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Maybe your right eye starts twitching when you glimpse your receding hairline in the mirror. Or perhaps you fling sofa pillows across the room every time your team loses. This isn’t mere annoyance rearing its head – it’s bonafide stress, and proof that real anxiety can spring from far more than relationship angst, finances and work.
“These are the little things that men never think about, but should,” says psychologist Glenn Good, PhD, who specialises in male gender issues at the University of Missouri. “They can be chronic and they seriously compromise your health as they stack up.” Indeed, stressed people are 54 per cent more likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes, a 2008 British study found. And a Swedish study from the same year suggests that stress can double a man’s chance of developing diabetes. We polled over 1,500 men to find out which stressors lurk in the backgrounds of their lives. Use our tips so you can focus your energy on what really matters— the rest of your life.
Paying bills, managing debt and sticking to a budget scored highest of all the stressors in our survey. But it’s not about the money, says Thomas Miller, PhD, a University of Kentucky psychologist. “Much financial stress actually has to do with uncertainty – about your money situation, yes, but that really means your job. Not knowing specifics about where you stand eats at you like acid.”
De-Stress Yourself: Go on a fact-finding mission, Miller says. Ask your boss how you fit into the company’s plans or what you can do to make yourself more valuable. If he pauses or doesn’t appear truthful, push him with questions such as “Can you be more specific?”. “The more answers you’re given about your situation, the more clarity you’ll have – and clarity equals control,” Miller says.
More than half the men in our poll felt stressed about their image and many specified hair loss as the mane culprit. They’re not alone: A 2005 Mayo Clinic Proceedings review cites multiple studies showing that male pattern baldness negatively affects men’s feelings of attractiveness.
De-Stress Yourself: Reframe the problem as a medical issue, Good suggests. Treating hair loss with transplants costs $3,500 on average, while drug or supplement treatments can cost as much as $100 a month, for decades. Run the numbers and decide if the expense is truly worth it, Good says. If it is, then go for it. But if you think you can deal with it as a mere medical inconvenience, you’ll be better able to rest easy.
How’s this for a bitter irony: Exercise is a well-known stress buster, yet nearly a third of the men we polled rated sticking to an exercise programme a 7 or higher on a 10-point stress scale. First, you stress about missing a workout or not exercising at all. Second, as you attempt to carve out time to exercise, your stress skyrockets as you cram in all the other things you need to accomplish that day. “That struggle may affect how and what you’re eating,” Miller says, “and now your food intake becomes a stressor.”
De-Stress Yourself: Miller suggests portion control – for your workout schedule. Shrink your exercise “portions” by boosting intensity: Turn your cardio routine into a shorter, interval workout that alternates sprints with your normal pace. (You’ll also boost fat-burning this way.) If you’re lifting weights, cut your between-set rest in half. Go from a minute to 30 seconds between each of 12 sets and you’ll save 6 minutes. Then look for ways to condense other activities: showering, cooking, surfing the Net and so forth. You have the time. You simply have to own it.