I recently visited a friend who runs a business, is a local politician, has a side business, has a home with a big yard he cares for, loves his wife and child, sees his parents and siblings who live in the same town often, plays on a softball team, and tries to get together with his friends regularly.
His quote, "My brain never stops working."
How could it? The alarm in his brain is constantly paying attention to dozens of things. Even though his life is good, too much for a brain is simply too much and it's a problem that's becoming more and more normal for men in America.
Now let's think about commutes, taking care of the house and kids, paying bills, planning for retirement, and occasionally playing a little golf. How can we possibly play golf when there is so much to do?
And four traditionally male concerns make it worse for our brains.
Competition. We men like to compete. Comic Dane Cook doesn't drink or do drugs because he's so competitive he knows he'd take it to insane levels. Yep. And yet we don't have the outlets. We work too much (see above) so we don't work out enough. Because we're fat, baseball in high school turns into popped hamstrings running to first in the office softball league. Unable to move, we turn to coaching and we get labeled as bad parents because we push our kids too hard (trophies for everybody). But that doesn't remove our survival of the fittest old brains, and for many of us all we have for a release is video games (and the cycle of popped hammies continues).
Security. It's pretty hard to feel like you can protect your family when your smart phone is constantly filled with stories of killer viruses, sea levels rising, and nations invading each other. We want to keep the people around us safe, but don't always know how.
Hunting. We used to hunt. Now we select meat, have it butchered for us, often it is already marinated, and our grills light themselves. And we wonder why our brains are telling us we feel less than our fathers? At least they knew how to light a grill.
Definition of Success. To be successful, we have learned, is to do. Second, we've been taught we can do anything, which unfortunately has translated into "Do more." Do more work. Make more money. Buy more. Eat more. The American Dream has become the American dread of the patterns that keep us disconnected from what we care about most.
So here are a few solutions.
First, recognize you're not crazy. You work too much. You don't have the outlets you used to. You worry about safety for good reason. Hunting is illegal in most urban and suburban communities. You don't even know what success looks like. You should feel like crap.
Second, start doing less. Yep, you may have to run rather than play softball. 30 minutes versus three hours and you will have actually earned your beer. That doesn't mean quit your job and move to the woods. It means look at your whole life and for God's sake, don't always have something on your plate.
Third, schedule a man trip. Every year, you need time to hike, fish, hunt, golf, or just sit in an icehouse or cabin and do nothing with other guys. You won't say much. Your brain will thank you.
Finally, define success for you. Not your grandfather or father's version. Not your wife's or your neighbor's. It's time to truly get rid of stress the only way we can in this hectic, interconnected, busy world: decide for yourself which stress is worth it.