Men’s Health: 10 Tips for Handling Anxiety & Tough TimesIt’s not about “manning up”
Written by Jennifer Xue
Jennifer Xue is an award-winning author with bylines in Forbes, Fortune, Cosmopolitan, and Esquire.
Everyone processes stress differently, and no one is immune to grief.
When Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, suddenly became a widow at age 45, she experienced feelings of tremendous loss. In the beginning, she blamed herself for not taking good care of her husband, which is called “personalization.”
Next, she experienced a sense of sadness that reached every part of her life and felt as if it had been permanent. Psychologist Martin Seligman calls these thoughts “pervasiveness” and “permanence.” Every grieving individual experiences the 3Ps, but the length and the depth might differ.
Men, in particular, have difficulty expressing their anxieties because society has invented abstract definitions of “toughness” and “strength” that males are expected to live up to; as if showing emotion would somehow discount their masculinity.
The thing is, “masculinity” is a fabrication. According to Dr. Earlanger A. Turner, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and university professor, boys learn from an early age to conceal emotions and not show “feminine” traits like crying, looking sad, or being vulnerable. Over the years, bottled up emotions can have a negative impact on mental and physical health and cause relationship issues.
Life pressures can include anything from taking care of a sick family member, to going through a divorce or break-up, to experiencing a financial disaster from an unexpected accident. In this article, we’ll discuss how men can healthily tackle grief and stressors while continuing about their daily lives.
1. Accept things as they are and give time to grieve
When something unfortunate happens, you’re naturally angry. In fact, your stress level might be through the roof. It’s normal. Tell yourself that going through a hard time is part of the process.
You’re working things out. All these negative thoughts and feelings will eventually subside.
2. Channel your energy elsewhere
While you might feel like punching a wall, channel your destructive energy elsewhere. Try exercising and meditating for at least half an hour a day. You might be busy with work, but 30 minutes of energy release is not a luxury; it is a necessity in trying times.
3. Communicate your pains
Share your pains, worries, and anxieties with a close and supportive friend who has proven to be a positive force in your life.
When you’re ready, consider talking to a therapist to help cope with misfortunes through reframing, a tool in cognitive behavioral therapy that allows you to change your perspective and challenge negative thoughts as they emerge.
4. Nothing and no one is to blame
Skip the blame game, even though it’s a part of the process as well. You might feel compelled to blame yourself or someone else at the beginning, which is okay. Just don’t dwell on it. Stop any rumination in its tracks, because the habit is only self-destructive. Remind yourself that nothing and no one is to blame. What has happened has happened, and your focus should be on where to go from here.
5. Take note of the small blessings
Some people have a “gratitude journal.” It’s an excellent idea, wherein you can take note of every single triumph, no matter how small. This could include having lunch with a friend, sending off that e-mail to your supervisor, admiring the blue sky, calling your mother, etc.
6. Be grateful in action
Make your actions reflect gratefulness. In other words, don’t just be grateful in thoughts, but express appreciation by doing something meaningful. This could simply mean smiling more, making eye contact, and holding doors.
Maybe you have the overwhelming responsibility of caring for a sick loved one or handling the reconstruction of a water-damaged house. These tasks can seem daunting, but add a layer of appreciation for it. You are growing in the process.
7. Create a new routine
Create a new routine to distract you from dwelling on negative thoughts. Sometimes going about our usual schedules can be difficult when old tasks are now tinged with a new grief.
A new routine can include small, positive additions like, taking a short stroll at the park after dinner or playing the guitar. Positive daily changes can actually alter brain chemistry, creating new pathways that can help alleviate the effects of stress.
8. Take time for yourself
Choose anything that you’ve been wanting to do. Escape for several days as a necessary refresher. You’re not running away from your issues. You are taking a scheduled recharge so that you can best handle what’s to come next.
Your emotional and psychological health is a valuable asset, so make sure to take good care of it.
9. Don’t Force Things
Let time heal. Don’t force things to go according to your plans, because sometimes what we plan isn’t what we get. Just stay cool, calm, and collected with grace and acceptance.
It’s impossible to control everything. Wanting to “win” or be “alpha” doesn’t equate to being a strong person.
10. Keep Dribbling the Ball
Maintaining productivity during a stressful period isn’t easy, but it’s done through resilience. When you keep dribbling the ball, your mind will focus on tasks at hand instead of inner ruminations and negative thoughts. It allows you to maintain a sense of normalcy and groundedness when most things remain on the same path. Don’t give up your exercise routine, your diet, your sleep schedule, or your attention at work.
While there is no right or wrong in dealing with an issue that is unique to you, we should all strive to experience every struggle in the healthiest manner.
The vessel of life will continue to sail despite changing winds and rough waters. Continue having a positive outlook on life and career, as any storm will eventually pass. As John Grohol, PsyD writes, “there is no easy answer, but grief is temporary, never permanent.”