How to Cope with Stress
By Eric Michael Santos
Men's Zone Magazine

I saw a shrink recently. On the way to the clinic, the thought that only head cases and weak-willed sissies consulted psychiatrists drifted in my mind, like the dark clouds gliding through the overcast Monday morning sky. I was neither, I assured myself as traffic crawled on the oxymoronic North Expressway. While close relatives and friends may have some doubts about my sanity, that was not the point.

The point was that the stigma attached to people-- particularly men- seeing psychiatrists is as real as the biases, which an alpha male-dominated, predominantly macho upbringing created in my testorone-engineered psyche. Or maybe I was just over-reacting; after all, I was seeing a shrink to pick his brains and not the other way around.

My insipid attempt at psychoanalysis ended abruptly as I arrived at the clinic two hours earlier than the appointed time-- thanks to my morbid fear of patented Monday traffic jams-- which gave me ample time to think about my assigned topic: the need for stress managemnt and head doctors. I also wondered how the topic tied in to the bigotry I had just exhibited.

RAT RACE

“Research indicates that as a country becomes more modernized and industrialized, the level of stress and the number of stressors also increase,” begins Dr. Randy Dellosa. “Ironically, as people try to attain a higher standard of living, their quality of life decreases.”

Dr. Randy Dellosa is a psychiatrist and psychologists, the brains behind three centers: The Life Change Counseling Center for those who seek to resolve personal issues; The InnerLife Welness Center for people interested in holistic health and body-mind integration; and Life Change Recovery Center for patients with substance abuse and psychiatric problems.

Dr. Randy cites a case in point. “Technology is supposed to make life easier, but it also adds to the pressures of life. This is called ‘techno-stress.’ For instance, the cell phone enslaves a man to his work by making him ‘on-call’ even after office hours and despite being away from the workplace.”

Chronic stress from a hectic lifestyle causes psychological distress, emotional restlessness, strained relationships, physical illnesses, spiritual dryness, and a lack of meaning and purpose in life, Dr. Randy explains. “While eliminating stress is impossible, stress management can decrease the levels of stress, reduce its harmful effects, thereby improving the quality of life.”

IT'S TOUGH TO BE A GUY

Dr. Randy notes that even today, a worn-out and dysfunctional stereotype of males still exists. “Society contributes to male stress by expecting men to be emotianally invulnerable, to keep problems to themselves, and to conceal any hint of weakness.” And to always put the toilet seat down, to be the one to check for intruders in the house whenever strange noises are heard in the dead of night, to pay for expensive dinners during dates, etc.

“In my clinical practice, men cite financial concerns and work-related pressures as the major stressors in their lives,” says Dr. Randy, who has a kilometric resume that belies his young age. “Heavy workloads, insufficient pay, the threat of lay-offs, and lack of career opportunities all create a sense of insecurity and crisis in men as they carry out their traditional roles of worker and provider.” Family concerns and relationship conflicts are another major source of stress in men, he adds.

According to Dr. Randy, most men usually tolerate emotional stress until it manifests as physical symptoms. “Unfortunately, by the time they seek consultation with the doctor, some may already have developed full-blown illnesses.”

He reveals that many of his male clients complain of stress-related problems such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks, irritability, insomnia, chronic fatigue, and even erectile dysfunction. “Some men get overwhelmed by stress and attempt to manage it through unhealthy coping strategies, such as overeating, compulsive sex, drug abuse, alcoholism, and smoking.”

GETTING A HANDLE

“Listen to your body,” says Dr. Randy. “Self-awareness is the most effective way to manage stress. By listening to one’s inner self and being sensitive to early warning signs, a lot of stress can be alleviated and breakdowns prevented.”

Stress management techniques are very basic and quite simple, says Dr. Randy. These include getting sound and adequate sleep; eating healthy meals; engaging in exercise, sports, and hobbies; keeping a network of supportive friends; and nurturuing marital and family ties.

“Men should learn to enjoy work rather than be enslaved by it,” says Dr. Randy. “If men are miserable and stressed at work, it may mean that they have to change jobs, or that they have to change their attitudes about work.”

BE A MAN

With a straight face and a steady voice, I asked the good doctor, “ What do you tell people who say that only head cases and weak-willed sissies consult shrinks?”

“Most of my clients are not ‘sick’ or “loony’ but people who want more out of life,” Dr. Randy explains gently and patiently. “They want to reinvent themselves and redesign their lives. “They want to experience a life that has more purpose and meaning. And they want to heal from their hurts and move on.”

Dr. Randy says he wants to reach out to stressed-out men. “Many men suffer needlessly in their attempt to project and maintain a strong, tough, and invulnerable façade. I want to tell men that it is a sign of courage to seek help, and that they deserve better lives than the burdensome ones they’ve created for themselves.”

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