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Despite how much we have advanced as a species, we still have a tendency to stereotype genders and how they cope with stress.
Since time immemorial, men have been conditioned to act in a number of predetermined ways which are deemed ‘’manly’’ by society. Stoic, quiet men who are not in touch of their feelings and ‘’do what they have to do’’ are considered cultural staples – the Marlboro man is a symbol of male individualism and independence, while actors such as Gary Cooper and Marlon Brando played variants of this archetype.
How Men Cope with Stress
That is why, due to societal pressures and the stigma associated with expressing emotions, men have retorted to alternative, unhealthy ways to cope with stress and depression, which were also deemed gender-appropriate in the past. Unfortunately, even though social mores have changed, men still apply these methods to escape the stresses of daily life.
Here are three dangerous ways men cope with stress and depression.
Don’t Quit Smoking if You are Under Stress
Even though the negative health effects of smoking have been extensively documented for the last 60 years, there are still people who crave after a cigarette when stress overtakes your life and it feels like too much to handle.
For the sake of this article, let us get one thing out of the way right from the get-go: smoking relieving stress is a huge myth. On the contrary, it increases stress levels due to nicotine, a substance that causes tension and anxiety.
The reason why people who may be under stress feel relaxed when smoking is because, at its core, the addiction is of a psychological nature. In other words, when you become addicted, your mood is reliant on them. Nicotine spends about 20 minutes to 30 minutes in your body before exiting your system. This triggers a vicious cycle that once set; it is very, very hard to escape: when you don’t smoke, you crave a cigarette and as soon as you puff, you feel better for a short time and the anxiety returns full force.
In recent years, governments have managed to cut down smoking by increasing the prices and banning tobacco advertisement, but despite this, it is still a widespread phenomenon in some parts of the world. Initially, tobacco companies heavily targeted their advertisements towards working men, both blue and white collar to the point where smoking was considered ‘’masculine’’. This attitude persists in some Asian countries, where men who do not smoke are stigmatized.
And that is why many men like women, often smoke to cope with stress. But today, no matter your problems, worries and gender, people will not look down on you for not smoking, they will even encourage you to quit for the sake of your health and your family’s. There are many methods to quit smoking that you should consider, none better than the other, from nicotine patches, chewing on gum or just quitting cold turkey.
If you want to succeed, the most important thing, contrary to popular belief, is not to attempt quitting in stressful times, whether family or career-related. Doing this will only cause you frustrations and make future attempts even harder.
Take a gradual approach by gently reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke, on a weekly basis. Start with two cigarettes, then progress with four, six and so on. Do not feel guilty if you will occasionally mess up your quota. Do this and one day, you will not crave cigarettes anymore.
Danger of Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption is another unhealthy way men cope with stress. While a single beer or a glass of red wine can be good after a hard day at the office, it becomes a problem when you crave alcohol every time you feel stressed out. Using alcohol to take the edge off is not indicated for a number of reasons.
This is what usually happens: first, you drink every time a major stressful event happens. But life is full of these, and sooner rather than later, you will end up looking for the bottle even after minor inconveniences, like when your neighbors are noisy, or you had an awkward encounter at the convenience store. Eventually, this will lead to full-blown alcoholism.
Alcohol does not reduce levels of stress because it can dehydrate you which, a condition which, ironically, causes stress. Like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption triggers a vicious cycle that could lead you to painkillers, prescription medications and drugs.
The main difference, in this case, is that your family and loved ones will be more directly affected by your habits. Sooner rather than later, your professional career will be affected and you will be wondering how to pass a drug test using home remedies.
When it comes to excessive alcohol consumption, prevention is easier than treatment. If you have reached the point in which you can’t function without taking a sip, go to a specialist as soon as possible. The doctor will recommend going to a rehab clinic or following a strict treatment that will ease you off the alcohol. Do not try to quit cold turkey, because alcohol withdrawal is potentially fatal, and the symptoms will drive you back to the bottle.
Excessive Eating and Stress
Eating half a bar of chocolate when we feel down is fine, we all do this from time to time. But if emotional eating becomes a habit as a mechanism to cope with stress and depression, it is time to take action. Overeating or emotional eating to compensate for the sadness caused by a messy breakup or the stresses associated with hours-long commutes to work is not recommended.
Various studies show a correlation between high levels of stress and eating habits. Like smoking and alcohol, excessive eating or emotional eating will not lower your stress levels or cure your depression; it will only increase it to a point where eating will progress from a coping mechanism into a method to handle life in general.
It does not help that when we feel down, we don’t crave a salad or an apple, we turn exactly to the type of foods that can perpetuate this destructive cycle – foods high in sugar, fat or both.
Once they enter the system, the part of the brain that handles stress and emotions is inhibited, which explains why these foods seem to treat them, but only on the surface. After a while, overeating can cause high blood pressure, obesity and other types of diseases.
There are many ways to counter overeating. Exercising is one of the most obvious solutions, although it might be harder to get into if you suffer from depression or are going through a tough phase. Nevertheless, it is known that exercising on a regular basis can reduce stress levels. You do not have to exercise intensely – picking up low-intensity activities such as tai chi and yoga will do the trick.
In conjunction with exercising, meditating is a perfect way to reduce stress and counter overeating in the process. With practice, you might learn through meditation how to abstain from overeating and how to lead a more disciplined life. Meditation can also lower the levels of blood pressure and prevent heart diseases, two conditions that can be triggered by emotional eating.
As they come of age, enter the workforce and start their own families, men find coping with life’s hardships, like stress and depression, harder and harder.
Due to the destructive mentality that men should never share their emotions and various other societal pressures, they turn to alternative ways of coping with stress and depression, like excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and overeating, habits that should have become obsolete until now.
But today, society has advanced, and men are not stigmatized anymore for being emotional and dealing with their problems in healthy fashion.
This is a guest post from Mike Jones <http://twitter.com/mike_jones35>, who is a health blogger.