It all boils down to this: Men are confronting 21st Century challenges with prehistoric physical responses. Our bodies and brains have evolved, certainly, but not as fast as the world around us.
As a result, a man’s body produces chemical and neurological reactions to stress that would have helped a caveman. But in a present-day setting, those reactions can lead down a path from discomforts to diseases to killers. Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, insomnia, obesity, and a continually weakened immune system are just some of the costs men pay for stress when it is unmanaged.
It is likely that men and women today are equally stressed. Experts say that it’s the different way men deal with it that turns stress deadly. For example, a man’s stress response in a traffic jam is about seven times more severe than that of a woman. Part of that is DNA, and part is our cultural expectation that we should be able to solve things with control and effort.
Using the Brain to Intervene
Knowledge is the beginning of a solution to this deadly dilemma. Awareness of what we’re dealing with equips us to make active choices instead of just reacting. Making those conscious choices is the lifesaving key to avoid dying from stress.
What happens in our bodies as we react to stress would be quite useful if we were confronting a saber-toothed tiger. But in a modern setting, it’s like a laundry list of things that precipitates the deadliest diseases we face today.
Heart rate spikes. In the face of a primitive threat, this would improve reaction time by flooding the brain with blood and sending more oxygen to the large muscles to increase speed and strength temporarily.
Blood sugar rises rapidly for quick energy, and blood restructures to clot more quickly in case of wounds. The benefits in a fight are obvious.
But if these responses sound like they’re connected to heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, well, that’s because they are.
The conscious choices we make are our only answer to keeping these inborn responses from killing us.
So Many Answers They’re Hard to Count
If this sounds like men are born with a death sentence, then look at the other side. (In fact, “glass-half-full” is one of the tips for stress reduction!)
The options to responding positively to stress are so numerous that respected publications can’t agree on the exact number. Is it five? Ten? Twenty? Fifty-two? There are lists of productive, conscious stress responses for men that run to all these numbers!
Here are just a few:
Exercise, eat and sleep well (six to eight hours), and don’t take on more than you can handle. Pretty simple so far, right? Simple, but not easy. Some of the vital stress reduction tips sound un-Western, even un-manly, but they’re lifesavers.
Accepting what you can’t change is one. Meditating is another. (Even if you just listen to your own breath for a few minutes regularly, you’re on the way to the benefits of meditation. Even the swamis have trouble quieting the mind.) Taking first things first and doing something day by day to resolve what’s causing your stress are a couple of practical tips, too.
Yes, simple but not easy. That’s why getting some encouragement for yourself to make the effort and stick with it is important. To get a baseline assessment of what stress might be costing you, as well as some coaching on how to turn it around, call us at 843-815-6468.