Just from your personal experiences and observations, you probably already know that men and women handle stress in very different ways. But you’re probably not sure why the sexes have such different reactions to stressful situations.
In honor of Stress Awareness Month, we’re exploring how men and women handle getting overwhelmed. After all, understanding the underlying, physiological causes of stress is vital to stress management!
Handling Stress: Men vs. Women
As we’ve explained before, experiencing stress triggers the release of three hormones: cortisol, epinephrine, and oxytocin. Cortisol and epinephrine increase the blood pressure and blood sugar levels, while cortisol makes the immune system less effective.
In women, the brain releases oxytocin when the cortisol and epinephrine start affecting the body. The oxytocin suppresses the other two hormones to help keep women soothed and relaxed.
Men don’t get as much benefit from oyxtocin’s soothing qualities. Although it’s also released in males experiencing stress, the quantities are much lower, which means cortisol and epinephrine are left to do their work.
Men: Fight or Flight
Differing oxytocin levels also affect how men and women respond to the “fight or flight” instinct. Whereas women have higher oyxtocin levels during times of stress, leading them to “tend and befriend,” men have lower levels, which leads to their higher likelihood of using the “fight or flight” response. As a result, men will usually bottle up their stress and ignore it (flight), or they will be more vocal about their stress (fight).
What Stresses Men Out?
While women tend to get stressed about their relationships with others, men are more focused on challenge and competition — so any perceived failure in performance is often the root of stress for males.
Men vs. Women: Managing Stress
True to their “fight or flight” proclivity, men often respond to stress by escaping or avoiding a stressful situation. This can include retreating to spend time with friends or family members (while avoiding talking about the stressor, of course). Women tend to seek out support and communicate with friends and loved ones as a means of processing the situation.
No matter your sex, it’s important that you take the time to combat stress in your life to avoid the low-term physical and mental impacts chronic stress can cause. Exercising at your local TITLE Boxing Club is an excellent way to knockout stress year-round!