Every year thousands of men and women across the globe take part in ‘Movember’ a month of campaigning, activities and moustache growing to bring attention to the very real issues around men’s mental and physical health.
Many men find it notoriously difficult to translate their feelings and emotions into words, and whilst Movember and Men’s Health Week (every June), are super important events that encourage men to speak out, it’s important that we don’t forget that mental health issues affect the men we know and love every day of the year. And many of them are very good at hiding it…
Think about the ideal image of a ‘real man’ and what do you see? Cultures around the world have long considered men to be permanently strong, stoic and emotionless. And research has revealed that this misconception is often forced upon boys during childhood. From a young age many are surrounded by well-meaning and seemingly harmless comments like:
‘You throw like a girl!’
‘Real men don’t cry!’
Though not meant to cause lasting damage, comments like these can leave boys at risk of hiding their feelings for fear of being ridiculed, leaving them with very few tools to deal with their emotions later in life.
Recent studies have also shown that chronic stress in men is far more common than previously known, and that it affects men from all ethnic, financial, and educational backgrounds. Making matters worse, men have been found to be far more adept at hiding their real emotional state, making diagnosis and their willingness to seek treatment much more challenging.
So what are the signs of stress in men, and what can be done to help alleviate them?
Firstly it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress. In the early stages, symptoms can be wide ranging and not always easy to recognize. But if the list below sounds scarily familiar then you or someone you know could be at risk.
- Feeling tired
- Difficulty sleeping
- Irritability and moodiness
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of concentration and an inability to complete projects
- Muscular and skeletal aches and pains (A lot of men carry stress in their lower back or neck muscles.)
- Recurring headaches
- Increased reliance on smoking, drinking or even drugs to cope
Left untreated, stress will often start to manifest itself physically, which can lead to serious health issues. Look out for:
- Increased susceptibility to colds and flu
- Chest pains
- Digestive problems (tummy aches and constipation)
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated heart rate at rest
- Sexual problems such as lack of desire, inability to have an erection, or premature ejaculation
- Skin eruptions
So, if you’re ready to stand up and admit that you’re suffering from stress then what can you actually do to reduce the emotional intensity you’re feeling and help yourself feel better? Here are four simple solutions to help you get started.
1. Face up to what’s stressing you out
Stress occurs when that demands placed on you — such as work, finances or relationships — exceed your ability to cope. Figuring out and then facing up to what’s stressing you out is a vital first step, but it can also be the hardest, especially if the source of your stress is personal.
Taking control of a situation is empowering, which in itself can help to ease the stress you’re feeling around a certain situation. Look for solutions. If you’re stressed out at work, consider arranging a meeting with your manager to figure out which projects or tasks could be delegated or put on hold whilst you clear the backlog. If you’re stressed out from mounting credit card or bank debt then give your financial provider a call. Chances are they’ll be keen to help and can resolve the issue by putting a reasonable payment plan in place. If that doesn’t work try calling a the Citizens Advice Bureau or a debt support service.
Stress caused by personal relationships can be a little trickier to deal with, but if you’re going to get through this, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and…
2. Talk, talk, talk
Admitting that you’re struggling means admitting that you have weaknesses. We all do of course but it can be something many men find troublesome to think about. But here’s the thing, if the people around you don’t know what you’re going through then they can’t help. Don’t let it reach the point where you’re constantly snapping at your wife, partner, children or family. They’ll feel bad, you’ll feel bad. It’s a recipe for disaster.
If the prospect of talking to your family is just too much to bear then start by seeking help from a neutral third party. Counsellors and life coaches are trained to listen to your issues without judgement or blame and they’ll be able to help you identify some strategies to start dealing with the issues causing you stress. But in the meantime…
If “I don’t have time!” is your first reaction to this then sorry… we’re not buying it. Exercise doesn’t have to mean a sweaty two-hour gym session. Research shows that just a 20-minute walk, run or swim in the midst of a stressful time can give an immediate positive effect that can last for several hours. It could be as simple as a quick workout or walk through the park during your lunch hour. Getting up a half hour early to get a run in or even putting in a quick jog after you put the kids to bed. A good workout releases endorphins that may chemically ease the feelings caused by stress.
Take the stairs instead of the lift, walk to the shops instead of taking the car or, make a real commitment to your health by blocking out a few hours each week for exercise. Remember, self-care isn’t about thinking ‘me first!’ it’s about thinking ‘me too.’
4. Go to bed earlier
Yes, that’s right. Bedtime for you! Disrupted sleep patterns or having trouble getting to sleep are one of the first signs of chronic stress, but getting this one sorted quickly will make a huge positive difference in how you feel and your ability to cope with future stress. Start by cutting back on screen time, caffeine and carb-based snacks in the evening and instead head up to bed half an hour earlier and relax. You could:
- Read a book
- Write in a journal (getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper may help you to process them better)
- Listen to calming music
Even better, make your bedroom a place that you really want to be. Invest in some super luxurious pillows, blankets or fresh bedding. Put a few drops of essential oil in a diffuser or use a calming room or pillow spray to create a feeling of ease and relaxation.
If you’re suffering from stress then our Rowan House therapists are here to help. We offer a variety of treatments to ease and relax body and mind, from counselling, psychotherapy meditation and hypnotherapy to massage, acupuncture and Pilates.
Click here to visit our therapies page and find out more. Or, if you need guidance and support in choosing the best therapy for you, give our friendly reception team a call on 01603 813999 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be glad to help.