The unhealthy effects of stress on men’s health

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The unhealthy effects of stress on men’s health

Everyone experiences stress, no matter what their gender is. Each day, stress is always there, never fully going away. It’s unavoidable, always present in either small or sometimes large doses, but always there.  During our lifetime, stress can be considered good as in watching the birth of your child or going out on a first date.  But then there are the not so good stresses of life – having an argument with your spouse or getting stuck in traffic. 

Everyone responds to stress in their own way but if stress is always in the background sort of like a dark cloud casting its shadow over your life, then it may begin to affect your health.  Those nagging headaches, insomnia, or your reduced productivity at work may actually be due to the buildup of stress rearing its ugly head.

Why men may experience stress differently than women

Both men and women experience stress and women are about twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with a mental health issue.  But consider the fact that men only make about two-thirds as many doctor visits as women do. When a man does go see a doctor, they are often reluctant to talk about what’s really going on especially if it has to do with feelings or mood.  Again, men may not make the connection that the reason for their chronic pain or digestive problems could actually be caused by stress. 

There is also the problem of men who know they have a problem but choose to remain silent, to tough it out suffering on their own without confiding to anyone about it.  Men often have the notion that if they are open and honest about what they are feeling, they will be perceived as weak or that they could lose their job. 

Common effects of stress

When a man ignores symptoms of stress, he may not realize the effect it is having on his body.  Stress symptoms can affect his body, his thoughts and feeling and his behavior.  If stress is left unchecked, it can lead to many health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Here are some common effects on how stress may affect men:

·      Headaches

·      Muscle tension or pain

·      Chest pain

·      Fatigue

·      Change in sex drive

·      Stomach upset

·      Sleep problems

How stress can affect a man’s mood:

·      Anxiety

·      Restlessness

·      Lack of motivation or focus

·      Feeling overwhelmed

·      Irritability or anger

·      Sadness or depression

How stress can affect a man’s behavior:

·      Overeating or undereating

·      Angry outbursts

·      Drug or alcohol abuse

·      Social withdrawal

·      Exercising less often 

Healthy ways men can deal with stress

 Unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate stress from one’s life.  But, what a man can do is to pay close attention to what is causing him to stress out and from there, develop healthy ways to cope with it.

Following are ways a man can help himself to reduce stress in his life.  The more he can practice regularly, the better he will feel and get on with enjoying his life to the fullest:

·      Exercise – Aerobic exercise is particularly good for men as it raises the heartrate with studies showing it can reduce stress by as much as 50%.  

·      Take time to relax – Every man should get in some downtime each day even if it’s only 10 to 15 minutes.  Take a walk, listen to music, or just sit and read. 

·      Choose healthy foods – Good nutrition can help a man manage physical and mental health.  Nourishing the body with healthy foods can keep a man feeling and looking his best.

·      Have some fun – Men need to include more fun in their life.  It could be going to a movie, playing a sport, hanging out with his friends or anything that is low stress and high on fun.

·      Get adequate rest – Adult men require at least 6 hours of sleep each night but preferably 7-8 hours. 

·      Avoid overdoing it on caffeine – Yes, coffee is good for us but more than three cups a day or of any other caffeinated beverage (tea, energy drinks, colas) may make a man too jittery and anxious.

·      Quit smoking – All men know smoking is a bad habit (or at least they should).  Stress and smoking are a bad duo that can lead to dangerous health conditions down the road such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure or increasing the risk of lung cancer.  Men need to talk to their healthcare provider on how to quit smoking.    

·      Avoid self-medicating – Abusing legal or prescription drugs, and having more than seven drinks of alcohol per week will do a man more harm than good by damaging his healthy and raising his stress levels even higher.

·      Spend less time worrying about things you can’t control – There are certain things we can’t control – the weather or someone else’s driving habits.   There is nothing we can do about things that may have happened in the past.  Instead, spend time looking forward making plans for the future.

·      Talk to someone – This may be the hardest thing for some men to do.  Confiding in a trusted spouse or friend, who is not judgmental toward your thoughts or feelings, is a gift.  Having an ally is extremely important for releasing pent-up tension greatly reducing stress levels.