By Eric Yang
on 6.6.09

know-whats-causing-your-stress

The human mind never ceases to amaze. Why do we find ourselves irritated by or pleased by any particular occurrence? Moreover, how do those thing resonate in our lives outside of any particular instance?

As men, we face a multitude of challenges in our lives: promotions (or lack thereof), family drama, relationship complications, financial obstacles, health. As men, we are also notorious for improperly dealing with those issues; we’re known for clamming up and/or blindly blaming others when troubles come to mind. If you’ll pardon the cliché, life is like a card game, and we play the hands we’re dealt. The catch is there aren’t any trade-ins and folding is not an option.

Life gurus, counselors, therapists, and (gasp) significant others will tell us that we are in control of our own lives. That’s easy for them to say. They don’t have our cards lives. Yet we persevere and we push forward. That’s what makes us who we are. No, we may not necessarily have complete control over a decade old family feud, sudden loss of job, or getting the boss to approve a promotion, but we do have much more control than we think. Moreover, it may not necessarily be in areas we ever thought about. This entry into the 30 Days of Upgrades Initiative will focus on just that: unexpected ways to find and deal with stress.

The Weather Affects More Than Just Your Choice of Clothes

1 out of every 5 Americans suffer from some degree of seasonal depression. That’s a lot of us, and you can probably make a safe bet that the other 4 out of 5 would rather have it 74º and sunny than 47º and rainy. Compounding the problem is that during inclement weather, we are relegated to staying indoors more often. And as nice as it is to hole up with some books, your girlfriend, or a video game, it’s not as nice when it’s for months at a time.

The Easy Fix: Flip on a lot lights when it’s dim and dark. Light is far more therapeutic than most of us realize. Replace fluorescent bulbs with natural-light, task-incandescent bulbs. Oh, and get outside – even if it’s not sunny and clear – take a brisk drive (windows down) or walk around the block a few times. Reducing your caffeine intake is also helpful.

We’re All A Little Obsessive, Compulsive

We may not be Tony Shalhoub’s character, Monk, but we do have annoyances and, sometimes, those annoyances or pet-peeves take a larger toll on us than we expect. When you’re out for dinner, does the wobbly table prevent you from actually enjoying your meal or become one of the top 3 things you remember? Perhaps it’s stress. Does the constant barrage of emails in Outlook prevent you from focusing on your actual job? Perhaps it’s stress. Does your neighboring cubicle-mate’s sniffing, occasional commute traffic, or even the occasional typo inordinately bother you? Perhaps it’s stress.

The Easy Fix: Rather than letting these things annoy you, it’s time to find a way to approach these sanity-nibbles by taking them on as goals to accomplish. How so you ask? Get satisfaction by finding an alternate route to work (perhaps it’s longer but no traffic). Close your email for pre-scheduled times during the day when you can focus on work. Sitting at a wobbly table with new open tables in sight? Toss a few sugar packets under the wobbly leg and focus on your company’s eyes rather than how she’s about to lean on the table (and flip it).

The Unexpected And Expecting Them

avoid-stress-by-laughingWe may love the idea of spontaneity, but leave those moments to vacations and fun choices. As humans, and perhaps even more so, as men, we inherently crave structure. When tried and true methods, proven means of communication, or preferences are not adhered to, we are apt to become stressed – even at the lowest level of exposure. In time, this adds up and can cause stress both at home, workplace, or relationships of any kind.

The Easy Fix: No, you don’t want predictable Joe, but when it comes to the most routine tasks or methods then why not? Also, consider building a framework around your lifestyle (lavish or mundane). Do this by creating scenarios and plans of attack for unexpected situations. You’ll find that when you expect the unexpected you turn stress into a positive energy that you can leverage. A plan with a plan is a happy man and what guy doesn’t like leverage?

Dessert Isn’t Always So Sweet

A nutritionist once showed me a chart of what happens to my body when I drink a can of Coke (as delicious as an occasional ice cold fountain Coke can be). It was ghastly, and though this isn’t the proper venue to discuss that chart, I can tell you that there were zero benefits of it. A common notion is that when women are stressed they crave sugars and sweets. We men are susceptible to it as well. When we don’t eat regularly or expose ourselves to processed foods like refined sugars our bodies react by creating a hormone that drives our craving for fatty foods.

The Easy Fix: Keep a few low-fat yogurts or high-fiber bars around at the office or pantry. When the going gets tough and you get cravings, satiate them by biting into a healthy snack. Avoid the Red Bull, afternoon coffee, or Three Musketeers.

Judgement And Criticism Are Men’s Worst Enemies

Men are creatures of rank, measurement, and lists. We look at others and can’t help but compare or wonder how we stack up. Even worse is the fact that our responses tend to be negative. Do any of the following scenarios sound familar?

  • My friend is making $10k more than me… he always seems to get what he wants, lucky.
  • What, he shot a 79 on his last round? Impossible, that’s a complete lie.
  • I think I might be laid off. I hate this company

Rather, why not take those same situations and take these approaches?

  • My friend is making $10k more than me. This just validates that I should work harder and make the same achievement myself – get that promotion I know I deserve. I’ve got it in me.
  • What, he shot a 79 on his last round? Wow, I need to take a few pointers and get my game in gear. Then maybe in a few months I can take him out to the course and place a friendly wager on a post-round beer.
  • I think I might be laid off. It’s time for me to get my resume and contacts in order, which I’ve been meaning to do anyway. Time to have a frank conversation with my boss about it – we both might be in the same situation. Oh, and while I’m at it, maybe I should make sure I’m depositing more money into savings

When it comes to judgment and criticism we are our own worst enemy. Find an opportunity or reason to laugh and develop some healthy competitive spirit to spurn drive/motivation.

The Easy Fix: The ability for a man to make fun of himself is a sign of confidence. Overzealous criticism is a sign that a man is insecure, self-criticism included. One colleague or friend’s success this year might be an entirely reversed situation the coming year. The key is to not be a douchebag about it. Be thankful when others succeed (especially when they deserve it). Be humble when others fail (especially when they tried).

Let’s continue the conversation. What give you stress and do you have any good tips of coping with them? You’d be surprised how many of your fellow men have similar sentiments and can benefit from a simple suggestion.

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