Anytime a man does a horrendous act like killing his spouse, his children, or himself, we generally agree that stress is a national pandemic. Our common reaction is ‘mental sickness is real’ comments in social media then we move on with our lives.
Others ask men to talk, open up, cry, etc. Sometime back I saw a lady recommending men to go for manicures as a way of coping with stress. Whereas such advice from our sisters is well intended, it’s blind to the fact that the way we handle stress is gendered.
During prolonged stress, men use the ‘fight or flight mechanism. Women on the other hand use the ‘treat or nurture’ mechanism. By applying the “fight” reaction, men can respond to stress with a high level of practicality. On the other hand, women are well equipped to calm, share, relieve loneliness and offer support during times of distress.
As we talk about stress, each gender must understand and respect the unique needs of the other. For example, women should honour the “fleeing” man’s need for silence, while men should respect the woman’s need for an embrace and physical touch.
Unfortunately, the ‘flight or fight’ mechanism can manifest itself in several dangerous ways for us men. Such include engaging in risky behavior, aggression, shutting down, etc. On the flip side, there are constructive ways of channeling the ‘flight or fight’ mechanism. Which can include:
1. Engaging in sports-this sucks the bottled up emotions and helps a man solve a problem as he enjoys what he does.
2. Having friends to talk with. Hanging at the estate base with your ‘boys’ is not that bad at all.
3. Half-full glass attitude-look at life from the sunny side of life.
4. Regular exercise-which can include a walk around your hood, jogging, or a game of draughts.
5. Take up an engaging hobby that you take pride in. Which can include growing rare medicinal shrubs, revamping old cars, experimental grafting, repairing old electronic devices, etc.
6.Talk about your problems with a confidant- but not to everybody since this can leave you vulnerable.
7. Avoid situations that will aggravate your situation. Like the company of friends who will disappear home for a whole weekend. Escape is very alluring when one is stressed.
8. Reward yourself when you achieve a milestone. It can be with a book, the mbuzi that you will eat for Christmas, a gadget that will engage you-anything that boosts your ego.
9. Identify a space that calms you. It can be your mother’s house(because it reminds you of your childhood), the village where you grew up, someplace by the riverside, a balcony in a club where they play music of your high school days, etc
10. Join a group of men going through challenges. Then you will realize that your load might be less heavy than others’.