Stress is for girls

Growing up, I was surrounded by role models who put on a brave face, I observed them go through the most difficult circumstances in their stride. I likened them to the Hindu demi gods from the stories I had been told throughout my childhood, after all, this was my only reference.

We all grow up with a belief system, and for me, it was formed of society having chivalrous, honest and brave people. My dad was (and is) my hero, coming from rags to riches (relatively speaking) with little or no formal education.

As a child, my friends mostly came from working class families, all having a similar history - immigrant parents coming to a western country aspiring for a better quality of life for themselves and their families.

My amigos and I were boisterous, we roamed the streets as if we owned them - playing games like WWF wrestling, football and marbles, with aspirations to buy the shiny sports cars in the dealership at the end of the road.

Our conversations were simple, over exaggerated and most likely containing derogatory comments about each other’s mothers. If we were worried about something in school, be it a bad grade or some complex social situation involving a friend of a friend, we would reassure one another with words of consolation:

'Don’t be a wuss, why you stressing like a girl?’

Ignorance is bliss

Henceforth, the definition of stress in my mind comprised a girl throwing a tantrum, kicking and screaming because she didn’t get to wear the dress she wanted. (I should clarify that neither one of my sisters did this and so I know this definition was absurd), but this was the stereotype I had built up in my head.

Fast forwarded a decade or two and how different my world view has turned out to be.

As adults, we turn glossy-eyed when reminiscing our childhood - the challenges back then seem so much easier than those we face today. Making a decision was a simple transaction with usually two black and white options - not anymore!

Every choice is nuanced with a chain of thoughts, our analytical engine traverses through complex permutations considering variables such as other people’s opinions, mood and reaction before we commit to an option. The probability of going through with something hinges off dimensions which seemed never to exist as a child.

Making decisions is a complex task and the wiser we become to the workings of our world, the more stressful the process.

How to deal with stress?

Whilst in moderation, stress and the adrenaline released helps us get through challenges, copious amounts impact our wellbeing.

My experience has taught me to firstly change my definition. Stress is real. It adversely impacts your health, it makes you irrational, and can lead to anxiety and depression. it fundamentally changes you as a person.

Recognition is key. Being honest with yourself and realising that things aren't quite as they should be is a starting point. Writing things down or talking them through with friends and family can help you with gaining perspective.

Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. There are campaigns which tell us not to go to the doctor unless it’s absolutely necessary, and for most men, it can be a psychological sign of defeat if we need to see a medical professional. It’s a misconception that you should only go to seek help, especially from general practitioner or physician, if you present physical symptoms.

Be under no illusion that stress is very real, it does NOT mean that you are weaker or less able. It’s something that we need to acknowledge and learn how to cope with.

So be a MAN and recognise you’re stressed!

There are many resources that can help you, both online and in your community. If you have a strategy that people should know about, please share in the comments below.

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