Have you ever felt as if your life wasn’t yours anymore but somehow you’ve adapted yourself to your new life to a point that getting back to your old life now seems strange and yet amazingly refreshing? Maybe you have or maybe you are just rolling your eyes right now. Well, whatever. That, in a nutshell, is my excuse for not blogging for a while. Oh and also a lame ‘I am back’ announcement at that.
So as I sat down to write, somehow all I could think about was my friend, a reader of my blog, who always had a few words nice to say about my writing, however bad it was. We knew each other not for long, but every time I met him, he used to have this broad smile on his face which never faded away. He had a special gift, in those few minutes you spend with him, he will make you feel good about yourself, an ability that I have always admired. He was…a good guy. So wonderful that his maker decided to meet with him early.
His death shook us all who knew him, and personally it took me some time to come to terms with it. An active volunteer for many organizations, a non-smoker, non-alcoholic, vegetarian gym-goer and a well-read person who respected people…and who was just 33 years old. That’s not someone you would expect to get a massive heart attack!
As we stood in shock looking at him sleep ever so peacefully, all that screamed in our head was ‘how the hell did that happen to him?’. Days later we got our answer. It stood out to us like a sore thumb – the constant stress he had been in and how his smile had hidden it all.
Those times we have listened to our friend’s horror stories of hair loss due to their stress, or the endless nights we haven’t been able to sleep due to our troubles..yes, we are all aware of how stress affects our life, but we tend to ignore it. We don’t do anything to manage it. If however medical results show that we have high bp or diabetes, we take the necessary steps to get them controlled. We just don’t give that level of importance to stress, the way it deserves. Maybe because we think our low stress wouldn’t really be the death of us.
But I have news for you, being in constant stress is now as important a risk factor for heart attack as smoking or high blood pressure.
According to a recent study, researchers have found that chronic stress increases the risk of heart disease. When we are stressed, an area of the brain (called ‘amygdala’) that deals with stress, signals to the bone marrow to produce extra white blood cells, which in turn causes inflammation of arteries, to create the conditions for a heart attack. (No, I am not making these words up. Do check this and this for more info on how stress leads to heart attack and stroke).
So hopefully this will help us take our stress more seriously. Because currently, it has become a part of our life. Most of us are so used to being stressed, we often don’t know we are stressed until we are at the breaking point. Many would even argue women’s stress is more compared to men’s…but I think that’s only because women accept and report it when they are stressed, whereas our dear men keep it to themselves.
That’s the thing about men and stress. Most of them don’t manage it as effectively as women. Women have an outlet, men don’t share stuff. Women are more likely to read an article that gives them information on how to reduce stress in their life, compared to men. That’s men for you. They are beautiful beings, but somehow have got into their heads that they should be able to handle everything that life throws at them. They worry about a lot of things and are unbelievably good at keeping it to themselves.
And so, since our men don’t know how to share their stressors (what causes stress) with us, I thought I will come up with a list of men’s stressors. The next time you are stressed and don’t want to express what you are going through in so many words to your special someone, just point them to the stress number on the list. And hopefully, they will know how to help you with it.
Stressor # 10 – Competitive spirit
With men, everything is a competition. If his friend has bought a house, he needs to buy an equally big house, if his colleague had bought an item on sale, he keeps searching until he finds an even better deal for that item, if his friend had authored a book, he doesn’t quit until he authors one. Men have this constant need to show they are equal to or better than their peers. True, sometimes a little stress will motivate us to push ourselves to do better, but when the stress level increases everyday and we are constantly comparing ourselves with whoever we are talking to, it is definitely going to affect our health.
As a first step to prevent this stressor, stop wanting others to look at you with raving eyes all the time! Run in your own lane. Others don’t care about us as much as we think they do. In simpler words, whenever you catch yourself comparing and competing, explain to yourself the way you would explain to your kid.
Stressor # 9 – Doctor visits
Most men hate going to the doctor, and put off doctor’s visits until it is absolutely necessary. They think they are invincible, and that they are made to conquer things. To them a doctor’s visit is a burden and takes time off their precious work. Some of them stress about what the doctor is going to find in their annual checkup, and decide to postpone making appointments, until something big happens. After which they stress out imagining the worst.
Why postpone visits and then worry about problems later? You may be completely healthy for all that you know.
Stressor # 8 – Trying to be a movie hero
Men have this weird notion that they are expected to be a sturdy rock at all times. Even in the worst situations, they feel they are expected to ‘man up’, be a pillar of support to others while hiding their own emotions. Of course, all our movie heroes have done their part in making our men think this way. Men hate to express feelings of helplessness. They love to be looked at as problem solvers not as one with problems. So they suppress their little anxieties, fear, sorrow and pain while putting up a brave front fooling everyone but their heart.
Men, please stay human. Sharing your troubles with someone, getting to know someone else is facing the same issue as you, would be good for you. You wouldn’t be considered any less than before. Express your disappointment, grief, or any feelings that you have, with someone. If nothing, it will help you stay alive!
Stressor # 7 – Men’s personal definition of success
Most men define success by what they own. They can have a degree behind their name, a good bank balance, a sweet family, but that doesn’t make them feel successful in life. They don’t feel they have gotten anywhere in life until they have bought a house, a car, some insurance policies and one or two lands which they are never going to set foot on. They keep doubting their self worth until all of these are accomplished. The stress of not being successful enough keeps tugging at them until they move mountains to make it all happen.
Men, remember you are already a success story when you took shape in your mother’s womb. Every additional day outside is a feather to your crown. But these lines won’t help you. Just remember, life is very short. Don’t overburden yourself trying hard to buy things you wouldn’t take with you when you go meet your maker.
Stressor # 6 – Family politics
It’s uncanny how some men can never seem to understand that it is impossible to please everyone in the family. Men, for the sake of your beating heart, please stop believing that you can be the good guy to everyone! You are just fooling yourself if you think it is humanly possible. You keep forgetting that your mother, father, brother, sister, wife are all separate individuals, and that they don’t share a brain. Someone’s definitely going to hate you, accept it, don’t get worked up about it. Don’t have a perfect image of a family in your head and stress yourself when real life is completely opposite.
Try to accept people for who they are. Think about it. It is so difficult to change yourself, so how can you change someone else?
Stressor # 5 – Nagging
Another important but highly neglected reason for stress amongst men – nagging. Studies have shown that men who have demanding partners, nagging parents/children, have a high level of stress which can negatively affect their health. If you love the men in your life – please don’t nag them. As simple as that.
Stressor # 4 – Money-minded family members
And there exists some families who cannot differentiate their sons from an ATM. All they have to do is press the right buttons and out comes the money. Some of them even keep postponing their son’s marriage, just so that they can enjoy the privileges of having a son spend his entire money on them. In their mind, they have a son, and it is a son’s duty to take care of their family. They don’t worry themselves about the money-crunch their son might or might not have. God save the man who has less money in his bank account and who stresses himself trying to explain how he can’t afford to shell out 50k on another one of his dad’s friend’s daughter’s marriage, and not come out as an ungrateful son who btw, doesn’t earn enough. Add to that a daily dosage of emotional blackmailing, there you have it, a neat recipe for heart problems.
Men, learn to say NO at times. A two-letter word that requires much practice. Remember, even God doesn’t answer all our prayers.
Stressor # 3 – Work pressure
Of course, work related stress would definitely be on the list. Some men work 10 hours a day, don’t get enough sleep. but after everything still don’t feel recognized in their workplace which crushes their spirit. Low salaries, excessive workloads, odd work hours and not having work-growth are all constant stress factors for men. When your life is full of nothing but work and obligations, naturally you tend to feel bitter, resentful, depressed and stressed out all the time. The feeling of being in low stress all the time, tends to add up and affect your heart.
Men, remember your work is going to be there even tomorrow. But you may be not. Learn to set work-life boundaries and get a social life outside of work to de-stress.
Stressor # 2 – Losing a job
Call me crazy, but for most of the men, losing a job is a million times more stressful on their heart than losing a limb. Their weird handsome brain somehow equates job to masculinity that if they don’t possess a job, they don’t consider themselves a man. Getting fired turns their world upside down and they cower into a invisible shell of self loathing and why-me’s. Unable to handle this stress, they snap at everyone which gives them a false sense of power. The problem is men always think themselves as providers. At least most of them do. Not wanting to be seen as vulnerable beings, they don’t share their anxiety and fear of the future with others.
Men – please stop identifying yourself with your job. Your life is worth more than your job, so think about it before stressing yourself out. Think of losing a job as a temporary setback, not as if you have been given the death sentence.
Stressor # 1 – Job security
At one point, all of Visu’s movies showed how men love a government job mainly for it’s job security. Some studies have shown than men feel more stressed out while worrying about losing their job, than actually losing their job. Why you ask? Ongoing ambiguity about the future and their inability to take action unless the feared event actually happens, makes them constantly be in stress. In fact, one study showed that chronic job insecurity was a stronger predictor of poor health than either smoking or hypertension.
When you fear about a job loss, prepare yourself by boosting your skills, networking with people and socializing. Take up yoga or some physical activity to take your mind off your stressors.
Remember, we all deserve to be happy. Everybody gets stressed, yes. But how to effectively manage stress, that is an art. Some people resort to smoking and over-eating to reduce their stress, putting them even more at risk.
Now that we know for a fact stress is linked to cardiovascular disease, maybe we should look at effective ways to reduce stress. I am speaking more to myself than to you now, as the stress factor is too high for me currently. The stressor for me, you ask? Will get to it in my next post..until then, listen to music, do what you enjoy, with the people you enjoy.