Stress is one of the major factors affecting men’s physical and mental health. The stress and tension that men experience balancing work, home, family, friends and other commitments can take its toll. Studies have shown that stress is a major contributor to heart disease, high blood pressure, and stress-related illnesses such as chronic back pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches, psoriasis and ulcers. From a mental health perspective, stress can lead to anxiety, depression, and substance abuse to name a few. We cannot be stress-less but we can learn and practice to have less stress. Here are some dos and don’ts on stress management for the working man.
Research has shown that exercising on a consistent basis can lower stress and release built-up tension. You don’t have to be a “gym rat” or lift heavy weights to reduce stress. Light exercise on a regular basis can have great overall health benefits mentally and physically. Go for a walk during lunch time and get away from your desk. Get some fresh air and get a change of environment from your work. Always consult with your doctor before engaging in any exercise program.
Eating the correct foods and getting 6 - 8 hours of sleep at night is typically recommended. Eating healthy gives you the energy you need and helps with overall health. Be sure to eat a healthy breakfast. When we are working, we eat on the run, eat junk or fast food, or skip meals entirely. Getting a good nights sleep will help your body recover from stress and prepare you to deal with new stress. At some point you have to put the computer and smartphone down to get some sleep.
Men often aren’t interested in looking at their emotional issues. In order to deal with stress, you need to get to what is bothering you. Ask yourself--”Is it my job? My boss? My relationship? My kids? My commute?” You may have to speak with your boss to figure out solutions for issues at work. Once you have identified what the source of stress is then you can do something about it. Remaining passive in a problem only makes the stress worse. Dwelling on the problem only keeps you in the vicious stress cycle.
You know the expression “You are what you eat.” The same is true for “You are what you think.” If you think negatively, you will likely turn even the most minor things into huge problems in your mind. We need to learn to accept the things we cannot change. In the workplace, we may not be able to change things like policies and procedures, health benefits offered, or your co-workers annoying habits.
At work, prioritize jobs and responsibilities. Break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. Set goals and timelines for the tasks at work. Start with the most important and work toward less critical jobs. Doing multiple projects at once is a recipe for disaster and high stress.
Too much caffeine can promote stress and affect sleep. Be mindful at business dinners and events not to overindulge on alcohol. Although you may feel more relaxed with a drink, it may deepen any depression you may be experiencing. Too much alcohol does not help in sleeping through the night.
Commuting is a huge source of stress. Research has indicated that men’s stress levels are elevated 60 percent in traffic and is seven times higher than women’s. Talk with your employer if it is possible to flex your hours to avoid high traffic times. Listen to soothing music or books in your car. If you take public transportation, put the computer down. Use music to relax you before you get to work. If certain co-workers are irritating to you, try to spend less time with these people. Don’t have lunch near them. Work on conflicts.
Sometimes at work we have a difficult time saying “no” to things. We create stress when we over-schedule ourselves. Sets some limits and boundaries for yourself. Don’t make promises you cannot deliver on. Give yourself time to manage your time and projects so they are done correctly. When you do this you will feel less stressed.
As human beings, we cannot avoid disagreements with the people in our work, in our marriages, families and other relationships. When we are having difficulties at our jobs, make attempts to work them out together. Sometimes you may need to get the boss or human resources involved.
Be mindful of all the negative self-talk you may engage in. Negative self-talk just keeps breeding off of itself. Negative self-talk can lead to stress, anxiety, anger and depression. It can skew your perception of yourself, your job, your world and others around you. Work hard at not being a “Debbie Downer.” You will find yourself in a negative stress circle that is very difficult to get out of.
Work and stress seems inevitable. However you can do something about it. Stress management is not to be done only when stress presents itself. You need to think about developing a stress management plan that you will implement everyday. Learn stress management techniques before the stress occurs so that you are prepared when stress is heightened. If you are finding that you cannot control your stress and it is threatening your physical and mental health well-being, your job, your family and your relationships, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a mental health professional. They can assist in giving you tools and allow you to deal and not dwell on the stress in your life.
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