Over time these stressors can trigger a variety of health problems from high blood pressure or heart disease, to stomach ulcers, diminished brain functioning and even decreased immune defenses. Stress impacts everybody at one time or another, and the symptoms can include headaches, muscle pain, chest pain, fatigue and upset stomach. But stress also manifests itself in ways that men tend to ignore or dismiss:
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Irritably or anger
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased alcohol or other substance use
- Sadness or depression
If you are feeling overwhelmed or hopeless, have suicidal thoughts, or are abusing drugs or alcohol, it's important to get help immediately from a qualified mental health care provider. And to help manage and reduce the impact of ongoing stress in your life, try some of these tips:
- Get proper health care for existing or new health problems.
- Stay in touch with people who can provide emotional and other support. Ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations to reduce stress due to work burdens or family issues, such as caring for a loved one.
- Set priorities – decide what must get done and what can wait, and learn to say no to new tasks if they are putting you into overload.
- Practice positive reinforcement, and make note of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
- Exercise regularly. Just 30 minutes per day of gentle walking can help boost mood and reduce stress.
- Schedule regular times for healthy and relaxing activities.
- Explore stress coping programs, such as the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction classes offered at El Camino Hospital, and provided by Awareness and Relaxation Training (A.R.T.)
This article first appeared in the February 2014 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.