Does everybody seem a little more on edge nowadays? It’s not surprising. The pace of 21st century life and the interruptions built into it by mobile media would make staying calm a challenge anyway. But add to that environment the fact that, deep down, we’re using prehistoric circuits to respond to life, and you’ve got a perfect formula for stress.
Today’s demands and excitement and pressure themselves are not stress. Our response to them is what adds up to stress. And the body’s own response is simple: fight or flight. Not what you’d call a wide range of options.
A man’s body produces chemical and neurological reactions to stress that would have helped a caveman. The hormones adrenaline and cortisol fire into the system to prepare the body for action. Heart rate increases to hype oxygen supply. Blood vessels constrict to reduce bleeding from injuries, and blood supply is diverted to major muscle groups. Blood sugar rises rapidly for quick energy, and blood restructures to clot more quickly in case of wounds.
What Helped Us Then Hurts Us Now
Helpful for hunting or self-defense, but in a present-day setting, with no outlet, those reactions can lead down a path from discomforts to diseases to killers. The stress response is like a laundry list of things that precipitate the deadliest diseases we face today. 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 continual or unmanaged.
Are men at a disadvantage in dealing with stress? Research suggests we are. 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.
Better Answers from the Brain
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.
The options to responding positively to stress are so numerous that respected publications can’t agree on the exact number. It is 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.
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.