Are men worse at stress management?
John Gray in his 1992 book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus brings out an interesting difference in the way the genders react to stress. He mentions that when a male’s tolerance to stressful things gets high, they tend to withdraw, “retreating into their cave”. The “cave” is often the garage, or time out with friends. As Gray puts it, this time out lets them distance themselves from the problem and relax, allowing them to re-examine the problem from a fresh perspective later. However interesting this may be, men and stress has become an important subject of psychological focus in more recent times.
An average life of a man is between work deadlines, family responsibilities and endless household tasks.Most young and middle aged men can’t help but feel stressed out as it has been seen – incidence of stress in men is known to be fairly high globally.
They know for themselves and what puts them on the edge and what helps them cope, but at times, just knowing is not sufficient to wipe out the ills that come with being always stressed.
Mental health researchers and therapists say men don’t show when they’re distressed the same way women do, and often it is a man who ends up needed professional help more than the woman.
Where they get it from
It’s either home or workplace where men find their biggest stressors. Men normally see themselves in a race where they feel they need to outperform everyone, be it at home among friends or at workplace. This can be a huge source of pressure, especially if there is also an internal dialogue that he must be the ‘breadwinner’ for his family.
Health issues also contribute to stress in males because they often end up second-grading health & fitness commitments until they start becoming serious health problems.
Many men derive large part of their identity from being the provider, so work issues such as job-loss, taking a position or lower pay or having better earning spouse may also cause stress have a major effects on their mental health.Being misunderstood by their spouse, family, boss or co-workers, not getting credit for their efforts makes them feel like they’re not moving ahead in their career & life.
Lastly, most of them mentioned to love themselves more than anything else. While being often called ‘couch potatoes’, most men pay a lot of silent attention to their appearance, physique, clothes– everything. And often this preoccupation leads to self-doubt, unnecessary worrying etc.
How men show it
According to most reports when under stress, women report feeling upset. Meanwhile, men don’t like to show when they’re feeling the pressure but their stress-activated hormones actually spike higher than women’s. Anger outbursts, being depressed, feeling aimless etc these are many ways in which prolonged pressure situations manifest in men.
Most men might not talk about what’s going on, but they end up revealing that things aren’t going well when they get unduly angry while behind the wheel or when they end up shouting at a game on TV etc. In more dire situations, these anger bursts can turn into violence.
‘Anger is the one emotion that’s accessible for many men to help them cope with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings,’ says a psychotherapist from USA. They often deal with their problems quietly, but end up manifesting traces of sadness, depression, social withdrawal or isolation, insomnia, mood swings, restless anxiety, irritability or anger. But becoming angry avoids the problem and can create new ones as does getting absorbed in a video game, drinking with buddies or other avoid-ant types of behavior, which many men do to deal with stress.
Males are seen to develop symptoms such as gastrointestinal problems or headaches often. They may just ‘suck it up’ so they don’t appear vulnerable or weak, but their health and bodies end up bearing the brunt of all these unaddressed effects. Men have led in stress-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers. ‘Men die younger than women, and stress is certainly one reason,’ says Robert Paul Juster a researcher from Centre for studies on human stress, Montreal.
How can you help?
If you know someone, be it your father, brother or even a friend, who is dealing with any sort of mental condition that needs to be cured, you must first understand the root cause of it. Most men often find someone else to blame when stressed and seek out a quick solution. Many stress-causing issues at work or home cannot be resolved easily, though.Men need to be patient and work on changing their own perceptions when they can’t change the situation.
Talking can prevent feelings from being bottled up and coming out as potentially passive or aggressive behavior, but a man might also need more encouragement to express his feelings.
He also may need a nudge (or a little more) to find a release such as indulging in a hobby. It’s always a plus if that leisure time involves being active. Exercise is associated with better mental health and stress control. It is found that people who exercise outdoors have half the mental health risks of those who exercise inside.
But be cautious how you speak because the best approach is to say things like: ‘I’ve noticed that you’ve been under pressure lately. Is there something you’d like to talk about?’ Your supportive efforts will be worth it. Be non-judgmental, and let him know that you understand his problems and want to work with him to find a solution.
The main thing is to approach his problems with understanding, an open mind and compassion. In this life where stress is easier to get, there is also solution to help yourselves to take over your mind and reduce all the stress and anxiety with help available on a few clicks over the internet.
If stress gets worse or if he shows signs of depression or even has thoughts of suicide, he needs to talk to a mental health care professional – help him locate a therapist either in person or even online. Online counseling, especially if it is a video-chat based one, is seen by many to be as effective and certainly easier for the busy executive these days.