I’ve noticed that the men in my life handle stress differently than I do.

When stress piles up for me, I easily feel better after a good cry and a good night’s sleep. I also count on a warm conversation with a good friend. 

Stress is not always solved overnight or after a long talk. Talking to a loved one can be helpful, especially when they listen without judgement. Other times, talking about what is bothering us is the last thing we want to do. There may be a Mars vs. Venus situation happening in your life, so the way people of the opposite sex handle upsetting events or thoughts can be confusing. Whatever method works for you as a woman or a man, it’s important to our health that stress does not stay bottled up inside our bodies.

Men seem to prefer a quieter approach to handling problems. Under pressure, according to the experts I sought out, men prefer to let a stressful situation pass and move on. That would not work for me or for many of my female clients. Are you hoping to talk through problems and look for a bonding experience when the men in your life are under stress? There may be an interesting explanation as to why men and women can choose different coping tactics.

stress“It seems that rather than responding in a fight-or-flight fashion when threatened, fearful or stressed, women may more often tend-and-befriend.  Women are more likely to protect and nurture their young, and turn to family and friends for solace when they are stressed,” explains Dr. Klein of Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development.

One of the most important reasons why men and women react differently to stress is hormones. The most crucial, for all of us, is Cortisol, Epinephrine, and Oxytocin. The new research findings are that both men and women release a similar amount of cortisol under stress, but the release of oxytocin in women is far different.

In today’s competitive modern world one encounters stress in various aspects of life. These changes may be required for the fight or flight response of the individual to stress. National Center for Biotechnology Information gives us a detailed account of the relationships between stress and hormones, and our entire body is impacted by unrelieved stress.

In general, for women, when cortisol and epinephrine rush through the bloodstream in a stressful situation, oxytocin comes into play in a big way. It is released from the brain, which counters the production of cortisol and epinephrine. This explains a woman’s instinct for nurturing/releasing needs in times of stress.

While men also secrete the hormone oxytocin when they’re stressed, it’s usually in much smaller amounts, lessening their desire to seek out a comforting other. The hormonal situation in a man’s stressed body inspires him to seek an escape activity to get relief from stress. They prefer a relaxing diversion instead of a pat on the back.

The beauty of holistic health is that when we are consciously aware of what’s going on in our body, mind and spirit, we can trust ourselves to seek out the people, places, and resources we need to thrive. Seeking balance in our lives is a hard-wired drive in humans, and now that we all understand a bit more about how stress impacts men and women differently, our next experience of a stressful nature will not be something to feel uncomfortable about. It may even be interesting to watch everything unfold!