Shifting Your Perspective On Stress

Craig Cooper

Reams of articles and books have been written on stress management, detailing how to reduce or eliminate it from your life, but I think many of them are overrated.

Long-term stress—for example, being on red alert for weeks or months at a time due to a high-pressure work project—is hell on your system. But short-term stress—those bursts of adrenaline we get in situations when we need to spring into action—is an essential part of life. Men need stress to live. Every successful man in history—from Sir Isaac Newton to Steve Jobs—faced stressful situations in which the outcome was in doubt. Many of them faced extreme stress. It’s part of what made them admirable.

And as evil as stress is made out to be in our culture, the fact is that we like stress. Most of our leisure activities—from skiing to mountain biking to watching sports to roller coasters to first-person-shooter video gaming—involve deliberately exposing ourselves to controlled, short-term forms of stress. For the most part, short-term stress is fun.

It’s even good for you: studies indicate that people who have a robust short-term stress response—a pounding heart, a sweaty brow, rapid breathing—heal better after surgery or vaccination, and they may respond better to cancer treatment. Exercise and sex—which are unequivocally good for you—both stimulate a hormonal response similar to what happens when you get charged by an angry pit bull.

One major key to conquering the bad kind of stress—the chronic version that keeps us up at night, distracts us from the things we enjoy most in life, and eats at our gut when we’re trying to relax—is not so much to avoid it altogether but to reframe the way you think about it.

Sound abstract? Let me explain.

All of us have gone through busy periods in which our careers or families (or both) are demanding a lot of us: a big project is due, the boss is breathing down your neck, the house needs a new roof, your mother needs help at home, your son is starting in a playoff game, your wife is asking for a well-deserved night out. (A friend of mine recently joked that in times like these he feels as if every email in his inbox says “Dear Jack: Please do everything. Love, Everyone.”)

Sometimes, those intense periods can make you want to crawl under a rock, leading you to drop the ball under pressure: the project is substandard, you miss the big game, and you fail to make dinner reservations—so you wind up in the doghouse, at work and at home. First you flail, then you fail. Other times, those intense periods have the opposite effect. Like a QB down by a field goal with seconds to play, you cowboy up and handle it, one task at a time, until you’re on the other side of all that stress, with all your obligations signed, sealed, and delivered. And you feel like a superhero.

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11 Health Changes I’ve Made in My 50’s (That I Wasn’t Doing in My 40’s).

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Remember your 40s? I certainly do, and although I’m approaching the middle of my fifth decade, I’m feeling just as good as I did a decade ago. I credit this well-being with recognizing I needed to make some lifestyle adjustments as I became more chronologically established in middle age. So here are 11 things I’m doing for my health in my 50s that I wasn’t doing in my 40s…and why. Read More

 6 Ways I’ve Increased My Energy After 50

6 Things You Should Know about Human Growth Hormone

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What is human growth hormone?

HGH is a hormone and a protein produced in the pituitary gland. Although it has a role in maintaining healthy tissue overall, it is probably best known for assisting in increasing muscle mass and bone density and an ability to promote cell growth and regeneration by activating receptors to initiate the process. Human growth hormone also can boost libido, slow the progression of age-related degenerative diseases, and help support a sense of well-being. Read More

Six Reasons to Love the 5K

The marathon (and the Ironman triathlon) have developed a reputation as the true test of athletic fortitude: manhood in 26.2 miles. Buy into this myth too completely, however, and you may end up hurting yourself.

My suggestion? Embrace the 5K.

Why do I love the five-kilometer (3.1-mile) distance so much? Let me count the ways:

#1. Anyone Can Do It

A very unfit person can still walk 5K—or at least work up to walking 5K in a matter of a few weeks. It won’t wreck that unfit person the way a marathon will. And it won’t require an investment of time that’s unavailable to 99 percent of the population (the way an Ironman or a marathon will). The entry point, in other words, is accessible.

#2. It Offers a Challenge to Everyone

An unfit desk-jockey guy with three months of training to his name will be ecstatic to simply finish a 5K. But even the fittest guy you know can keep working on his 5K time, forever. It doesn’t matter who you are—running three miles as fast as you can is exhausting. It’s plenty of workout for one day. If I were a betting man, I’d stake my whole year’s salary that the average guy running a sub-19:30 5K is healthier than the average guy running a sub-four-hour marathon. Get faster at the 5K, and it’s a pretty good bet you’ve gotten healthier all around. Get faster at a marathon and you may well have gotten unhealthier.

#3. You Can Still Have a Life

Even if you make 5K training the center of your exercise life (by running, say, a half-dozen races a year—not a bad way of organizing these things, if you ask me), you don’t have to obsess. You don’t have to put in three hours of junk miles before work. You can make great progress on your 5K time by running just two or three times a week for less than an hour. You’re training for a race that will take under a half hour, after all.

#4. You Can Race Whenever You Want To

Although marathons are getting more and more common (there were over 1,400 marathons in the United States in 2015), you still have to wait around—and possibly travel—to get to one. And unless you’re pathological, you wouldn’t want to do more than a handful in the span of a single year anyway. 5Ks, however, are far more ubiquitous. There are 5Ks to support charities, fun-run 5Ks that families can do together, 5Ks to raise awareness for . . . well . . . just about anything. They happen almost every weekend. And since they won’t break your body down in the same way that a marathon will, you don’t have to wait weeks between races if you don’t want to. You could conservatively race three times in a single month and expect to approach your best times in each one.

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