“I can’t watch the UFC with you guys this weekend, I am going for a 2-day spa retreat with my girlfriend,” Mike told us. I knew exactly what the guys were thinking from the look on their faces. Stress relief for men is almost seen as a crime in some circles. A sign that you are not “man enough” to handle your problems.
I don’t know about you, but I used to hate admitting when I am stressed out. I liked to give off an aura of a man who can handle anything that comes his way. Throwing my hands up and saying “This is too much for me” felt like I was letting everyone down.
So I never gave myself the time to fully rest and recover. Spending money to go pamper myself for two days wouldn’t even cross my mind and I know all my friends would laugh at me if I did.
Most of us only feel like we are being productive when we are crushing our goals. And this is a problem for a lot of men I know. We tend to create stress out of stress.
This fuels negative thoughts and self-judgments, further affecting our ability to manage stress. A small problem can then feel like we are trying to crawl our way out of a black pit of despair.
Here is the thing though: stress isn’t the problem.
It’s an unavoidable part of modern life and it actually fuels our growth. Without healthy doses of stress, there would be no advancements in the world.
The problem is not spending enough time resting and recovering. Stress relief for men is seen as a luxury and not an essential part of their health and wellbeing. What happens then is our bodies start craving “quick fix” solutions to calm us down.
Watching TV, hours surfing the net, smoking, drinking alcohol, drugs, porn, gambling can easily turn into addictions. Creating more problems in the long run than they solve.
Why It’s Important for Men to Destress
It can feel quite counter-intuitive to accept we need to destress before we can take on any more stress. Because when we are relaxing stuff isn’t getting done. And the way to get rid of our stress is to get more shit done, right? Wrong!
Growth happens in recovery. So if we want to carry a great load in life, we need to treat our rest and recovery as seriously as we treat our goals. Stress relief for men needs to be as important as goal crushing.
I am not advocating that we eliminate stress altogether. We have roles and responsibilities to perform each day and we shouldn’t shy away from the challenges. What I am suggesting is that we actively block out enough time each week to recharge so we can attack our challenges with more vigor and energy.
As Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said “We must never be too busy to take time to sharpen the saw”.
Modern-day demands from work, relationships, financial pressure and other situations can pose major threats to a man’s wellbeing. If steps are not taken to destress then it can damage your physical and health as well as your relationships.
Here are the main reasons why it’s important to destress for men:
You will live a longer life
We are designed to handle small doses of stress at a time. It can be a motivator. Our body's “fight/flight” system activates us to take action. But when there are too many stressors or the body becomes triggered too easily then it can be detrimental to our health.
When we are stressed, our heart rate increases, our breathing gets heavier, our muscles tense up, blood is diverted away from our organs and towards our arms and legs as our bodies get ready for battle.
We could be sitting in our office, but our body is ready to battle a sabertooth tiger.
Living under constant tension and stress places major pressure on our body systems and organs. Chronic stress has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, migraine, back pain, a weakened immune system and even cancer.
You will be more effective at work
When we are stressed, our brain sees incoming information as threatening. This reduces our ability to cooperate with people. Everyone is seen as a possible threat to us. All it takes is a certain look or tone of voice to get you flipping out at people.
Our ability to take in new information and think strategically is also hampered, meaning we can make bad decisions which creates even more stress. Men experiencing high levels of stress will be more prone to insomnia, anxiety, fatigue and depression.
Stress relief for men will help you come across as more cool, calm and collected at work. People will start looking to you for leadership and you may even start getting signs from that cute work colleague.
You will be more attractive to women
If there is one thing I know a woman wants in a man, it's an ability to be present and in the moment with her. When you are under high levels of stress, you could be talking to the most beautiful woman in the world but your mind will distract you.
This makes you come across as nervous, awkward and sometimes weird in conversation. Stress makes us do and say things we wouldn’t otherwise. You can’t put your best self forward with women if you are always stressed.
Finding ways to destress for men, will make you more present to the moment. This means you will come across as more relaxed and conversation will flow smoother.
More people will be drawn to you
No one wants to approach that constantly stressed-out guy who snaps at everyone. If that’s you and having a limited social circle is also one of your stressors, then you’re creating a vicious cycle. You have no friends because you’re stressed out, and you’re stressed out because you have no friends.
Once you learn to deal with stress, you’ll become a little less high-strung and maybe a little more friendly. Your posture will be more relaxed and you’ll be able to focus on building connections with others.
Stress Relief for Men: 5 Things to Do
Having the right tools in place to deal with stress is not only going to help you deal with day-to-day pressures. It also means you will ward off depression, live a healthier life and have better relationships.
Stress relief for men is arguably the most important life skill you could ever learn.
Not having the right stress relief plan in place could lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms that end up creating more problems than they solve. Here are my personal top 5 ways to destress for men:
Connect with nature to relieve stress
Our environment has a huge impact on our well-being. An unpleasant environment can agitate our stress levels, whereas a pleasant environment will drastically reduce it.
It’s scientifically proven that being in nature for 90 minutes reduces repetitive negative thoughts and brings us into a state of relaxation. Even just looking at scenes of nature or having a plant in your home can have a similar effect.
So next time you are feeling high levels of stress, get the hiking boots out and go connect with nature.
Hit the gym for stress relief
By hitting the gym, you will relieve stress in the short term and be better able to confront emotional challenges outside of the gym. Any kind of fitness or movement will help reduce stress levels.
The most important thing is to pick an activity you enjoy. Examples include walking, yoga, martial arts, swimming, jogging and weightlifting.
Take some deep breaths
Stress affects our breathing. It results in faster, heavier and shallower breathing, which in turn agitates our mind and increases our stress levels.
Breathwork has become a popular way to destress for men. Controlling your breath will help calm the body. Using prolonged exhalations is one way to relax the body. Try this exercise.
Inhale for 4 seconds, exhale for 6 seconds. Repeat for 5+ minutes.
Embrace stress to relieve stress
A manic society breeds into us that we should accept responsibility for things we have no control over. It’s not uncommon to hear statements such as “I don’t care about effort, I care about results”. We end up stressing about things we can’t change, which leads to procrastination.
Procrastination creates “unfinished business” that drains more energy than it takes to actually get the task done. I create “stress appointments” to take care of “unfinished business”.
For example, if I am stressed out because I am not making enough sales, then I will schedule 2 hours each day to focus on prospecting. Once the time is up, I switch off. I will schedule another 2 hours tomorrow where I can give it my undivided attention. Some things we have no control over, but we can choose to show up and give it 100%.
Cut out screen time
Any mindless screen sucking activity is the quickest way to waste your day. According to studies, the average person spends around 3 hours scrolling through social media and surfing the net. The problem here is that we are just wasting time. We are not facing our stressors head-on nor are we in full recovery mode. We are just escaping reality for a moment.
By cutting out screen time, you are creating space for that workout, walk in the park or quality time with your family. By creating time for activities that help you recover means you will be more energized to face your challenges.
So on that note, why not turn off your screen? Go move, breathe, socialize, get a massage. Do whatever allows you to recharge so you can face your challenges with renewed energy tomorrow.