The good news is, short-term exposure to stress has no lasting effects. The solutions that follow are easy to implement and absolutely drenched in common sense.
As for the not so good news, a constant level of stress can manifest itself as headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, stomach upsets, loss of libido, yadda, yadda, yadda.
If we crank it up a gear, stress has the potential to disrupt every system in the body. No really, it’s true. Immune function decreases, blood pressure rises, and the digestive, reproductive, and nervous systems all become out of balance. Are you getting this bit? It’s kinda important.
If left unchecked, stress becomes a silent killer! Rather than try to resolve a mountain of health issues, might our time be better spent today reducing the known causes of our stress? I think so.
But first, we should acknowledge that stress affects men and women very differently. Let’s kick off with men just because.
Men have the capacity to deal with stress in more extreme ways than their female counterparts.
Stress can cause a man to become withdrawn, anxious, depressed or display emotional outbursts. I am statistically drawn to the fact that men are also more likely to commit suicide than women. The high-risk group being middle-aged white males. Has stress got your attention yet?
Okay, let’s keep going.
When stress gets to this level, it’s not one thing but a relentless chain of smaller things that build up over time. It’s the constant drip, drip, drip that pushes good men over the edge. To be clear, men who commit suicide aren’t always looking to end their lives; they are looking for a way to end their suffering. If this is you, please note that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Men may also have a tendency to internalize things more so than women who (generally speaking) often have a better support network of friends. Perhaps men find it harder to talk openly to their peers for fear of being judged.
So where does a mans stress come from?
The biggest cause of a man’s stress can be found in two areas: a need for more money or a need for more time. Essentially, this can mean the same thing. How so?
Men are encouraged to relate success with owning objects, hence just about every automobile billboard is slanted to making a man feel like he needs a high-performance car. This, in turn, requires a man to make more money which then takes up more of his time. Now we are off to the races and we find ourselves in a vicious circle of needing to buy more things. But don’t lose hope, the solution coming.
It really doesn’t help that men are constantly bombarded with idiotic statements like “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Or from luxury car manufacturers like Porsche whose catchy slogan claims that “there is no substitute” (for owning a $250,000 car). Really?
If men only knew, ownership is an expensive illusion and inner peace doesn’t come from what we buy; it comes from the things we can live without. If we aren’t careful, those luxury brands we aspire to own, begin to owns us. Perhaps what men are really saying is they would like to be shown more respect.
While all men have different income streams, we all get the same amount of allotted time in a day. but what we spend our time doing is a choice. Some men may spend it chasing that latest car, a new suit, or a bigger desk. All of which are rewards for having too much money. But these are short-term rewards that cannot compete with having the freedom to do what we want when we want. Look at it this way.
A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to
bed at night, and in between, he does what he wants to do.
– Bob Dylan
That said, there is nothing wrong with ambition so long as there’s a healthy balance. Without balance, a man becomes just another asshole with too many pairs of cufflinks. To be clear, there is no difference between a workaholic and an alcoholic, both must have their daily fix or there’s hell to pay. The irony is, few men on their death beds will wish they had spent more time in the office.
LETS GET HIGH
So what’s the solution for a chronically stressed man who has fallen into the trap of equating success with ownership of more stuff? That’s easy — enrich the life of someone else and expect nothing in return.
Are you getting this bit? It’s another important bit.
You can liberate yourself by simply humbling yourself. No really, it’s true. There’s enough scientific data to support this idea to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool.
The term “Helper’s-High” is based on national research done by Allan Luks (feel free to Google). As it turns out, science was able to show that we humans are hardwired to help one another other. Our reward for reducing stress can then be measured both physically and emotionally. Hoorah!
As I’m sure many already know, stress is the body’s way of flooding the system with hormones in response to any perceived or real threat. Adrenaline and cortisol pump through the body in preparation for emergency action. Great if there is a Bengal tiger loose in your back garden, but not so great if your boss is a jerk and you are stuck in traffic.
Stress is an omnipresent part of life. But stress that comes from owning more things can be thought of as a being self-inflicted. The fastest way to alleviate this type of stress is to find a problem that’s bigger than you are. The good news is, this really isn’t that difficult to do.
Simply look up from your phone and you will see that people all around you are hurting. Trust me when I say this, to someone who’s going through hell, the simplest of human interactions can be more valuable than the shiniest of gold. If you haven’t tied this yet, I just know you are going to love how the instant hit of dopamine makes you feel. There is a tangible value to looking a person in the eye and saying, “Hey, are you okay in there, Bud?”
In today’s fast-paced world we have become quick to measure ourselves by the quality of the car we drive, the size of our house or the number of electronic digits we have that represent our net worth. Perhaps a man would be better judged not by economic wealth but by the way he treats the most vulnerable members of a society.
Friend, it’s not your wallet I’m after; it’s you. To those who have the cash to spare, giving money away is relatively painless. Time, on the other hand, has a much deeper value; the love of money gets people into this mess.
Look, I know for some, I’m pushing you out of your comfort zone here. But hear me now, science can show the best way to keep your sanity is to lighten the load of another human being. I’m actually offering you a way out of this shitty cycle, take it!
Man is not made for defeat.
– Ernest Hemingway
This doesn’t have to be a drain on your resources, the trick here is to only do a little but do it often. You don’t even have to go to a third world to pull this off. Seek and thou shall find as they say. I’d bet the farm (if I had one) that there is someone close to you, either a family member or a neighbor, that’s dealing with a form of adversity. What would it take for you to step out of your world and into theirs, albeit briefly?
If I’m right, you will begin to get back something your money cannot buy — a quiet sense of inner peace. No really, have you ever wondered why volunteers don’t ask for money? It’s not because they have no value, it’s because they are priceless!
The idea here is to do what you are comfortable with rather than turning it into a form of resentment. Before you knock on the door of your neighbor you should also be aware that for some folks, the transition into vulnerability isn’t always an easy one. Try to be respectful of the fact, people may have lost their financial or physically independence but the desire to have it remains intact.
Do this one thing and a month from now I swear you will be happier and less stressed, you’ll also care less about keeping up with the Jones. If anything, the Jones will be looking over YOUR fence thinking, hey, what’s with this guy and his new inner peace?
Do this quietly and for the right reasons. Work for a cause, not applause. There’s no point if this morphs into a boasting opportunity and no, you don’t need to tell the world via a Facebook post what you just did for someone.
NO TIME? …. REALLY?
OK, NOW I’LL TAKE YOUR MONEY
Every year, one million of the world’s poorest people die from drinking contaminated water. When you stop and think about it, that’s a heck of a lot of people with a very basic need that is not being met. Contaminated water can transmit diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio. And yet the West continues to send medical supplies to a family dying of thirst. FFS, let’s fix the water problem first and then work our way up from there.
On the flip side of human desperation, eight men now control as much wealth as the world’s poorest 3.6 billion people. Don’t get me wrong, it’s their money, they earned it and good luck to them. But to have an abundance of money parked in a bank, would suggest there’s at least a little wiggle room in the budget to help the little guy find water, am I right?
Okay, where am I heading with this?
According to a new report from Oxfam international, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Carlos Slim, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Amancio Ortega, Larry Ellison, and Michael Bloomberg are collectively worth an eye-watering $426 billion (with a B.) I very much doubt any of those eight men will ever read this. So my question to you is this. Why do we expect the superrich to step in and help when we are not prepared to do it ourselves?
If you are fortunate enough to have money in the bank rather than time on your hands then your mission from here is a simple one. Find a way to give a family clean water. Lord knows it’s not difficult to find those who need it. From here, it’s between you, your bank manager, and your conscience. I have zero interest in handling your money. Good luck.
If you think men have it bad, try walking a mile in a woman’s shoes — don’t get too excited fellas, I didn’t mean that literally.
One of the primary causes of stress for a woman is the constant pressure to conform to a certain physical type. Almost every woman who engages with any type of media is immediately faced with images of younger women with increasingly bigger eyes, bigger lips, bigger boobs, and even bigger butts. Sheesh, way to make a person feel uncomfortable in her own skin. If that isn’t stressful, I’m not sure what is.
Recently in the U.S., a woman was so desperate for a bigger butt that she turned to an illegal underground practice where bigger butts are offered on the cheap. Sadly, this is done by injecting dangerous chemicals under the skin. These butt-boosting shots include a mineral oil and a can of roadside tire inflator directly into the muscle. Nope, not joking.
If you haven’t seen this product before, it’s sold in car accessory shops and its intended use is to inflate a blown tire with rapid set expanding foam. What kind of message is being sent out to impressionable young minds that makes them feel the need to pump it up with fix-a-flat tire weld?
Perhaps our wives, sisters, and daughters are being told that they are not enough, and to fit in they need to have a different body shape. If you find yourself caught in this trap I would urge you to seek out an old family photo. Notice how ridiculous fashions come and go? Once it might have been a curly perm, tall platform shoes, or a pair of flared jeans. Now imagine ten years from now looking back at a body that has been surgically altered to meet a current fashion trend?
Given that the global apparel market is currently valued at an eye-watering three trillion dollars, fashions now change before you can say the word overdraft. This can leave some women feeling compelled to buy a new outfit every day of the week!
Buy less, choose well.
– Vivienne Westwood
Trying to extract value from ever-changing fashion is just another form of negative stress. Left to ferment, it simply becomes unsustainable as well as stressful. Ladies I beg of you, take comfort from the fact that your uniqueness is your value — it sets you apart from the crowd, so FCUK the fashion industry, and dare to be different!
I get it, we are all longing to be accepted, but in the process, our minds have become polluted with an unsustainable lust for material things. Just as men are striving for more respect from their peers, it seems women, above all else, just want to be valued, but that value needs to come from within.
To add to the problem, social media has now become quick to present us with a carefully staged digital image of perfection. The perfect kitchen, the perfect Christmas tree, the perfect vacation. But scratch below the surface and sometimes we find the deep roots of insecurity.
Perhaps this world doesn’t need more skinny women taking selfies in bathroom mirrors. It needs more normal, shaped people doing stuff your Momma used to do. I sometimes wonder if it’s called a “selfie” because narcissistic is too difficult a word to spell? I digress.
No matter where we turn, people are desperate to show you an updated snapshot of their happiness. Facebook has become skilled at bombarding us with images of people having fun. But social media can be a warped distortion of reality where nothing much is the way it seems.
Example: I once watched a young mom take at least ten grinning selfies next to a shimmering hotel swimming pool. Standing off to one side was a small child in a damp polka dot bikini complaining that she was cold and hungry. Given the time it took this lady to get the perfect selfie I suspect the kid with the tears in her eye failed to make it to the final cut. Maybe a better name for Facebook would be to call it Fake-book. I guess one advantage of not having a Facebook profile is, you really don’t have to worry whether people “like” you or not … just sayin.
What did we learn from this?
Stress can also come from having too little money while trying to own too many things. It can also come from the media, and yes, even social media. We can quickly reduce our stress levels by finding a problem that’s bigger than we are. Stress can also make us more acidic.
Homework: Please check out my new book