Would you describe yourself as a stressed man? Men and women both struggle to handle life when stress levels get too high or when toxic stress becomes the norm. However, that doesn’t mean men and women recognize and manage these pressures similarly.
In his “Psychology Today” article entitled Gender Differences in Responses to Stress: It Boils Down to a Single Gene, Dario Maestripieri Ph.D. shares the following: “Men often respond to stress via “fight or flight” while women’s strategy is frequently to ‘tend and befriend.’”
Although the tendency toward fight or flight serves men well in specific life areas, it can be detrimental when related to toxic stress. For that reason, men need to learn how to identify and work through unhealthy stress in their lives. What follows is a bit more about the dynamics of men and harmful stress.
Difficulty Recognizing Unhealthy Stress
Men and women both agree unhealthy stress is bad, it shouldn’t be ignored, and that specific steps should be taken to better cope with or resolve it. All good so far.
However, most men differ from women right out of the gate when it comes to recognizing their stress. Women generally notice unhealthy stressors early, while men tend to minimize or fail to identify harmful stress levels altogether.
Men Struggle to Take Healthy Steps to Deal with Stressors
The next natural progression is that men have a difficult time taking steps to handle their personal stressors better. First, this is due to difficulty recognizing harmful stressors in the first place. After all, it’s impossible to arrive at solutions to problems you don’t realize you have.
Further, even when there is some awareness of toxic stressors, minimizing their severity is easy. There’s also a greater tendency for men to adopt unhealthy coping attempts when they feel too stressed, which only leads them to feel even more strain.
These unhealthy efforts to handle stress can occur without men realizing why they’re doing these activities. When harmful stress becomes the norm, so can those inadequate or self-destructive coping attempts. The excess pressure and futile attempts to deal with stress become so frequent that they begin to feel normal.
As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult to recognize the underlying stressor as the root problem. Some men start assuming that’s how life is and the way it must be.
You can’t fight or flight your way through stress like plenty of men try to do. If you ignore stressors in your life or try running from them, they’ll only reappear stronger than ever. You also can’t fight stress by constantly trying harder to bear up under it. These attempts to deal with stress may seem to work for a while but will eventually fail.
Men and Stress: Some Break from the Typical Pattern
The fact that men struggle to recognize harmful stress and, instead, practice fight or flight isn’t true of all stressed guys. Some men do an excellent job of noticing toxic stress and implementing solutions.
Conversely, some women handle stress more like the typical male. They struggle to recognize stress and find healthy ways to manage it. Along with this, each of us is unique and will handle unhealthy stress a bit differently from person to person.
Broader Mental Health Implications for Men
Men generally taking a fight or flight approach to toxic stress isn’t an isolated experience for many men. It’s also the go-to tactic when most men face mental illness.
Numerous issues can lead to mental illness in men. One risk factor is undealt with stress. This can cause anxiety, depression, and a variety of other mental health concerns.
Stressed Out Man: Some Thoughts on Coping Better
If you’re a guy who’s recently noticed toxic stress in your life, there are many things you can do that could help. Here are a few thoughts on that.
Remember It’s Tougher: Men who learn to identify stressors or mental health concerns and coping strategies are at a significant advantage. It can help to know beforehand that this process is tougher for most guys, and that’s OK. Most are hardwired that way, so it can take some extra effort to find stress relief. Mentally prepare yourself for a journey that could be tough because of how stress in men typically plays out.
Troubleshoot: Most men enjoy solving problems. However, this can be challenging when you’re experiencing stress’s complexities. Now is a great time to look for stress-relief solutions through trial and error. Do you need to back off your rigorous schedule, get more physical exercise, or change careers, for instance? These answers will look a little different for each guy. Often, the only way to arrive at stress management techniques that work for you is by trying several different potential coping strategies.
Celebrate Small Successes: Many guys tend to look at the big picture. They want noticeable progress, or it’s not good enough. While learning to cope with unhealthy stress, don’t get so consumed with the big picture that you fail to see the small victories happening along the way. Learning to destress your life takes time and a lot of learning. If you can celebrate the small gains, it’ll be easier to continue improving.
Are You a Stressed Man? Counseling Can Help
Although many guys struggle to recognize chronic stress and come up with healthy coping strategies, reaching out for help can make a positive difference. It can be tough to know who to talk with when acute stress starts weighing you down. And, especially as a stressed man, it can be easy to isolate yourself from others.
When stress gets out of control, it adversely affects virtually every life area. That includes your personal health and relationships. Without intervention, things keep getting worse.
The good news is you don’t have to handle guy stress alone. You can find a trained, confidential ally to help you work through life’s pressures through stress management therapy. You’ll gain better insight into what’s stressing you out and find proven ways to handle it better. Please reach out if you’d like to learn more about how the OC Relationship Center can assist you. You can also book an appointment with us.