This feature has been produced in partnership with Queensland Health
It’s the end of another working day and it’s only Wednesday. You’re drained. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Chilling to an episode of Game Of Thrones can’t help your worries this time and to make things worse you’ve brought home that hundred-page report to accompany your fancy organic microwaved meal.
When the pressure is on and your brain begins to turn stress into a debilitating thought pattern, there’s a high chance you’re experiencing anxiety, an unforgiving beast that takes no prisoners as it quietly breaks you from the inside.
Mental health initiative beyondblue states that one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage in their life. Those odds are pretty daunting, but what exactly is anxiety and why should you care?
For starters it can turn your daily routine into a losing battle without you even knowing.
Every man has experienced stress in their life whether it be over work, relationships, money or just giving a best man’s speech. Whilst this kind of stress is normal in today’s society, it usually stops once the testing situation has passed.
Anxiety is a condition that takes this to the next level by prolonging the stress way beyond what it needs to be via a snowballing effect of negativity.
The tell-tale signs of anxiety are broad depending on a person’s individual circumstances, but they can usually be identified around common themes of persisting personal insecurities like:
- What if I did it wrong?
- What if it’s not good enough?
- Why don’t they like me?
- What if I can’t?
Anxiety essentially causes you to worry excessively and to see a catastrophe in every situation. Seeing threats and danger where it doesn’t actually exist or overreacting to minor situations is also a sign that you may be experiencing anxiety.
In real world terms that could mean something as obvious as checking the doors and windows three times before you leave the house like Jack Nicholson in the movie As Good As It Gets or it could be something a bit less obvious like feeling irritable or spacey and lacking the ability to concentrate and make rational decisions.
‘Sucking it up like a man’ is an archaic way of thinking. Seeking help is never a sign of weakness – it’s the first step to finding a solution for getting back to a healthier and happier you. The solution is easier than you think too: Identify first and then seek the right help to get you back to your A-game.
Seeking help is never a sign of weakness – it’s the first step to finding a solution.
Types Of Anxiety Men Experience
Anxiety affects different people in different ways. These are the symptoms of the types of anxiety that men can commonly experience.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
A person who feels anxious on most days or worries about lots of different things, for a period of six months or more.
A person who has an intense fear of being criticised, embarrassed or humiliated, even in everyday situations, such as speaking publicly, eating in public, being assertive at work or making small talk.
A person who is very fearful about a particular object or situation and may go to great lengths to avoid it. A common example would be having an injection or travelling on a plane, but there are many different types of phobias.
A person who experiences panic attacks, which are intense, overwhelming and often uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms. A panic attack may bring upon shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and excessive perspiration. The event can be so intense that people experiencing a panic attack think they are having a heart attack or are about to die. Recurring panic attacks or fears that last longer than a month means you have panic disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
A person who has ongoing unwanted or intrusive thoughts and fears that cause anxiety. Although the person may acknowledge these thoughts as irrational, they often try to relieve their anxiety by carrying out certain behaviours regardless. The most common one is a fear of germs which leads to the constant washing of hands and a reluctance to touch things.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
This can happen after a person experiences a traumatic event such as war, a disaster or tragic family accident. Symptoms to look out for here include a difficulty in relaxing, disturbing dreams or flashbacks to the event. Naturally those with PTSD will also try to avoid anything related to the event. The onset of this type of anxiety is diagnosed if symptoms last longer than a month.
How To Stop Or Reduce The Onset Of Anxiety
Given that stress forms the early stages of anxiety, it’s crucial for every man to curb it before it becomes something serious.
The following activities require just ten minutes of your time a day to wind back the stress levels.
Taking time out each morning to spend 10-15 minutes on guided meditation will help set you on the right path for the day ahead. Popular apps like Headspace or Calm have proven to be highly successful at reducing and managing the symptoms of anxiety. These apps even cater for different types of stress and anxiety. Learning to love mediation could be one of your biggest allies in living with anxiety.
The most obvious way to alleviate any stress is exercise. Doing so releases endorphins (happy hormones) into the body which in turn helps you de-stress. You’ll feel better by the end of it whilst increasing your chances of getting the confidence-boosting abs you’ve wanted. If you’re going to tackle a ten-minute workout just make sure to stretch before going for a high intensity workout to get the blood pumping.
The onset of stress usually comes from being swamped by multiple tasks with impossible deadlines. This is where setting up a time management plan will work in your favour to ensure stuff gets done without losing sleep or your sanity. Coming into work and writing down what needs to be ticked off for the day will allow you to prioritise what needs to be done first whilst identifying tasks that can be left for a later time or delegated.
Scheduling some slack into your tasks will also allow you to complete them on time with some much welcome breathing time afterwards.
Remember To Breathe
Speaking of breathing, stress and anxiety can affect how you breathe. Your oxygen levels can in turn affect how your body and mind feels. When things get strenuous, breathe deeply in order to slow it down and relax the heart rate. Do the same for your tensed-up muscles and your mind will thank you for it. Smartwatches can also remind you to take time out to breathe every few hours. These quick little breaks can make a big difference to your mental state over the course of a day.
Call Time Out
Time out isn’t a dirty word in the fast-paced world we live in. Stress can directly affect a man’s emotional, physical and mental health so it’s imperative to take a step back when you’ve taken it on for too long. Simply allocating ten minutes to a stroll outside the office will do the trick, as does listening to tunes or having a ten-minute banter session with a colleague on all things non-work related. If you’re smart about it you can even proactively build these time out sessions into your daily schedule.
Ask For Help...Because It’s No Big Deal
There is no silver bullet when it comes to sorting stress and anxiety. Don’t be afraid to seek help and share the load with someone else. Speak to your GP or contact beyondblue. As with most major stresses that affect men in life, prevention is better than a cure.
Simply telling your GP that you’re not feeling yourself is a good first step in addressing the problem. GPs are well trained in this area and will ensure they refer you to a suitable solution or specialist in the area.
The most important thing to remember is you’re not alone and not to ignore the symptoms in the name of being a man.
There is no masculinity without a healthy mind, so never be afraid of speaking up.