Anxiety is a difficult emotion that many men struggle to cope with.
Anxiety has several layers and depths to it ranging from mild worry to full blown panic attacks.
Anxiety is different from just feeling stress and worry
Anxious feelings are normal reactions to a high-pressure situation such as a job interview, sitting exams, or a public speaking engagement.
However, some people experience anxious feelings for no obvious reason or the feelings continue long after the stressful event has passed. These feelings can seem uncontrollable and can interfere with a person’s ability to cope with daily life.
The common signs
Anxiety does not always appear in obvious ways. It emerges gradually and because everybody experiences the feelings of anxiety, it can be hard to know how much is too much.
Some common symptoms include:
- Hot and cold flushes
- Restless sleep
- Racing heart
- Tightening of the chest
- Snowballing worries
- Obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviour
Men can make some mistakes with Anxiety
Some guys adopt standard responses to manage anxiety such as:
Tough it out
Men attempt to fight their feelings and tough it out, hoping their feelings will go away. Meanwhile they fail to see the effect this can have on their mental health and their relationship with their loved ones.
Men seek out ways to dull, numb or distract from their feelings. This can range from getting lost on the internet, excessive physical exercise, over-working to potentially addictive behaviours such as heavy drinking or gambling.
Men who are less likely to speak out or seek support are at risk of becoming significantly withdrawn and isolated.
Men’s over reliance on fixing problems or pushing away their vulnerability creates unrealistic expectations of themselves with negative self-talk. All of which can increase feelings of anxiety.
This tendency to battle emotions like anxiety by toughing it out, distracting, isolating or holding unrealistic expectations are incredibly common attempts at managing difficult emotional experiences.
The struggle switch
Sometimes these attempts do provide a short, quick fix response because the feelings go away. However, when the anxiety feelings persistently return an alternative way of managing is required.
Emotional Acceptance is a significant key to emotional intelligence but is a difficult concept to grasp in theory. It’s very much a practical skill, an attitude and takes active work.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) offers some really useful skills and metaphors to describe and teach emotional acceptance.
Below is a wonderful video by Dr. Russ Harris a leading expert in the field of ACT. He introduces the ‘struggle switch’ analogy to illustrating how our minds respond to negative emotions such as anxiety.
Tips to overcome Anxiety
Acceptance and Willingness
The first step is to accept you have a struggle with anxiety and be willing to seek out support. Finding a professional counsellor or psychologist will enable you to learn new ways to cope.
Be Active and healthy
Regular exercise and staying busy with things you enjoy can help to reduce the overactive mind. Regular exercise and ensuring you are eating a healthy diet will improve your overall health and wellbeing.
Often anxiety is associated with over thinking or a wandering mind. Learning or taking part in relaxation activities such as meditation, yoga, listening to a relaxation CD, or having a massage are all great ways to slow the mind and the body.
‘Bottling things up’ can be a specifically male way of coping, which is likely to keep anxiety levels high. Utilizing a social network of supportive and understanding friends reduces isolation and increases acceptance and validation.
Do some reading and research about anxiety. Learn about the fight-flight response, which is the way the body deals with danger. Educating yourself is an important way to deal with symptoms.
Turn your Struggle Switch off
Combining steps to understand and take care of anxiety is a great place to start.