Joe Rutland shares his antidotes to perfectionism,workaholism and the money grind.
Probably since the first caveman looked out on the rocky formations, working and grinding “it” out have been at the core of a man’s life. That’s all men do. Like that Mel Brooks scene in “Blazing Saddles” when he’s sitting as his desk, crazily signing papers and muttering “work, work, work, work, work, work.”
If you took three steps upward (yes, upward—as in toward the ceiling or sky) and looked down upon yourself on the job, what might you see? Would it be someone actually enjoying what he does for a living … or a man hunched over a computer, filled with anger, resentment and fear at the world, the family and anyone within 1,000 miles of his internal radar?
C’mon man, everyone has been there at one point or another. Then what happens? Thoughts like, “Give me a break. Everyone around me is having a great life and I’m stuck here grinding it out. Man, I deserve some stress relief!” (Which, by the way, is true for any person … man or woman. But we’re talking about men here, OK.)
How’s that body feeling these days? Are the money, job and family pressures causing panic attacks and anxiety out your ass? Yep, it happens to everyone. Yet I believe it’s time to lighten up. In fact, it’s past time for men to be easier on themselves. Yet being easy on ourselves goes against the “cultural norm” of men working hard. What about a balance between work and play?
Now I’m writing these words for myself as much as you. I have developed—through much training, hard effort and development—a great skill that lets me beat myself up far worse than any boss, woman or other human being could ever do to me. Such beatings are simply meant to keep me down and not interested in being a kinder, gentler person to myself. No. Oh, hell no. I must be perfect. Ah, the ultimate folly—infinite perfection. Wow. If I can just be perfect 100 percent of the time whether I am awake or asleep (yes, I demand my subconscious be perfect, too), then I’d be, I’d be … the most powerful force in the entire Universe (well, I’ll give God and quantum physics a lead).
Seriously, must men always be hard on themselves? The grind, or what I’ll call “the great big eternal hamster wheel,” kills more men than it gives life. For all the devout spiritual and religious men who are leaders of their worship places, then please don’t think for one second that you’re not immune to the grind. It bites you, too.
I do believe men deserve the right to lighten up at times. Here are five short, simple suggestions to help start any man on that road:
Breathe. This sounds so simple. Breathing is natural. It is part of the cycle of life. Take a deep breath now. Right now. Exhale. Let the whole breath out. Take another one and let this breath reach down to your abdomen, hold it for a second, then release it gently. Did you feel some energy shift around that stomach area? No? OK. Try it again at some other point. Here’s the bottom line: Intentional breathing exercises have been known to de-stress people for years. I’ve brought it into my life and have found it helpful. Maybe you will, too.
Exercise. Some of you may have gym memberships and hit the weights regularly. That’s cool. What a great way to get stress, anger and frustration out of your body, huh! There are some men who simply don’t want anything to do with gyms. Do you own a pair of tennis shoes? Pair of shorts and a T-shirt? Great! Then you are all set to slip those bad boys on and get outside for a walk. Maybe you’d enjoy running or power walking, which is walking at an intentional pace. Any form of physical exercise has been proven medically to help a man’s emotional, mental and physical well-being.
Read. Yes, reading can be relaxing. Leave the 75-page report that your department head gave you to finish alone. Don’t pick it up. No, not that type of reading. Maybe you enjoy a good fiction novel or possibly a non-fiction book focused around some subject matter that simply fascinates you a whole lot. It could also be a spiritual or religious text, too, where the words from the page resonate inside your heart and soul. It’s still reading, and it is a nurturing way to relax that mental hamster wheel.
Prayer and meditation. This may work for some men; others will scoff. OK scoffers, you’re free to check out the other suggestions. A lot has been written and proven over the centuries about the power of meditation and prayer. It doesn’t have to be done under the ceiling of a church, synagogue or mosque. My idea here can involve the outdoors, too (more on this in suggestion No. 5). Wherever you feel comfortable praying and/or meditating, then that’s what will work for you. It takes your mental consciousness away from daily stressors, lifts it simply out of that area and shifts it to your inner spiritual and energetic area. Give this a try.
Outdoors. True story. For a period of time, I found myself without a car and got around where I was living on my two feet and a city bus. This was a first for me, and it all happened at one of the lowest points in my life. What I discovered out of this experience was going on long weekend runs and connecting with nature … rivers, flowers, etc. … fulfilled me in a new way. I’d heard people talk about hiking and traveling here and there on outdoors trips. At times, there were trips when I was a kid to places like the Pacific Northwest, Southern California beaches, the Rocky Mountains, the Appalachian Mountains, and up through the Carolinas and Virginia into Washington, D.C. All of these locales have their own natural beauty. Get outside. Breathe fresh air. Feel the wind whisk off your cheek. Sit. Listen. Just be.
In the end, those last two words – just be – probably will go a long way toward bringing a sense of peace, less stress and greater ease into a man’s life. I guess great sex would, too.
Make that suggestion 5A, and smile.