For stress: sex, a cigarette, then a shrink?

I was flipping through a magazine at the barbershop earlier today, and came across a disturbing idea. The article identifies the most popular men’s stress inducers, and the most popular stress relievers (source: Yankelovich Health and Wellness Study, 2006, in Best Life magazine, September, 2008)

Topping the inducers: planning one’s financial future, job/career, keeping family safe, health care costs. Interestingly, the state of your health came in third from last place, of a total of 12 inducers.

High on the relievers: taking a mental break, fun and laughter, exercise, sex, eating, tippling, smoking and… therapy, ranking a dead last of 12 relievers.

Why is this? Therapy is less important to men than smoking, eating, or tippling (whatever that is). What does this exactly say about us as men? I know it’s a tough economy, but I am managing to stay working in my practice with a large clientele of men. Does this reflect something about our culture stigmatizing counseling for men? Do men underreport their experiences in counseling?

Now, I am a realist. I get that counseling won’t be number one, especially when I am competing with sex, eating and prescription drugs. But, I think that this is a loaded idea, one that says something about either the underreporting of men seeking counseling or therapy, or that is is still seen as a less important to a man’s overall well being.

I don’t think counseling is the be-all, end-all of stress management. Stress management is a holistic concept, one that incorporates a wide variety of lifestyle choices that include counseling. 

Here’s some stress reliever ideas for those guys out there in the study who haven’t sought out counseling (by Phoenix, Arizona’s Counselor for Men):

  • Exercise – exercise is an antidepressant, and can get your endorphins shaking for good feeling
  • Communicate – for guys that don’t know how, this is a big source of stress. Not knowing how to do this in the right way can build up inside, and turn into physical pain, anger and tension.
  • Watch the alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and sugar intake – all of these foods can promote stress and leave you tired, edgy or depleted. They all affect your mental well-being.
  • Yoga – a lot of guys are doing this now, and it’s not as weird for guys to do this as it might have been once. The antidepressant GABA is activated during yoga. It’s great for tension and stress relief, and it’ll give your overactive mind a rest for once. Plus, if you are a single guy, there is ample opportunity to meet women (after class, of course).
So, try these things, and seek out counseling for the problems that you have that these things won’t solve. Counseling is good for the problems that you are having with people, with your girlfriend or wife, or stress that doesn’t seem to go away or doesn’t respond to these tips. Something else may be going on with you that needs more attention.
– Jason

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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