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Stress: It’s a Killer, Man

imageYou’ll be amazed, appalled, frightened even, at the destructive power of stress. But, there’s good news.

I’m a subscriber to multiple email lists, too many to even read every day, actually. I take a little time each day to read a few. I’ll admit, if the subject line in the email is to my liking, I’ll give a look.

Being the definitive procrastinator, and eternally in search of the cure, my interest was piqued by a recent email with a subject heading that dealt with stress and to-do lists. The gist of the article was that to-do lists are counterproductive and create a great deal of unnecessary stress. While I don’t wholeheartedly agree with that assessment, the article contained some eye-opening research about the tangible impact stress has upon us.

Men, I’m talking to YOU (but it applies to women, too)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I am a man. The book I’m writing is primarily aimed at men. So, naturally, I’m speaking to men here. That is not to say this post, or any other, does not apply to everyone. Let us continue…

Those of you who have been in the workforce for several years, have a family, a mortgage, car payments, and most every hour of every day is devoted to the care and happiness of others, this is of supreme importance to you.

I know you. I’ve been there. I am there. I feel safe in saying that you often feel every waking moment, and a good portion of your sleep, is consumed by stress and worry. You worry about your kids, your finances, your job, and a host of other immensely important things. Yep, same here.

In addition, the fact that I don’t get to write as often and as much as I would like causes me as much stress as anything. Writing is my thing, my bag, my scene. It’s what I want to do and be.

Yet, and this is a priceless nugget, oftentimes when I have some time available to crank out a couple thousand words, I can’t seem to tear myself away from some stupid game on the iPad, which just adds to my insanity.

The thing is, men, we are killing ourselves. I mean that quite literally.

The excellent article I referenced above, Why “To-Do” Lists Are Hurting Your Business, written by Arielle Kimbarovsky, contained some valuable research about stress. Essentially, short term stress causes reversible damage to “neuronal dendrites (the small ‘arms’ that neurons use to communicate with each other).” That’s bad enough, isn’t it? Stress causes damage to your brain, but reversible damage.

It gets worse. Long-term stress permanently damages neurons. Damages. Permanent! Neurons are those cells in your brain responsible for carrying and processing information. Obviously, we need them. Although we reportedly have billions of them, we need them!

We certainly don’t need to unnecessarily kill them!

Stress has also been linked to a host of other health problems: obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes, depression, and on and on.

You Can Only Hope to Contain Him

Let’s say, for the sake of simplicity that stress is a male. You can’t stop him, but you can contain him. Pinpoint the areas where he likes to appear and wreak havoc upon you. Are there actions you can take to minimize his impact?

When we manage our stress, we can become superhuman!

When we manage our stress, we can become superhuman!

In my case, wasting time, which prevents me from making progress on the book, creates a lot of stress and anxiety for me. In attacking stress, it is necessary to look at why I waste time.

  • I am tired – My habit is to write in the late evenings, after the kids are in bed. The problem with this is that my body and my brain are tired at that late hour.
  • Self-doubt/Fear creeps in (it’s actually the Devil in disguise, I’m convinced, and he’s a real SOB)– Who’s going to want to read what I have to say? Who am I to think I’m a writer? Things like that, along with all the negative memories I’ve accumulated making their appearance. By the way, it doesn’t really creep in. It shows up with the speed and accuracy of a missle.
  • Disorganization – With all the wonderful technology that make our lives easier comes some drawbacks. I use technology, but haven’t settled on one method for my writing, notes, research, etcetera. This causes confusion, which often leads me to waste time or say, “What’s the use?” If I’m not clear on where I saved the last passage I was writing, or not clear on the idea I wanted to convey, it’s easy for me to give up and vow to fight another day. Problem is, the same thing happens the next day.
  • Outside issues – Now, here is something that we can never escape. Problems are as ever present as they are numerous, but not usually as gargantuan as we think they are. These are the things life throws at you daily.

Each of those can be greatly minimized. Come to think of it, three of them can be all but eliminated (tiredness, self-doubt, and disorganization). The task now is to set about doing so.

For me, get in bed earlier so that I can get up early and write in the mornings, call the devil the SOB he is and move on, and write myself a note as to where I’ll start writing and the ideas and things I was preparing to write. As for outside problems, I can control how I react to those, which will provide some relief and improved outlook. That should get me started toward limiting my stress and saving my own life!

The gains we can realize by removing as much stress from our lives as within our power are immense. It’s certain that doing so will improve our health and keep us from further unnecessary intracranial destruction, and it has the potential to speed progress and exponentially improve our lives. By extension, it will also improve the lives of our loved ones.

The happier and more productive we are, the easier it will be for our families to be around us and the happier they will be. When they are happier, the more productive their lives will be, and so on.

It all starts with us. Actually, it all starts with a great deal of help from above.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • christina August 26, 2016, 9:47 am

    This is great! Applies to both women and men and I especially relate as a writer.

    • Alan August 26, 2016, 10:01 am

      Thanks, Christina! You’re exactly right, it applies to everyone. I particularly struggle, as I think most writers do, with self-doubt. It causes a chain reaction: doubt, which gives way to procrastination, which brings on the stress. It would be funny to watch myself, oftentimes quite literally, fighting through it.

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