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Men’s Health – What is Your ‘Check Engine’ Light?

We are designed to make, fix, create, provide, compete and win.  Many of us treat winning as evidence of strength magnified by normatively nice “things” or results.   Providing for our loved ones naturally follows when we compete well, sustained by rugged individual strength.  Chinks in the armor of performance are weakness, prompting us to lower our shoulders against the wall, push harder and find a way to make things happen.  This is our lot.  This is what we do as men.  This orientation to success and hard work has sustained relationships and cultural norms for millennia.

What happens when we protect this norm more than we protect our work tools?  In any line of work, men like tools, whether it is IT infrastructure, a band saw, a boat, or a truck.  We monitor mechanical limitations and maintain them in the most cost-efficient ways available to ensure that we can continue to compete and provide without interruption.

What happens when our striving for success exceeds biological limitations?  What happens when the weathering inside our bodily systems and cells collides with additional work responsibilities, unexpected delays, or roadblocks to obtaining a permit or closing a deal?  What happens when weathering collides with physical changes around 40?  Do we avoid the low-hanging fruit; decrease alcohol, stop smoking?  Do we implement preventative maintenance strategies to improve cardiovascular fitness with running, swimming, cross-training, pilates or yoga?  More often than not, we ignore these hassles and push harder into the same strategies to manage stress that worked in our 20s when we had less weathering, fewer skills, less understanding, fewer opportunities and fewer responsibilities to others in our growing spheres of influence.

If we can just figure out a way to make it through this competitive challenge, life will settle down again.  The alternative is weakness, falling short, not providing, all intolerable.  We keep a focus on the finish line and ignore the weathering, increasing friction between performance and biology.   What if we drove our truck the way we compete?  We would glue our right foot to the floor and manage speed and direction with the brakes and steering wheel.  That’s fine until we reach roundabouts, the odd light or traffic.  Imagine the heavy load on the cooling system, transmission, electrical system and brakes while driving.  Assume we make it home unscathed, park the car and go inside to our family.  Our mind and body are still running at high RPM’s and no more ready to be home and present than the truck.  Both are overheated, overweathered, and wearing out quickly.  Slowly and progressively trucks communicate better than we do.

What is your “check engine light”?  For most of us, we dismiss silence or arguments with our wife as simply a period of conflict common to all marriages, and frame irritability, low energy, belly fat, and poor sleep as predictable evidence of hard work and dedication to provide.  Again, we take care of our tools better than our biology.   For some reason, mechanical weathering is more real than biological weathering.  We are too busy to monitor, much less prevent, physiological weathering until work is compromised.  What if we built regulators, and release valves, into our medical and psychological pressure lines.  What if self-care was not touchy-feely, snot-slobbering vulnerability?  What if self-care was not a simple yes/no question?  What if self-care was seen as virile health, not illness avoidance?

After the dashboard has stayed lit for a while, the biggest threats to men’s health surface: heart disease, cancer, other lung diseases, stroke and diabetes according to the Mayo Clinic.  While genetic predisposition influences risk, healthy self-care regulates pressure on the accelerator, changes grip on the steering wheel, and allows us to drive with our foot off the brake.  Such preventive maintenance dramatically limits these risks while we are taking care of those we love and enjoying the things in life that give us meaning and purpose.

We encourage men to consider consultation as courage to be healthy, collaboratively reduce weathering, highlight ambivalence, and close the gap between our check engine light and responsibility to the future.  At OnCourse Cayman, we can help you with the diagnostics, a plan for intervention and maintenance support thereafter for your mental health.  Come on by for a tune up and we will get you back on the road!

-Dr. Russ Buford, Psychologist

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Men’s Health – What is Your ‘Check Engine’ Light?

We are designed to make, fix, create, provide, compete and win.  Many of us treat winning as evidence of strength magnified …