Stress is an area that many Black men face. While rarely having an outlet to release our bottled up emotions, we as men tend to lash out indirectly and in most cases hurt the innocent people in our lives. While having conversations with different men from different walks of life, I knew that this mental fatigue was deemed crucial for exploration.
PR by the Book helped us create a diverse list of thought leaders, with expertise in many fields. Each of these seven authors – including a cardiovascular surgeon, a mother/filmmaker, and a successful Texan chef – have offered their thoughts on stress and its effects, as well as an “Expert Tip”. We hope that you can take something away from this post and live life a little more stress-free.
We hope you can take advice from some or even one of these specialists and find a safe way to channel your stress.
1.) Dr. John Chuback, personal development & success training expert, Make Your Own Damn Cheese: Understanding, Navigating, and Mastering the 3 Mazes of Success
“As a cardiovascular surgeon, I have performed countless, highly technical, high-risk surgical procedures. Such operations would be intensely stress-provoking for any individual who had not spent many years training for such experiences. However, in the same operating room, an observer – a medical student for example – feels no stress during cardiac surgery because they bear no responsibility. So we see that stress as an actual entity doesn’t really exist. Stress is only experienced in the mind of the individual. Stress is a feeling. It’s a perception of a situation; it’s not the situation itself. Once one masters one’s mind, stress begins to gradually dissipate and be replaced with self-confidence, self-control, and tranquility. It is essential that we understand the workings of our mind in order to take control of how we will respond to the challenging situations life has to offer. This is perhaps the most empowering skill one can acquire, develop, and perfect – the ability to control one’s mind.”
Expert Tip: “To take back control of your mind quickly when you feel stressed, try using a single breath meditation – it works.”
2.) Michael Ungar, Ph.D., Child, Family and Community Resilience Expert and author of Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success
“Stress can cause worry and worry wears us down. All that catastrophic thinking colors our experience. Even good days can seem bad. People who reach out to us are perceived as manipulative and untrustworthy. It’s important to challenge our thinking and conduct a realistic appraisal of where the real threats lie. There is plenty of research showing that changing our thoughts can produce small changes in mood over time. They even bring down biological markers of stress in our body like heart rate and the stress hormone cortisol. But beware. If we don’t keep up a reflective practice like daily thoughts of gratitude, or meditation, or taking a few deep breaths when someone insults us, then we lose the benefits of those practices quickly and our thoughts and feelings return to their previous problem-focused ways. The best technique to cope with stress is to remake our world so that stress triggers are less likely to occur. That can mean putting aside toxic relationships, avoiding situations that make you feel hurt or angry (turn off your smartphone and get some sleep) and finding new opportunities to like yourself.”
Expert Tip: “Spend more time with friends and colleagues. Together, you’ll be able to resist stressful situations much better.”
3.) Karen May Speaker, spiritual director, and author of Be Not Afraid: Living with Faith in the Midst of a Fearful World
“When my daughter was deciding on which college she wanted to attend, we battled endlessly. She wanted a school with cherry blossoms on the trees, and I thought she should pick a school based on the education it provided. At least that’s my side of the argument. The problem was that neither one of us knew what school would be the best for her. There were so many choices and it was so much money. I wanted to treasure these last few months with her and I wanted the process of choosing a college to be one of discovery and excitement. Instead, the stress of the decision was boiling over constantly and making our last year together one that we both hated. It was then that a friend said the five words that changed everything. “Are you praying about it?” All the stress was getting in the way of our seeing the signs pointing the way. Now, instead of arguing, we could wait together for the gift that was being prepared for us. It was a much better way to spend her last months at home. Major decisions can be very stressful. As a person of faith, it is important to remember that God has a plan for us. This is the prayer I use to help me remember: “Lord, you know what option is best for me in this situation. Open that door wide, and close all the others, so that I will know, too.” When we pray this way, closed doors are not failures and points of stress, but gifts that help us to turn to the open door waiting for us.”
Expert Tip: “Pray.”
4.) Eric Silverstein, chef, entrepreneur, and author of The Peached Tortilla: Modern Asian Comfort Food from Tokyo to Texas
Stress in any business can be overbearing. It wears on you when you don’t realize it wears on you. I tend to refer to it as a silent killer, because it can surround you and consume you without you consciously knowing it’s there. In the hospitality industry stress can inhibit one’s productivity and creativity. It makes me tired to the point where sometimes I just want to go to sleep instead of continuing to work. I find it helpful on a daily basis to take my own pulse. I stop what I’m doing, take a deep breath, and tell myself to relax and that things are going to work out. I try to use the past as a reference point (i.e, you survived in worse situations, so just relax a little).
Expert Tip: “Survey your own stress situation daily in order to manage it.”
5.) Alexis Marie Chute, artist, filmmaker, photographer, mom, and author of Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing and Pregnancy After Loss
As a busy author, artist, filmmaker, curator and mom to three kids all under the age of ten, I know a lot about stress. Stress and I are not only acquainted, but friendly—most of the time. In my daily work and home life, I have learned to thrive with a certain degree of stress. There are always deadlines looming, emails beckoning for my attention, and children pulling on my painting smock with all manner of requests. Stress can help motivate me to get things done and prioritize, but sometimes it feels too heavy, that there is too much to do, and I lament the exhaustion that is invariably of my own doing. Amidst the chaos and with the support of my loving husband, I have found that keeping detailed lists of my “to-do’s” for both work and family helps keep my stress somewhat organized. At the beginning of the year, I chart the time to achieve each of my major projects into big blocks of time on an oversized desktop calendar. I highlight projects different colors based on what category of work they fall into; writing, editing, painting, curating, marketing, etc. I refer back to this calendar to help keep on track and to remember that everything has its time. That’s the big picture stress manager. For the day to day goals, I use a planner and write out very clear tasks that feel oh-so-good to check off. I don’t give myself a hard time if I don’t accomplish everything I’ve set out to do. I will move the unfinished tasks to the next week, allowing myself to defer while not forget.
Expert Tip: “My secret to managing stress is to write everything down. I mean everything. Rolling lists and calendar blocking strategy help me stay sane and keep my relationship with stress a friendly one.”
6.) Dr. Herman Williams, Leadership/Personal Coaching and Author, CLEAR! Living the Life You Didn’t Dream Of
“Your breath is literally your life. Without oxygen, the brain and the body die, Fortunately, breathing occurs automatically; we don’t have to think about it. But when we do think about our breathing, we can make magic happen for our minds, bodies, and spirits. Breathing has become a powerful tool for me every day to control my mood and well-being on every level. I have been cultivating this skill for years since I learned to meditate, which focuses on the breath. Since my disease makes me susceptible to subtle increases in my stress level, I use relaxation to deal with the bumps in the road. In most situations, breathing and relaxation are extremely therapeutic.”
Expert Tip: “Just breathe. Breathing helps you stay centered, and it calms your spirit.”
7.) Dr. Warren Willey, Health Expert and Author, Obtainable: Enjoy the Body and Energy You’ve Always Wanted – Beyond Diet and Exercise
“Almost universally, when talking to people in high-stress situations, they tell me they have sleep issues. If you want to recover from your high-stress life – that you just made worse by inappropriately trying to exercise more and eat less to get the body you want – you need sleep.”
Expert tip: “Soundproof your sleeping room. Your brain still hears sounds when you’re sleeping. Your sensitivity to noise and the type of noise also matter. If you drive to work in bumper-to-bumper traffic every day, a car horn may drive you batty at night and bring you right out of a deep sleep. Think about the noises that are likely to disrupt sleep and do your best to limit, if not completely remove them, while you are sleeping.”