Men get stressed and depressed too – they just (traditionally) aren’t as likely to talk about it as women. After all, it’s received wisdom that a strong man relies on himself. He doesn’t go blurting it all out left, right and centre. Not even to his partner or best mates.

There’s also evidence to suggest that men cope with stress differently from women. They are more likely to shut down or compartmentalise the stressful problems or thoughts.

Another way of looking at it is that men choose fight or flight. ‘Fight’ means ‘deal with it’ – take out the loan, write the email, talk to your manager. ‘Flight’ means ‘ignore it’ or ‘avoid it’ – you don’t understand why what you said upset your partner, so you don’t think about it.

These are coping strategies and they do work. Sometimes. For a time. But not for ever.

Problems put away to the back of your mind don’t go away, still less get solved. They just stay there and fester.

Put enough problems in the back drawer and there’s overload.

That’s why men can suddenly – seemingly out of the blue – feel completely overwhelmed. One more difficult situation – such as a conflict at work  – acts like the last straw on the poor old camel, and suddenly they can hardly get out of bed in the morning.

 

How not to get there.

Particularly in these uncertain economic times, when many of us are having to take on extra tasks and responsibilities at work or are even living with the possibility of redundancy, it’s important to keep in touch with how you are, physically, mentally and emotionally.

How do you do that? Notice. Keep aware, or come back to awareness, of what is happening in your mind, feelings and body.

In particular, keep track of:

  • negative thoughts, thoughts of disappointment, thoughts where you are thinking of the worst possible outcome as a foregone conclusion.
  • depressive feelings or thoughts.
  • withdrawing, feeling isolated.
  • frequent outbursts of feeling, such as anger or tears.

Then there are physical effects. These can be all sorts of things, from headaches to stomach and digestive problems. Anything out of the ordinary which persists is worth taking seriously.

Other effects of too much stress can be:

  • not sleeping, or feeling tired all the time.
  • drinking or smoking too much, or regularly using drugs.
  • loss of interest in home, friends or family.
  • loss of interest in sex.

 

How to cope with stress.

1. Simply staying in touch with what’s going on inside you, your body, mind and feelings, can help you calm down. If you feel overwhelmed come back to your breathing and allow it to settle (this sometimes works better if you concentrate on the out-breath, rather than the in-breath).

2. Meditation is also a brilliant stress buster, especially if practised consistently.

3. Notice your thoughts – both the particular thoughts and their general tendency. Question them. Are you putting two and two together to make minus fifty-five?

4. Deal with problems as they occur. Don’t let them mount up.

5. Know your limits. For example, if you cannot cope with your workload, tell someone, preferably your boss.

6. Resolve conflicts – communicate, listen, aim at resolution, and remember there are other points of view.

7. Take care of yourself physically– make wise food choices, don’t drink too much alcohol or caffeine and exercise.

8. Laugh. Seriously, laughter is a great medicine.

 

And finally, please talk.

Many men habitually ( and again traditionally – obviously this just isn’t true for all men or women) suffer in silence, but talking can help (though choose who to share things with wisely).

If you feel you need support or want to explore what is going on for you, please give me a call.