It's Men's Health Month and it's the perfect time to tackle a health topic that many of us, especially the guys in our lives, ignore or don't take seriously enough. What is this mystery ailment? You may have guessed- it's stress.
We often go about our day without acknowledging or realizing that we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. When we do take a moment to reflect and realize that we are in fact feeling stressed, we tend to minimize its affects and instead "power through" the day.
Stress is not necessarily triggered by a single incident. It can grow over time. Here is an example of how something seemingly insignificant, can yield long term effects:
A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they'd be asked the "half empty or half full" question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: "How heavy is this glass of water?"
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."
She continued, "The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything."
When left unaccounted for, stress can contribute to more than just a bad mood. It has been shown to negatively affect almost every system in the body including the cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine, and gastrointestinal systems. People with high levels of stress or more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Additionally, men are much less likely to speak about stress and often times try to hide or minimize the effects that it has on them. In honor of Men's Health Month, I would like to bring stress to the forefront of the conversation and share some tips for coping with everyday stresses:
Get enough sleep
Getting 7 hours of sleep or more and help boost your energy levels to help combat the day-to-day stresses that occur. Adequate sleep can also help with focus and mental clarity.
Take time to identify your stress triggers
Sit down and give yourself a moment to breathe and reflect on what actually causes your stress. Once you have identified the trigger, determine how you can manage your reaction to it – especially if you are not able to avoid the trigger altogether.
Moving throughout the day has been shown to help decrease stress, as well as, the risk for depression. Exercise is also a key factor when it comes to overall health and wellness, so get moving to reap the physical and mental benefits of exercise.
Do things that bring you joy
Take time each day to do something you truly enjoy. This could be as simple as having a cup of coffee while you read through your favorite sports analysis. If can't think of something to do each day, definitely set aside time on the weekend for yourself.
While stress management techniques can be extremely effective, it is important to recognize when they're not. "Powering through" will not help you, or the people around you in the long run. Know that it is okay to ask for help and seek additional insights from a mental healthcare professional. In fact, many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) at no cost to help employees gain the tools they need to cope with stress and be productive.
Remember, managing your stress is just as important to your health and wellness as diet and exercise. While we all know that stress does not discriminate by gender, let's celebrate Men's Health Month by sharing this important information and taking some time for ourselves.