • Kick the habits. Smoking, drinking, gambling. Don\’t be fooled. They may provide an illusion of temporary relief. But in the long run, they add stress. Develop a plan to quit your self-destructive habits.
  • Get help. If you continue to be dogged by stress and need help to implement the steps listed above, talk with a counselor or therapist to isolate and work your underlying issues. With experience in stress management and the symptoms that stress can lead to—such as anxiety and depression, I can be an ally.

One thing you don\’t want to do—simply live with stress and hope it goes away someday, “when things get better.” It\’s up to you to make it “get better.” Know that you are not alone and have help from many sources.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.

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