To those that know me, I may not seem like the best person to be writing about stress; I’m generally quite laid back. I try to find the funny side of things and my advice for people who are stressing out usually centres around the word ‘chill’. But it wasn’t always this way. So with Men’s Health Week looking at stress and trying to get men to talk about it, I have decided to talk about my own journey through stress, and if bad attempts at humour when dealing with serious issues stress you out, maybe stop reading now.
Stress started to get to me when I was in high school, probably around 15 or 16. I imagine this is when most people start to experience true stress, the kind of stress that has you throwing things across the room, has you arguing with siblings and friends and just generally makes you see red. The combination of school work which is suddenly your reason for living (you do want to go to University don’t you?), social pressures around that age (you are wearing that? Ha, lame) and of course those crazy teenage hormones (I could’ve sworn that wasn’t there before…) makes it a difficult age. I remember being stressed up until at least my late-teens, and at the time I didn’t really think there was anything I could do about it; this is who I am, I am a stressed out person who is just going to spend his life being stressed a lot of the time.
Eventually, I found ways to control my stress, as most of us do (if you haven’t yet, the Men’s Health Forum has some excellent resources to help with handling stress). People handle stress in lots of different ways. I, for example, have a wide range of stress-busters. Sometimes it just means blasting some heavy metal down my headphones, sometimes it means cracking open a cold one and watching some funny TV shows, and for those very stressful days I always have cat videos on YouTube to soothe me. Others have (debatably) better ways of dealing with stress; exercising or drawing for example. And some people develop specific skills to deal with stress and anxiety like mindfulness.
I would like to think this is the path most of us follow; we are stressed as teenagers and when we start to develop into actual adults and begin understanding ourselves we find ways to handle stress. Of course, once you are all grown-up (well done you) the stress doesn’t stop; bills, taxes, work and just generally having to take care of yourself can all become stressful at times, and I think it is these people Men’s Health Week is really for. Talking about stress can really help to get through it, and in my opinion, what that talking should do is show you that it’s not the end of the world. This can be a difficult place for many people to reach, realising the things they are stressing about are only stressful because they allow them to be. Missing your bus is unfortunate and inconvenient, not stressful. Tough day at work? It will pass. Can’t quite thread that needle? Okay, maybe this one is stressful.
I think ultimately it’s about a big picture view of your life, and understanding that 99.9% of the time stressing about something is not going to solve the problem. If you want my rule for when I stress out it is this: can I do something about this right now? If yes, go do it, if no, then what is the point in thinking and stressing about it? You have a whole list of things in your life that require attention, and a stressful problem you cannot do anything about at this moment in time should not be on that list.
As I stated at the beginning of this post, I am no expert on stress, and I certainly am not anyone who has advice you should live by, but there are plenty of words by people much more intelligent than myself you can use to calm down. It’s always brightest before the dawn, it’ll all be okay in the end and if it isn’t, it isn’t the end yet, and probably my favourite: Don’t take life too seriously, you won’t get out alive! (Taken from a t-shirt belonging to a certain 15-year-old me).