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Admit It, Men: You’re Stressed

How you can recognize and relieve stress

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Recognizing the symptoms of stress

Before you can change things, you have to recognize the symptoms of stress. Hallowell tells WebMD that stress symptoms may include any of these mild, non-specific afflictions:

  • Feeling tired
  • Forgetfulness
  • Inability to sleep
  • Irritability
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of concentration and an inability to complete projects
  • Muscular and skeletal aches and pains ("A lot of men carry stress in their lower back or neck muscles," Hallowell says.)
  • Recurring headaches
  • Starting to "drink or use to cope," which puts men further behind and gets men into all kinds of trouble

Stress can also cause more severe medical conditions:

  • Chest pains
  • Digestive problems
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated heart rate at rest
  • Sexual problems such as lack of desire, inability to have an erection, or premature ejaculation
  • Skin eruptions

"Virtually every system of the body can be negatively impacted by stress," says Hallowell. That includes your immune system. "And a depressed immune function," he says, "increases the risk of cold and flu, as well as cancer, and - in the worst case - stroke and heart attack." What that means is it really doesn't pay to get anxious.

How men can prevent stress

If you're someone who hates to be told not to worry, it may be because you haven't heard Terry Real's definition: "Worry is having your pain in advance," he says. When you look at it that way, who wants to suffer twice? "You can learn to keep yourself in the present," he says. "Don't project into the future."

Also, admitting vulnerability can be a way of preventing stress. "Men do not like admitting vulnerabilities," says Real, "so we don't go to the doctor." Real asserts that this is the reason women live longer than men. "It has nothing to do with biology; it's that men wait longer to go to a doctor than women do. And when we do, we don't listen to them. That's what denying your vulnerability gets you." While not every health expert will agree with Real on his theory about lifespan and doctor visits, overcoming the vulnerability hurdle is still advice worth heeding.

Why work causes stress in men

When working with men, Real likes to use a variation of the serenity prayer, reminding men of all the things they cannot control. "What I do in helping men to reduce stress is tell them that you don't decrease your helplessness by learning to control things better. You do it by having a more realistic sense of what you can control." To illustrate, he plays a stress relief game, asking a man to move a box of Kleenex with his mind. Then he reminds him of how often men are asked to do the impossible in their jobs. Job stress can take a major toll on a man's health.

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