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Men and Anxiety

How Meditation can help Men deal with Anxiety and Stress

Movember may be a time where your normally clean-shaven boyfriend ditches the shaver to grow a moustache – and looks hilarious – but behind the fuzzy top lip there are a number of good causes.
2 years ago a lady came for an Initial consultation. She wanted to find peace and overcome the lost of a friend. She has told me a story:
” About three years ago I was living in Sweden. Ryan was living in Stockholm going to University there. We had mutual friends and we had hang out on weekends partying and going to music festivals.
Everybody who met Ryan would say the exact same thing: He was always there for anyone and everyone. Whether you were a long-standing friend or had just met him five minutes ago, he would sit you down and talk about anything.
I moved to London, but we stayed in touch. When Ryan was travelling through Urope and I was in Italy we touched base. Said we had catch up for dinner and exchange travelling stories. Unfortunately we never got the chance.
Ryan took his life on the 15th of May.
Anxious feelings are a normal reaction to a high-pressure situation – for example, meeting work deadlines, sitting exams or speaking in public. However, for some men these anxious feelings happen for no apparent reason or continue long after the stressful event has passed. These anxious feelings can seem uncontrollable and can make it hard to cope with daily life.
Like depression, it’s not easy to say exactly what causes anxiety because it’s different for each person. However, there are some known risk factors. The good news is that there are actions you can take to combat anxiety.
Men and women can experience depression in different ways, and although they also share many common signs and symptoms, a better understanding of the differences may help those with depression, researchers say.
In one of the largest depression-related differences between the sexes, women have about twice the risk of developing the condition as men. This results in part from biological reasons, such as hormones and genes that get disrupted when brain regions are developing in the male and female fetus.
Women are more physically expressive of their emotions, such as crying, while men are more rigid, expressing less emotion. Females are also more likely to ruminate — dwelling on negative feelings — when they are depressed.
However, men are more prone to suffer episodes of intense and inappropriate anger. Defined as “anger attacks,” these are about three times higher in men than in women.
• Men may turn to substance abuse when they are depressed. They become prone to excessive alcohol intake or illegal drugs. They may also find other outlets to mask their depression, such as spending too much time at work or in front of the TV, or even gambling.
• Women may develop a co-existing eating disorder, such as bulimia or anorexia, when they are depressed. Panic disorder, anxiety and obsessive compulsive behavior may also occur in women.
• Men have a higher chance of committing suicide than women. This is because their illness typically takes a long time before being diagnosed or treated, leading them to spiral into a more devastating mental state. Men who attempt suicide are also more successful at it than women.
The reasons why fewer men appear to suffer from anxiety are many, but biology does play a role. For men, the male hormone testosterone protects against anxiety. Testosterone boosts the action of GABA and increases serotonin, two brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that are found to be low in anxious people. Testosterone also reduces the activity of the amygdala, the site of the “fight-or-flight” reaction and an area that is working overtime in some anxiety states. Additionally, it diminishes fear and anxiety by dampening the activity of the circuit linking the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis with the amygdala. Finally, testosterone modulates the release of the hormone cortisol, in response to stress.
Men with anxiety feel something many women don’t—shame. Their embarrassment prevents them from reaching out for help. This means that by the time they do get a consult, their condition is more severe than that seen in women.
While many men are reluctant to admit their anxiety, making it difficult for loved ones to find out what’s going on, there are some tell-tale clues.
If the man in your life starts to avoid things he used to enjoy or becomes irritable, these can be signs of an anxiety disorder. Anger is more acceptable for some men than anxiety. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for men suffering from anxiety to also experience depression. Other signs include trouble concentrating, difficulty sleeping and loss of interest in sex.
Mild anxiety is anxiety that is manageable without any additional techniques. By “manageable,” we’re not saying that it goes away easily. We’re saying that you can still get through your day without panicking, you can enjoy a social life, and you can even find hobbies and activities fun. You may even think positively about the future.
Mild anxiety tends to be when you have irritating symptoms that don’t seem to go away, but otherwise don’t control you. For example:
– You have constant worries but you can generally ignore them.
– You may feel nervous, nauseated, shaky, or sweat, but you aren’t debilitated by these symptoms.
– You don’t have panic attacks or become overwhelmed by your anxiety to the point where you start to fear the anxiety itself.
Clinical depression—in women or men—can cause sadness and a loss of interest in once pleasurable activities. But depression can sometimes manifest in different ways in different people.
While depression is often associated with sadness and hopelessness, it also manifests itself in irritability and anger, unnecessary risk taking, and alcohol or drug abuse in men. Physical signs of depression may include: •loss of energy, lethargy or exhaustion
– changes in appetite
– change in sleep patterns and restlessness
– oss of sex drive
– alcohol or drug abuse.
Emotional signs of depression may include:
– feeling sad or nervous
– losing interest or pleasure in activities
– feeling irritable, angry or violent
– becoming withdrawn and isolated
– feeling worthless, guilty, or hopeless
– taking unnecessary risks
– thinking about death or suicide.
The good news is that you can do something about it as soon as you notice yourself getting lost in worry, having repetitive thoughts, or feeling sensations of tightness or nervousness in your body. By shifting your attention away from your thoughts and into your actual embodied experience and the sensations of breathing, you can move out of thinking mode and into more of a sensing mode. This automatically alters your physical, psychological and emotional responses.
From my experience, the gender that is overwhelmingly attracted to mindfulness is women, men aren’t quite as attracted to it. Why is this? In the early days, the man’s greatest responsibility was to protect the tribe. Our brains have been crafted over thousands and thousands of years to guard against vulnerability. The problem with mindfulness for men is that the practice of it asks us to look toward and open up to vulnerability because that is where the gold is. We are also asked to relate to it in very feminine language like with “warmth,” “tenderness,” and “gentleness.” However, the physical threats that men were guarding against in the past, in most cases, are no longer the threats of modern day. But the brain hasn’t figured this out yet and treats emotional vulnerability as a threat, keeping men from truly reaching our highest human potential.
Rather than fight your experience by telling yourself you shouldn’t be feeling what you’re feeling or trying not to feel or getting upset, its important to allow yourself to feel however you are feeling. If you can learn to acknowledge what you’re feeling and allow it to be as it is for that moment, it is more likely to settle down and pass.
This is a technique I can recomend for dealing with anxiety:
Close your eyes. Notice your breathing. Is it rapid and shallow? Is it becoming shallower the more you panic? Take a moment to close your eyes and turn your attention to counting breaths.
If you find you are counting very quickly, see if you can focus on just one or two long inhalations and exhalations. Don’t worry if you can’t get past one or two. If you notice your mind has strayed from counting, congratulations! You have experienced a moment of mindfulness under extremely challenging conditions.
Turn your attention to what you are feeling in each part if your body. Are your muscles tightening? Can you feel your fingers and toes? What happens if you try to wiggle them? Does the sensation change as you continue to breathe in long inhalations and exhalations? Whatever you are feeling, try to let it happen without resistance.
What I learned from my experience was a lesson I will not soon forget: I only found my inner strength when I stopped trying to fight.
Panic gains momentum from the energy we put into fighting it, and the fact is, we don’t always need to fight it. Life happens to you and me as it happens to all people, whether we are ready for it or not, and all we really need to do is be open to experiencing it one moment at a time.
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