Stress management techniques for the manly-man.
May 24, 2005 4:43 AM   Subscribe

Please help my husband! What are your favorite techniques to manage your stress and anger at home, for free, that requires no professional assistance?

His lack of stress/anger management skills, combined with a new set of misfit employees, are driving him bonkers and allowing his stress to invade his days off, his dreams, and his marriage. For several reasons (among them, manly pride) he will not seek the advice of a professional counselor. I've suggested a few things that work for me - exercise, journaling, deep breathing - and he's finally gotten to the point where he's willing to start experimenting to see what will work for him. Now we just need lots of ideas. Thank you!
posted by ferociouskitty to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Try lengthy, uninterrupted periods of video games. Or, for that matter, lengthy, uninterrupted periods of anything he wants to do. The uninterrupted is the most important part.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:08 AM on May 24, 2005

a couple of hours on the river, fishing, by myself, a form of meditation, I guess.

But, the truth is, the problems will not go away, they are only avoided. The techniques he needs to develop are those needed to work with his employees, until he addresses that issue there will only be temporary relief from the stress and anger.
posted by HuronBob at 5:18 AM on May 24, 2005

Vigorous exercise. This is a biggie!!

Working to put a delay between feeling an emotion and expressing it. This is, after all, part of what adulthood is all about. If he can do it at work, he can do it at home. (I know this seems like it's begging the question, but it really is a technique. He should be always thinking before he reacts. He should be asking himself what he's so mad about; and he should be sure that the feeling and the situation are commensurate. This is a more sensible variation of the classic "Count to 10" approach.)

Time alone in which he is not responsible to anyone but himself. (This may be difficult if you all have children etc.).

He should be working to correct the problem at its source.

Of these I think the most important is probably the exercise. And don't show him this response, I'm a professional counselor.
posted by OmieWise at 5:21 AM on May 24, 2005

Like everyone else has said--he needs to fix the problem. Until he's seeing some kind of concrete progress on the underlying issues, the pressure's just going to build, and it's going to be harder and harder to counter the effects through things like exercise and meditation. That might mean finding a new job, or it might mean getting folks moved onto and off his team over time, but something's got to change at work before the risks of things like alcohol addiction and emotional abuse really start to rise.

That being said, exercise is definitely one of the best immediate outlets for his frustration and agression. Not only does it provide an outlet for all that frustrated energy, but it can help contribute to the sense of self-confidence he needs to fix the problem. He should also try and cut back on all the stuff that gives you excess nervous energy, like sugar, caffeine, etc.

Finally, though, don't ignore yourself in this whole equation. Living with a stressed-out, angry spouse can take its own toll on the partner, and whether or not he's willing to see a therapist or consider meds, don't close off those avenues for yourself. Even if all these suggestions start to help, things are still going to stay tough before they get a whole lot better, and it's not fair for you to have to limit your own options on how to cope.
posted by LairBob at 5:34 AM on May 24, 2005

I second the exercise vote. My job is intense (I work in advertising) and I find a good solid work-out of some kind, like a round of push-ups/sit-ups and a short, hard run does wonders. It doesn't have to be a day at the gym, just an opportunity to blow off steam. Keeps my depression in check.

Also, he needs to find something that is his and his alone. Some people meditate, some fish, others paint. It just needs to be something he does, just for himself, for a certain period of time every day - and that time must be sacred and uninterrupted. It'll give him piece of mind and some other way to define himself beyond the roles thrust on him (worker/husband/Dad/Whatever). Trust me, this goes a long way.

Good luck.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 6:13 AM on May 24, 2005

I've been in the same situation a couple of times, included quite recently. Some (unasked for - sorry) advice about the difficult people at work as well as the home stuff....

Have you asked work about training? That's one of the things I've done. I went to my boss and chatted a bit and came away with a book about how to manage "difficult people" and the promise of funding for some kind of training course if I could find something suitable. Also, I found a good book on assertiveness that helps clarify things (being agressive is not the same as being assertive - but once you understand what being assertive is, it's not so hard to change from angry to assertive). With that I hope to get things at work more under control. Remember that if you're getting frustrated at work, others (like your bosses) are probably noticing it too. So they're probably going to be happy if you go to them with ideas for fixing things.

Another thing that helped in my particular case was face-to-face time with the other people involved. Teleconferencing isn't good for relationships. But that's probably not relevant.

At home, something that helps me is having a regular schedule. So I know what's happening and can plan ahead. That makes it easier to not be bad tempered and exhausted at the wrong time. As others have said, exercise is good too.

Talking to your partner often helps, even if it seems like just more hassle when you think about doing it. I'm bad at that, but I have to admit it can help.

And, finally, think about changing jobs. It's not normal to be frustrated and angry all the time. If you are, you need to either fix the problem, or get out. I learnt this the hard way at an earlier job, where I ended up "burning myself out". You really want to avoid that - it takes ages to find your feet again.

I know those are largely not about home. But it sounds like the problem isn't at home. And as everyone else has said, you need to fix the problem. Good luck.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:24 AM on May 24, 2005

I would agree that getting to the roots of one's problem is best in the longterm. That being said, I would also agree with others who said that exercise is a great stress reliever. It is hard to be mentally exhausted and physically exhausted at the same time. Working out gives me a "time out" with my more cerebral issues.

Another tip: when you feel really stressed out, scream into a pillow. Some try to hold the angst in --I call it imploding-- when it gets to be too much and you can't hold it in any longer you just explode. This could be one of your safety valves.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 6:25 AM on May 24, 2005

Not completely free, as donations for classes are $30/month, but Taoist Tai Chi helps both physically & mentally.
posted by Pressed Rat at 6:35 AM on May 24, 2005

third exercise. I'm young and not that stressed but it helps keep me in check. Or maybe it's the fact that since I was a child I always had regular exercise keeps me stress free.

I think it's not the activity so much as he just needs to find a place where he can escape from the day for an hour when he gets home. It can be fishing, video games, happy hour, sex etc. I think guys just need space to relax, he just needs to find what helps him do that.
posted by slapshot57 at 6:48 AM on May 24, 2005

also, going out with other people. i'm terrible at this, being a loner with few friends, but if i make the effort and go out, or we have some kind of party at home, it can really help. laughing and talking and getting drunk (in a happy way) is about the best stress-reliever i know.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:00 AM on May 24, 2005

Give him 45 minutes after work completely by himself. And the other good advice above.
posted by mecran01 at 7:27 AM on May 24, 2005

OmieWise ; ferociouskitty : everyone

What do you think about this site?

posted by drakepool at 7:28 AM on May 24, 2005

I also second what mecran01 said. The last thing I want to do when I come home from a hard day is deal with anyone, no matter how much I love them.

Don't underestimate bringing him a beer and a kiss and then let him come to you. He'll be back to himself on his own in an hour or so
posted by slapshot57 at 7:43 AM on May 24, 2005

I want to second what LairBob said about cutting back on caffeine and sugar. I quit caffeine altogether around Christmas because I was becoming way too irritable between fixes, and it made a big difference. I've since cut out sugar almost entirely and feel a lot less impulsive in general. The last piece is staying well hydrated, I still get headaches and feel crabby if I forget to drink enough.

If your husband does decide to go off caffeine, I would recommend mixing in a increasing amount of decaf over a few weeks; I did the cold turkey thing and was surprised at how long it took to get over the withdrawal.

Lastly, something you get to help with: tickling!
posted by teleskiving at 7:54 AM on May 24, 2005

I use running, fast and long, as a law school stress reliever. Somehow the pounding of my feet on the pavement gets all of my anger and frustrations out.

If this doesn't work, I recommend beer.
posted by elquien at 9:05 AM on May 24, 2005

Set up a heavy bag in a basement or garage. Problem gone.

BTW, avoiding the advice of a professional counselor is not always a pride thing, for some personality types it is simply ineffective and exacerbates the irritation. Calling avoiding it "pride" is dismissive on your part, and it makes you part of the problem.
posted by dong_resin at 9:09 AM on May 24, 2005

Power tools. Preferably laser guided.
posted by achmorrison at 9:11 AM on May 24, 2005

I second most of the above, and add meditation. (I have some simple beginner guidelines I wrote a while ago; if you'd like them, drop me an email.)
posted by Specklet at 9:14 AM on May 24, 2005

Exercise and sex. He also may need to deal with the situations better at work, it sounds like. I personally deal with this with a kind of professional detachment. I've decided that my home life can upset me; but my work life can't.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:26 AM on May 24, 2005

Stop drinking. I guarantee he will be calmer. If alcohol is such a great stress-reliever, why are there so many bar fights and domestic disputes involving alcohol? It's better than a free solution--It will save you money.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:30 AM on May 24, 2005

Not to pee in the pool here, but if my SO followed tekeskiving's advice about tickling they'd never find the body.

/fair warning
posted by Space Kitty at 9:40 AM on May 24, 2005

Ditto, take direct action about the employees obviously and a heavy bag. It really helps to envision the bag as the people you want to beat the hell out of and then go to town. It's simplistic I know but it works for me.

posted by Wong Fei-hung at 9:41 AM on May 24, 2005

I meant teleskiving, of course.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:42 AM on May 24, 2005

When was the last time he had his blood pressure checked? I would suggest he get a routine physical, if for no other reason than to get him out of work for a half-day.
posted by mischief at 9:46 AM on May 24, 2005

I believe stress primarily results from situations causing the body to produce adrenaline in environments where the body is unable to work off that adrenline: ergo, exercise is essential for stress management.

Contrastingly, taking the stimulant caffeine when your body is producing adrenaline is throwing fuel on the fire.

In direct response to the question though, a glass of wine and a couple of cigarettes usually do it for me.
posted by forallmankind at 10:02 AM on May 24, 2005

In the immediate, I found that removing myself briefly from the situation was helpful. When the work monkeys are driving him nuts, he could step outside for a breath of fresh air, walk around the building, or just duck into the bathroom for a silent scream (or in my case a crying fit, but that may be inapplicable here). It's like the physical version of closing his eyes and counting to ten and might give him some perspective on the problem as well as time to think about what his next move should be.

Later, physical venting: batting cage, firing range, driving range, hard core yard work. Anything that involves physical aggression and gives him something to show for it is good.

These proved somewhat effective for me, but one particular issue in my life continued to make me furious to the point that I feared I would develop a rage-induced brain embolism so I sought out therapy through my school and LO! I had "underlying issues" and now my rage terror alert level is down to its normal yellow (it would be green, but I keep reading the news and that never fails to piss me off). I know your husband is opposed to therapy for whatever reason, but if he ever decides he's open to it, it might help.

Sex is a good stress reliever, but I would caution you against making yourself the instrument of this type of stress relief, lest it come to be more of a duty that you must perform to make living with your husband bearable rather than something fun that you do together and for each other.
posted by jennyb at 11:21 AM on May 24, 2005

It sounds like he needs to hone and improve his supervision skills. There's all kinds of ways to do this - workshops, books, trainings, EAP programs, etc. Most of these classes incorporate mental health type perspectives into their other schtick, so it kind of becomes less scary for folks who are mental health-phobic. But this is important for him, as his performance at work is going to be suffering unless he finds a way to solve the problems at work.

You mentioned that it's messing with his marriage, so you've got a role to play here as well, which is to make sure he knows that his workplace issues are invading your marriage, and that while you want to be supportive, it is *not* ok for him to take out his stress on you!
posted by jasper411 at 11:28 AM on May 24, 2005

I think I know your husband.
I went through the same ordeal over a period of years, practiced all ,well, most all the advice above and I finally determined I had to quit managing people or someone was going to die.
I found a new job and a new career. Now work stays at work. I am still happily married and my kids pretend they still like me.
posted by Shalerman at 11:34 AM on May 24, 2005

Everything above.

However, investing some effort in introspection - eg do I like this career - may pay off. Sometimes deep stress and angst is a sign that you are in the wrong job.

Fishing, hiking, running, and other monotonous pursuits are ideal ways for macho men to get covert introspection happening without feeling like a big girl's blouse.

Back to the stress, I find that developing a philosophy and outlook that puts your job in perspective helps.

If I fuck up, the worst thing that can happens is a multinational loses some money. (By contrast, my exwife who is a midwife had the potential to kill two people every day). My more irritating collegeagues are not out to get me. They are poor baboons who can't help it. Etc.

Some people think that being passionately engaged with your work is the way to success, but if you are in a job that isn't truly your vocation, detachment is the way to sanity.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:50 PM on May 24, 2005

Apropos baboons, and stress, if he's the reading kind, get him Sapolsky's Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers.

It won't provide any helping strategies at all, but it does explain in excellent physical terms how you become a stress-bucket, why it's bad for you, and what at a high level migh be conducive to less stress. And it's a rattling good read at that.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:32 PM on May 24, 2005

Not exactly free, but the best way to unwind after work is with a well-rolled joint.
posted by baphomet at 2:07 PM on May 24, 2005

Combining many of the above ideas, a recipe for an evening of relaxation:
  1. Arrive at home
  2. Run until you can't run anymore
  3. Eat (health stuff is better, within reason)
  4. Smoke 1 bong load (a whole joint is probably a bit much for the unexperienced)
  5. Sexual activity
  6. Watch sci-fi, hopefully on DVD or TiVo, but plain 'ol TV will do, without interruption. I find mst3k good, assuming the bongload step was followed.
  7. Sleep
The sleeping part is important. If you don't get enough sleep, you feel like crap the next day, leading to more stress, and the stress causes you to sleep poorly the next day, and the cycle repeats. Also, if you watch TV or read in bed, stop. Don't go to bed until you are going to go to sleep. Beds are for sleeping (and boring conventional sex). If you do this, when you do get into bed, it will feel better, you will get to sleep faster and sleep better.
posted by darkness at 5:48 PM on May 24, 2005

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