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Men and stress

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Learn how to cope with stress in a healthy way.

Maybe you work long hours and come home to a mountain of bills.

Or maybe you worry about your aging parents, quarrels with your wife or the traffic that certainly isn’t getting better.

Hey, guys get stressed out too. But we don’t always deal with it in healthy ways. For example, we might try to keep how we’re feeling inside or take it out on those we love.

“Stress is a part of life,” says Glenn Good, PhD, former president of the American Psychological Association’s Society for Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity. “But at the same time, we don’t want to have too much stress.”

What stresses men out?

Sources of stress vary from person to person. Work, relationships, money: Almost anything can be stressful at times.

Two common sources of stress for men are work and parenthood.

Men are particularly likely to experience job stress, Dr. Good says. “Many men define themselves, in large part, through their work. So if our work is not going well, that kind of shakes us to our core.”

Even positive events at work, such as a promotion, can trigger stress.

At home, parenting can present unique challenges for men.

“To be an effective parent typically means putting the adult person’s needs aside to better serve the needs of the younger person. Guys aren’t necessarily socialized to do that until they’re quite a bit older,” Dr. Good says.

Stress can take a toll

Just as the causes of stress can vary from person to person, how we deal with stress is also an individual matter.

It’s important to make sure this response is a positive one. Letting stress go unchecked or dealing with it in negative ways can affect your relationships and your health.

Examples of unhealthy ways to respond to stress include:

Hostility

Stress can make anyone snap at friends, co-workers or family members. But according to the Office on Women’s Health, men may react to stress with hostility and anger more than women do. This may be because the male hormone testosterone blocks the calming effects of a chemical called oxytocin during stress.

Withdrawal

Men may also be less likely to talk about stress. Guys often get the message that the strong, silent type is ideal and that we shouldn’t show vulnerability, according to Dr. Good.

“But that really is very problematic for most guys because that isn’t what a healthy person is,” he says.

Poor health choices

Responding to stress by smoking, drinking alcohol or driving too fast can jeopardize your health and the safety of others, according to the Men’s Health Network.

Making poor dietary choices as well as not exercising are other unhealthy ways that some men deal with stress.

Take positive action

There are a variety of healthy and positive steps you can take to help cope with stress.

Here’s some advice from Dr. Good and other experts:

Take care of your health

Routine maintenance, like eating nutritiously, exercising and getting enough sleep, can help you manage stress, Dr. Good says.

Talk about it

Talking with a trusted friend or partner is a good way to cope with stress.

“It’s particularly important that guys have someone who is nonjudgmental, interested and can provide some supportive feedback,” Dr. Good says. “That doesn’t mean they have to know how to fix it.”

Balance work with downtime

“If we’re trying to burn the candle at both ends for a while, then we ought to make sure we schedule time where it’s not burning at all,” Dr. Good says.

Don't self-medicate with alcohol, tobacco or drugs

In the long run, this may cause more stress and health problems.

Unwind

Take up a hobby or a new sport. “Find some healthy way to recharge your batteries,” Dr. Good says.

Get help when you need it

A mental health professional may be helpful if you need someone to talk to or if stress is overwhelming.

“Guys have a stigma about seeking assistance, including asking for directions—it’s the classic cliché,” Dr. Good says.

But, he adds, mental health professionals are trained experts who can provide consultation, “just like we take our car in to a mechanic if it isn’t running so well.”

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