How To Get On Top Of Stress

Overwhelmed at work but can’t see a way out? Or maybe it’s your partner who’s constantly on edge gruelling work schedule. Either way you’re not alone.

Research consistently shows that men are less likely than women to seek support for stress and mental health, or even recognise it as a problem. The Men’s Health Forum set up a confidential on-line chat service for men experiencing stress, depression and anger. Mental health organisation The McPin Foundation analysed 50 of the anonymous online conversations between men and chat group volunteers, and found that many men lacked knowledge about mental health and weren’t sure what their problem was, or if it was serious enough to go to a doctor for.[1] 

Men’s biggest source of stress? The nine to five grind.

And for most men, the cause of that stress is work pressure. According to mental health charity Mind, men are significantly more likely to experience stress and mental health issues as a result of their job, and significantly less likely to seek help. [2]

Mind spoke to 15,000 workers, of whom 1763 had experienced mental health challenges. A third of men surveyed attributed the stress to their job, with only 14% coming from other factors. By contrast, women found work and outside factors equally stressful. The survey also found that men were significantly less likely to talk about the impact their job was having on their wellbeing or the level of stress they were under. They were also less likely to take time off when things became too much, and more likely to manage their stress alone by drinking, watching TV or exercising.

Another study by the UK Men’s Health Forum backs this up, with 34% of men surveyed agreeing or strongly agreeing that they were “constantly feeling stressed or under pressure”. Middle-aged men in particular (45-59) were likely to experience the highest levels of stress and feel the least satisfaction with their life.[3]

The dangers of stress

While it’s easy to brush off stress as an evitable part of normal life, the chronic pressure we’re under is actually causing us serious harm. Chronic stress has been linked to Type II diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and even some forms of cancer. On a more immediate level, it makes us irritable, anxious and often, not a lot of fun to be around.

So if men are more likely to experience stress and poor mental health, what can we do?

The first step to better managing stress is understanding what causes it. The infographic below outlines some of the key causes of stress, and how it impacts the body.

Stress infographic

Why blobbing out is the worst way to manage stress

Looking at the above infographic, there’s probably one item that catches your eye: TV. If you often zone out in front of the box after a hectic day, you might wonder what we’re talking about with this one. Turns out TV might do us more harm than good.

That’s because the time we spend in front of the TV tends to put us behind on other more pressing tasks. While we’re slumped on the couch, we’re not paying the bills, doing the laundry, cleaning the house or working out. In other words, the stress of not completing the tasks that we need to get done actually makes us more overwhelmed, stressed and ultimately more exhausted.

And with the average American spending four hours per day watching TV, just think about what else you could be doing with that time rather than staring at a screen. [4]

If not TV then what?

So if TV’s not the answer, what’s the best way to manage stress?

Get moving – Working out is one of the best ways to kick stress to the curb. As well as providing a beneficial timeout, exercise releases endorphins which help us feel more positive and able to cope with the things life throws at us. Breaking a sweat also helps lower our levels of cortisol, the hormone that causes all the negative impacts of stress like poor sleep, poor blood sugar control and fatigue.

Aim to exercise 3-5 times per week, doing a mix of cardio and resistance training. No time for a big gym sesh? No problem. Even a 15-minute walk outside will make a big difference.

Fuel Up – What do you do when you’re trying to meet a deadline at work? If you’re anything like most people, you’ll skip lunch and get through the day on a couple of coffees and a chocolate bar. But while you might think you’re saving time, not eating proper meals or relying on junk food is actually counter-productive.

Long periods of time without food combined with consumption of highly refined carbs, sugar and caffeine is a recipe for widely fluctuating blood sugar levels. While that jolt of coffee will help you focus for a short period of time, about an hour later when the caffeine wears off, it’ll suddenly become a lot harder to concentrate.

And while most of us are familiar with the risks of eating refined food, it turns out that eating junk food when you’re stressed is even more harmful to your body. Under stress, your cortisol and blood sugar levels are already naturally higher. Adding carbs and sugar to that just raises those levels even higher, significantly increasing your risk of developing insulin resistance and Type II diabetes.

Set things straight – Making a list might feel like the last thing you have time for when you’re really overwhelmed, but creating a set of priority tasks actually helps make things more manageable. When you know what you need to achieve and in which order, you can focus on what you actually need to get done, rather than trying to keep track of all the things you’re juggling. Striking things off your list is also a satisfying demonstration that you’re making progress.  

Find active ways to relax – Swap the TV for more beneficial ways to relax - hit the gym or go for a run, catch up with a mate, read a book or do a hobby you enjoy such as cooking or DIY.

A little helping hand – If you’re having trouble switching off or stress is impacting your sleep, you may want to consider a little extra support. Certain nutrients can help support the body through times of stress and manage the associated symptoms.


[1] Sweet, D. Men’s Mental Health: Research into online stress support for men. August 17, 2017.
[2] Third of men with poor mental health blames jobs, says Mind. 09 August, 2017.
[3] New service to help men beat stress (before it beats them). 13 June 2016.
[4] Stibich, M. Top Reasons to turn off your TV. March 21, 2017.

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