Eons ago, there was a time when stress was radically different from today’s stress. Wild animals would chase a man seeking food for his family, triggering his fight-or-flight response. This response prompted certain physical changes within his body to get him out of the challenging situation.
Today, our body under stress still resorts to that same response, except we no longer are running from wild animals – we are trying to meet deadlines or worry over financial concerns. But our physical reaction is still the same:
- Heart rate speeds up circulating more blood to the brain for quick thinking.
- Blood flow increases to large leg and arm muscles, providing quick speed.
- Increased blood sugar, providing quick energy.
- Blood clots more quickly after a wound or an injury preventing blood loss.
These responses are great when you need to fight or flee but not necessary when you need to relax and reduce anxiety.
Everyone responds to stress differently. But if stress hangs like a dark cloud casting its shadow over your life, or continually comes to a boiling point, your health and quality of life will be negatively affected sooner than later. For example, those nagging headaches, insomnia, or reduced productivity at work may actually be due to constant stress.
Our fast-paced, modern age of technology makes us struggle to keep up with day-to-day responsibilities as tension rises possibly leading to chronic health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and a weakened immune system. Even short-term stress can heighten anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, and depression – as well as contribute to erectile dysfunction. When the pressures of life become overwhelming, men may react by resorting to unhealthy habits like drinking too much, smoking, overeating, or using illegal drugs.
Since stress is always a given, understanding ways to dial down its affect, is critical so it doesn’t ruin your health. The next time you feel stress bearing down on you, here are some simple ways to reduce its toxic effect:
- Eat a healthy diet. Nutrition and stress are interlinked; feed your body poorly, and it’ll become one of your biggest enemies by increasing your risk of future health problems, mainly when dealing with stress. Instead, make food your greatest ally by choosing health-promoting foods to help counter the impact of stress. Choose often more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains while cutting back on refined, processed foods. Don’t resort to overeating junk, which puts on pounds.
- Exercise regularly. There is nothing like exercise for burning off pent-up energy, tension, and anxiety. So work in physical activity daily with a walk outdoors, go hiking, play tennis or basketball, anything that gets you moving.
- Get adequate sleep. It’s the little things like having a regular bedtime and avoiding foods/beverages containing caffeine and alcohol several hours before turning in to prevent sleep interruptions, sleeplessness, and anxiety.
- Avoid stressful situations. Easier said than done, but if you can, do so. For example, if rush hour is your stress trigger, avoid it by driving a different route. Can’t stand certain people who stress you out? Avoid them as much as possible.
- Figure out the cause of your stress. Most men like to figure out solutions to problems, so when we deal with the root cause – whatever is creating the tension, in this case – we can usually address it successfully.
- Meditate. You may not consider meditation manly or a good use of time, however, simply closing your eyes in quiet contemplation for five to ten minutes can bring about peace and clear your mind.
- Avoid taking on too many tasks. Over scheduling and always saying “yes” to others can take a toll. Avoid overpromising, and allow time to complete what you start before accepting anything else.
- Do what’s most important first on a to-do list. Men tend to be good organizers, but it can be stressful if we have too many tasks to attack. Start with the most crucial task, and then move on to less critical tasks that can wait.
- Take time off for some fun. Everyone needs a break from the same stressful routine and what better way to burn off steam than by doing something fun? Taking time to do what we enjoy calms us down and fosters a sense of relaxation, spontaneity, and well-being.
- Listen to music. Specific music like classical music can have measurable stress-reducing effects for many people. This effect can make you feel more centered and reduce anxiety, depression, and stress-inducing cortisol levels.
- Laugh a little, or a lot. A good belly laugh can have impressive short-term effects. Just by gulping in oxygen-rich air as you guffaw, your heart, lungs, and muscles will be stimulated and your brain will experience an incredible sense of joy from the rush of endorphins. Laughter also temporarily fires up your stress response by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, so you feel relaxed as soon as the response cools down. A sense of humor is also sensational for improving immune function, relieving pain, improving mood, and reducing anxiety and depression.
- Learn to see the big picture of life. No one get through life without having ups and downs – no one. When we consider what is stressing us out by asking ourselves, “How can I see this situation in a different way?” it can remind us that life ebbs and flows, with good days and bad. However, better times will return, and getting through tough times only makes us stronger in the long run.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.