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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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February 05 2018

Dear Mark: Women and Violence, Reducing Extra Wine, High Intensity Interval Resting, Phosphatidylserine and Mental Stress, Rethinking Stress

By Mark Sisson
28 Comments

Dear_Mark_Inline_PhotoFor 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:

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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28 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Women and Violence, Reducing Extra Wine, High Intensity Interval Resting, Phosphatidylserine and Mental Stress, Rethinking Stress”

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  1. I think we could say that women are often less in touch with our need for aggression rather than we don’t have it. It tends to be socialized out of us. Ten years ago or so, I was working with a personal trainer who wanted me to get in touch with my anger and work out more intensely. I just couldn’t find any anger in me. Depression and sadness, yes, but not anger. It wasn’t till a retreat at the Hoffman Institute 4 years ago that I was able to get in touch with the anger I’d carried since childhood, that we all carry from childhood really, and aggressively and assertively express it in that safe place (as part of the Hoffman Process, a deep psychological work week). It was the most freeing and life-changing thing I’ve ever done.

    I believe it’s true that depression can be anger turned inward, as for many of us it’s easier to turn against ourselves than risk being angry at or disappointed in loved ones. I do believe women need to express ourselves explosively sometimes, and things like martial arts, kickboxing, sprints seem like a great way to do it. I hope the stats on violent acts by women never rise or even come close to what’s happening with men; in fact, I hope they only lessen for men. Maybe if we’re all healthier, and able to express ourselves freely and in ways that don’t hurt others, we’d have a safer world.

    1. The stats for Domestic Violence are increasingly showing that women initiate DV more often than men. This contradicts older research based on hospital admisssions, but remember that hospital admissions and deaths only measure who loses, not who starts the fight.

      It helps if we distinguish criminal violence as a “business model” , from emotional violence. To a violent criminal, you are not something to hate, merely an object to which the criminal applies violence as a tool to get what he wants.

      DV, especially initiating DV, is the result of lack of emotional control.

          1. So i read the article, and subsequent research by these professors. This entry is a commentary on how feminism in the 1970s painted domestic violence as a male dominated occurrence for power, and that women only committed domestic violence in defense of themselves. It is not a study blaming one side or another, rather they talk about how men do not report assault as as often as women and have been conditioned to think it is not a crime. We know this to be true, largely because men have been conditioned that speaking up about a woman assaulting them is a weak thing to do. The early 1970s feminists were a back lash of hundreds of years of being denied rights. Men not reporting crimes against them is a backlash of the same patriarchal issues that did not give equal rights to the sexes. Those views lead people to say, “Boys will be boys,” and denied less “macho-men” their manliness (whatever that means). There are people who have taken advantage of this rhetoric, and that is what the article that was published is arguing against. All people need to know that being assaulted in anyway by another is not okay, in any situation, and all people need to feel comfortable reporting the violence to the police,who have generally blown off people for things they deem to be unimportant. It’s a societal issue that we all need to work on. Boys need to be taught not to hit people and girls need to be taught that as well.

        1. Chris, amongst others… this source cites some.

          http://www.aeesq.com/2017/03/23/women-initiate-domestic-violence/

          QUOTE.3. “Sophie Goodchild reported in a 2000 Guardian piece on a study showing that women were actually more likely to initiate violence in relationships, writing:
          The study … is based on an analysis of 34,000 men and women by a British academic. Women lash out more frequently than their husbands or boyfriends, concludes John Archer, professor of psychology at the University of Central Lancashire and president of the International Society for Research on Aggression.
          … Professor Archer analysed data from 82 US and UK studies on relationship violence, dating back to 1972. He also looked at 17 studies based on victim reports from 1,140 men and women…. [H]e said that female aggression was greater in westernised women because they were “economically emancipated” and therefore not afraid of ending a relationship.” See: https://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/crime/item/19133-women-more-likely-to-commit-domestic-violence-studies-show.

          Another source cited below.

  2. Martial art means art of war, so unless youre in a war its quite useless. And actually, no art in the world will defend you from 3 guys attacking you at once or a gun. Want to get in touch with your body? Yoga. Pilates. Meditation. Gymnastics. Want to stop being stressed? Stop hating your jobs. Stop watching silly movies and shows. Im a man, and i feel zero need to fight anyone. Very well disciplined. Its called living life. Not to mention the idea of women being violent is suuuuuch a turn off lol.

    1. Dear Chris,
      I train a martial art in which we also train for example defendin against three opponens. Actually two opponents are more difficult than three, because with three you can move so that they are in the way of each other. Two is the worst, up from that the more, the easier.

      We also train against person with handgun in such situations, where the gun holder is silly engought to believe what they see in the movies: In the movies the person with the gun is most often way too close to the one they are threatening, because the filmmakers need to fit both people in the picture. =) If a person is threatening you with a gun and is standing way too close to you, there are lots of defences for that.

      I am a woman and I train a martial art, not a martial sport. Anything with competitions, in which some things are forbidden, is a martial sport. I train a martial art, no competitions, nothing forbidden and: It does not teach winning, it teaches survival.

      Example: We were having our 5 day summer seminar just the weekend when Anders Behring Breivik shot people at Utoya in Norway. As our teacher hear the news, the curriculum of the seminar changed instantly: For the next two days we practised hiding from a gunman in the woods.

      I also do yoga and dancing, they complement martial arts nicely. I don’t feel the need to fight anyone, but I want to know how to defend both myself and my nearest and dearest.

      Stop thinking that martial sports are martial arts and stop thinking that you know what they are about, when you have never trained any.

    2. Well for one, martial arts builds fitness, social bonds and confidence, so I wouldn’t say useless. In fact many grappling martial arts teach you how to fall on the ground safely, an insanely useful skill (I know one guy with dementia who constantly falls down stairs, ex judo champ, yet breakfalls safely down to the bottom). Two, yes with regards to self defense martial arts is far less important than situational awareness, but not completely useless. Lastly, I doubt the female martial arts enjoying population are overly concerned about your level of arousal towards them.

    3. People I know have choked someone out or incapacitate someone with a submission hold because they trained in jiu-jitsu. My dad won all his fights in high school because he was on the wrestling team. Once he got a hold of someone, he could get them under control easily. Self defense training has no downside, only upside.

  3. Define if you are “Th1 and Th2” dominant before supplementing with Phosphatidylserine .

  4. Interesting day. Stress can be very subjective. As a former police officer, everyone else thought my job was stressful. I thought it was fun. The sitting in the office version was, to me stressful, and so I got a new job.
    One other observation: “Leftover wine’? Who has that?!

  5. Controlled aggression means applying the right AMOUNT of violence at the right TIME and in the right PLACE. It is CONTEXT-DEPENDANT.

    This is what our military and police are required to do in the face of the most intense provocation…… it is also what every boy used to learn when body-contact sports were a normal part of the schooling experience. You gave and accepted hard knocks, as appropriate in the context of the sport, without losing your temper or breaking the rules. Then you shook hands after it was over. What happened on the field, stayed on the field.

    It is this controlled violence that has been the hallmark of functional civilisations…. the idea that it was to be used for the protection on the innocent and the helpless (pacifism only gives a licence to those who think violence a way to get what they want).

    I am not a fan of involving women in combat. There are good reasons why not a single major military culture has regarded the two sexes as interchangeable on the battlefield. However the research findings that close to 2/3 of Domestic Violence is initiated by women suggests that training in contextual violence and restraint would be beneficial.

    1. You keep claiming that most domestic violence is initiated by women but fail to provide evidence. What’s your source? (Preferably something other than Breitbart or 4Chan.)

      1. Margaret…..

        1. “Analyzing data gathered from 11,370 respondents, researchers found that “half of [violent relationships] were reciprocally violent. In non-reciprocally violent relationships, women were the perpetrators in more that 70% of the cases.” Out of all the respondents, a quarter of the women admitted to perpetrating the domestic violence and, when the violence was reciprocal, women were often the ones to have been the first to strike. In addition, an analytic view of 552 domestic violence studies published in the Psychological Bulletin found that 38% of the physical injuries suffered in domestic violence disputes were suffered by men.” See: http://bust.com/general/9702-women-more-often-the-aggressors-in-domestic-violence.html, based on a 2007 report in the American Journal of Public Health published here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1854883/, which states:
        “Methods. We analyzed data on young US adults aged 18 to 28 years from the 2001 National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which contained information about partner violence and injury reported by 11 370 respondents on 18761 heterosexual relationships.
        Results. Almost 24% of all relationships had some violence, and half (49.7%) of those were reciprocally violent. In nonreciprocally violent relationships, women were the perpetrators in more than 70% of the cases.” Id.

        More examples at http://www.aeesq.com/2017/03/23/women-initiate-domestic-violence/

  6. I love what you wrote about changing your dialogue about stress. I read it over a few times. It makes so much more sense framing it this way.

  7. Personally, I would be thrilled to see more women take up martial arts. Sadly, in my experience, most who join classes have done so only after something happens to them or someone they know.

  8. I find it concerning, as a woman, that the first questioner seems to think that women aren’t violent in nature. We are conditioned by society to not be physically violent, yes, but violence comes in all forms, such as psychological violence. Ostracizing people through gossip, creating “clicky” and noninclusive environments are both forms of violence, in my opinion. They are certainly forms of psychological warfare. I personally, enjoy a little physical violence in my life. I play hard in sports, I hit a punching bag, and I take Aikido (which I find to also be a laughing philosopher form of martial arts). Lifting heavy weights and throwing them around is also a low key form of “violence,” really. Not to mention, I have seen plenty of women think that slapping someone is okay and warranted if they feel threatened through actions or words. This behavior starts young also, when they begin to hit their boyfriends on the arm for saying something they don’t like, for instance. It’s pretty dishonest to not view that as violent behavior that is generally accepted. I think it may be time for that person to be a bit more honest in their reflection of things.

  9. Good stuff here. I’ve never tried any form of martial arts, but used to enjoy working out with a heavy bag and definitely was pretty therapeutic to get some agression out. Funny because I was talking to my sister today about getting back into that. Unfortunately I no longer have my heavy bag 🙁

    And totally think you can reframe stress as a positive, but it definitely takes work. I call it excitement.

    As far as extra wine…I’ve never heard of such a thing, lol!

    1. There are two kinds of stress: acute and chronic. Acute stress would be getting out of the way of that bus that’s headed straight for you. It’s beneficial from the standpoint that it promotes immediate action without the need to stop and think about it first. Chronic stress is long term and often beyond one’s control, such as dealing with a terminally ill loved one. It eats away at one’s health and wellbeing and is never beneficial. Reframing it into something positive might not be possible.

  10. The idea of rethinking your stress response is fascinating and timely for me! I have just spent a month of high stress work where I wake up with heart and mind racing, and wondering all month if my job was going to kill me! Thanks for this article.

  11. “Reducing Extra Wine” — I thought this was going to be about cutting out the second glass of wine at dinner. 😉