The 800 lb. gorilla on your back
Stress is what happens when too many things don't go your way. People who drive slow in the fast lane cause stress. Working too much overtime causes stress. Getting a parking ticket causes stress. In fact, just thinking about these things makes me feel stressed. But it's important to learn to let things roll off of you. If left unchecked, stress can cause serious health problems.
What to Watch for
- Frequent headaches
- Frequent sweating
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Getting sick frequently
- Change in sleep patterns
- Change in appetite
- Excess guilt or nervousness
- Increased frustration
- Diminished sexual desire
- Social withdrawal
- Increased desire to use drugs or alcohol
Types of Stress
Some anxiety is normal for all of us from time to time. Anxiety disorders, though, are more than temporary worry or fear. It gets in the way of work, school, and relationships.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)- People with GAD are extremely worried about most things in their lives (money, relationships, health), even when there is little or no reason to worry about them.
Acute Stress Disorder- The development of severe anxiety, dissociative and other symptoms that occur within one month after exposure to something really stressful.
Post-traumatic Stress- People suffering from post-traumatic stress experience long lasting memories of traumatic events, such as fighting a battle or being sexually assaulted. Their inability to escape these intense recollections can make them emotionally numb and anxious.
Panic Disorder - People with panic disorder often have: sudden and repeated attacks of fear, physical symptoms during the attack (racing heart, sweating, trouble breathing), feel out of control during a panic attack, worry about having another attack, and avoid places where attacks have occurred in the past.
Social Anxiety - Being anxious in a social setting is not uncommon. Despite wishing to be comfortable, social anxiety manifests itself while being with other people. Even to the point of avoiding these situations all together because of the fear and/or physical discomfort.
Stress can come from many sources, whether they be pressures from work, family or daily responsibilities. It can come from negative life changes like losing a job or divorce. Trauma, such as in the case of war, assault, serious injury, natural disaster or other events, can also cause stress. No matter what the cause, letting stress keep beating on you like you're a steak being tenderized is not a healthy solution.
What can I do?
The goal is not to have zero stress. No human can receive a parking ticket with a smile. The goal is to manage it. There are numerous free apps and a variety of therapies available to help manage stress. In addition to breathing techniques, getting outside, or other everyday tactics to reduce stress, there are several therapies that have been shown to be effective for men.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy helps men make sense of bad memories and work through any guilt associated with them. And Stress Inoculation Training teaches men the skills to reduce their anxiety. Don't let getting rid of stress, stress you out, either. Therapies often don't require long-term professional help.
Check out the Man Therapies section of my office. There you'll find self-help tools and a list of therapists in your area.