Stress affects everyone, but the way we handle it can differ depending on our gender. Read about stress and how it affects men and women differently.
What is stress?
Stress is defined as the body’s response to anything we perceive as dangerous, demanding or demoralising. Generally, stress is caused by an abnormal demand on our ability to adapt. Stressful situations cause mental, physical and behavioural symptoms that are detrimental in the short and long term.
There are two types of stressors. Eustress refers to good stress to which we can adapt. Distress refers to the bad things that force us to adapt.
Physiology of stress:
Stress causes the body to release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. In the short term, these hormones improve memory and work performance. But in the long term, they corrode the body and brain leaving you exhausted, obese and unfit.
Stress can be likened to a Catch-22 situation. A hard day at office leaves men with little energy for the family and household chores. With more women working, disagreements about who should do what take place, and the home becomes a battleground. This disrupts sleep, leaving no energy to go to work the next day.
Stress in men and women:
Men and women tend to respond differently to stress. Typically, women like to talk about what’s bothering them, maybe cry a little and once it’s out of their systems, they feel better. Men, however, are not big on discussing feelings and usually just wait for the stress to pass, and then carry on with their lives.
Part of the difference is due to a hormone called oxytocin, which promotes nurturing and relaxing emotions. When stressed, women secrete more of this hormone than men, thus leading to different responses.
Another difference is in the way men and women choose to deal with stress. Most men have a ‘fight or flight’ attitude, i.e., their instinct is to either fight the cause of stress or keep it bottled up and escape. Women, on the other hand, may use a more ‘tend and befriend’ approach, wherein they deal with stress by tending to themselves and their children and befriending others for comfort.
Men and women also tend to cope with stress differently. Experts find that men avoid reaching out for help when it comes to stress management and might instead take to drinking to forget their troubles. Women, on the other hand, are more keen to discuss the causes of their stress.
Affect of stress:
It affects the whole family: If the father gets upset and angry for little things, the rest of the family reacts to this stress and may behave abnormally. Thus the entire household gets stressed and harmony at home is destroyed.
The spouse gets overburdened with household chores and looking after kids and others at home. In turn children feel anxious and may complain of vague pains like stomach aches. In some cases school performance may be affected. This is called second-hand stress.
It leads to diseases: Stress is a major contributor to heart disease and other metabolic disorder.
It can reduce immune function: Chronic stress can decrease the body’s ability to fight infection and wounds.
Some of the physical and psychological symptoms of stress are:
- Chest pain
- High blood pressure
- Pounding heart
- Clenched jsaws
- Weight loss or gain
- Job dissatisfaction
- Increase use of tobacco and alcohol
Photograph by Bob Smith, via sxc.hu