For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering five questions from readers. First up, do my recommendations regarding violence and martial arts in last week’s “wildness post” also apply to women? Second, what else can you do with leftover wine? Next, how do I approach my rest and work cycles? Fourth, is phosphatidylserine good for mental stress or just physical stress? And last, does changing how we interpret or react to stress change its effects?

Let’s go:

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This post seemed mostly centered on men given they need more outlets for their violent/wild side. Do you think this pertains to women as well?

The post was definitely geared toward everyone—men and women, boys and girls, grandpas and grandmas. Everyone can benefit from climbing trees, creating a little more and consuming a little less, eliminating disorder in their home environment, and finding a tribe. I’d also argue that everyone can benefit from trying a martial art.

However, in general, men appear to have a higher appetite or “need” for violence.

It’s definitely true that most violent criminals are men, most homicides are committed by men (and most victims are men, too), and the average man has a higher predilection for violence than the average woman. There’s no getting around the hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary pressure selecting for violence and aggression. It’s why in general men carry more muscle mass and physical strength than women—so they can throw harder punches and heavier spears.

But evolution didn’t select for murderous aggression. It selected for controlled aggression. For potential aggression. The ideal hunter or warrior is one who can mete out damage to others when required but avoids conflict when not. Someone who can protect their family and play with the baby.

Women may be less likely to have that predilection. Sure, the average woman is less interested in learning how to fight than the average man, but there are millions of outliers (in both sexes). Millions of women are interested in martial arts, and they should pursue that interest. I’d even argue that women who don’t think they’re into martial arts should give it a shot. They might be pleasantly surprised. Keep in mind, too, that it’s a physical art as well as a defense method.

The same goes for men, of course. If martial arts doesn’t interest you, it doesn’t interest you. But give it a shot before giving up.

Freezing wine. That is an amazing suggestion!

Another cool thing to do with leftover (or newly-opened—your choice) wine is to reduce it down to a few ounces and then freeze or store for later use. All the alcohol boils off and you can inundate a dish with intense wine flavors without needing to reduce the liquid so much.

Erin asked:

Should we concentrate on shoe-horning in anti-stress time every day, or can we get similar benefits from taking a “real” day off?

To me, there’s something to be said for treating your on and off days like you do your training.

On some projects, I dip in and out of work mode. I’ll work a few hours a day, get a hike in, maybe some paddling, and hop back on for a few more hours. This is how I do most blog posts and shorter-form writing.

Other projects require intense dedication, protracted focus. Deep work with long, infrequent breaks. I go hard and long. I’ll work for several days straight, then take a full day off—and I mean “off.” This is how I handle book and product launches.

It really depends on my intuition. I listen to my body. If I feel guilty about resting, I probably didn’t work hard enough. If I can flop down on the couch and watch Netflix without feeling an ounce of guilt, I probably need the time off. This assumes you’re in tune with your body and mind. I am—finally, after all these years!

Greg Harrington asked:

Does Phosphatidylserine help with mental-related stress? (i.e. stress about work, finances, relationships, etc.)

Yes. Several studies in humans show that PS helps in this area.

The stuff is legit.

I’d like to know more about how the effects of stress are modified by how we think about or perceive stress.

Great insight. Our perception of stress is almost everything.

Try this:

Instead of worrying about your sweaty palms, pounding heart, anxiety, and nervous flutter in the stomach…

Embrace the fact that your body is increasing heart rate to boost blood flow and deliver more nutrients to your organs and tissues in preparation for the event. It’s prepping you physiologically and psychologically. It’s pumping you up. That flutter in the stomach? It’s so you don’t eat anything and divert energy toward digestion and away from focusing on your performance. That tunnel vision? It’s honing your attention to the matter at hand. Rapid breathing? That’s more oxygen for your brain. Your anxiety? You’re just being careful, paying attention to details, leaving nothing to chance.

I’m not making this up, either. There are empirical studies that show rethinking stress can change how it affects you psychologically and physiologically.

We sweat to alert others (via smell) to the stressful situation. Strength in numbers.

If you can rethink your approach to stress, you will benefit. People who think of the stress response as beneficial do not experience increased mortality due to stress.

When people learn to think of the stress response as psychological and physiological “preparedness,” many of the negative effects normally associated with stress vanish or are modified to be helpful. Their pulse rate quickens (normal), but their blood vessels expand rather than constrict. They have increased attentional bias (normal), but instead of focusing on the stress, they focus on the task at hand.

It’s not a simple matter to truly believe that the stress response is beneficial. You can’t snap your fingers and switch to a new mode of interpretation. But know that it’s not BS. That it increases preparedness for difficult tasks is the evolutionary reason why the stress response that arose arose. The stress response is adaptive. Know that, keep reminding yourself of that, and one day it’ll stick. Good luck.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care, leave your comments and input  and questions down below, and have a great week!

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