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Stress In Men vs. Women: Why Is It Handled Differently?

Everybody gets stressed. Unfortunately, it’s a natural part of life. Now, more than ever, it seems we have a million reasons why we may get stressed during the day. Dealing with work, finances, raising families, relationships, family, and household responsibilities…it all adds up.

Unfortunately, coping with stress will never go away. At some point, too much stress can turn into chronic anxiety. Before that happens, managing your symptoms before they spiral into something bigger is important. This post focuses on how men and women deal with stress differently, why, and, most importantly, how to deal with it!

Why Do Men and Women Handle Stress Differently?

Differences in Hormones

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One key difference between stress responses in women versus men is due to hormones. Three key hormones—cortisol, oxytocin, and epinephrine—are involved in stress responses. While all three hormones have different roles, interacting with each other can cause issues.

Cortisol, sometimes called the stress hormone, is released in the body when someone is overly stressed. When combined with epinephrine, cortisol raises blood pressure and fluctuates sugar levels.

When this happens, the body will release oxytocin to counteract the rising levels of cortisol and epinephrine. Oxytocin is a hormone that helps to promote relaxation and calmness.

Oxytocin is released in higher amounts in women than in men. As a result, men feel stressed at a higher level than women.

The Flight or Fight Response

Our ancestors developed what is known as the flight or fight response when faced with danger. They could either choose to stay and fight through it or flee to keep themselves safe. It was a helpful response during times when everyday life was completely wild, unpredictable, and dangerous. The problem with this response is that now, in modern society, we still hold on to this response. Most of us aren’t exactly facing moments of complete danger in our everyday lives.

Our bodies activate this response when they sense any type of danger, whether real or perceived. This is why many of us also feel stressed and anxious daily. However, women and men react to this response differently.

When this response is activated in a woman, she will attempt to self-soothe by reaching out to other people for support or doing things to help alleviate her stress. Essentially, they try to release their stress levels so they are no longer impacting them. Conversely, men will deal with stressful situations by trying to ignore their thoughts and feelings by pushing them away. Ultimately, trying to push them away doesn’t make the stress go away; it just pushes it further into the mind and body, so to speak.

How to Manage Stress

Men and women may react to stress differently, but that doesn’t mean both can’t find relief.

Dealing with stress is different for everyone. Managing stress will look different regardless of whether you are a man or a woman. The good news is that many coping mechanisms and tools can work for everybody.

Exercise is a great way for women and men to deal with stress. It releases feel-good endorphins, such as serotonin, promoting happiness and calmness. Plus, it’s obviously great for your physical health as well.

Another great tip for managing stress is to ensure you eat a well-balanced diet. That means avoiding highly processed foods, sugar, and carbohydrates. When you are fueling your body with nutritious foods, you are helping to support your body and mind.

With so many responsibilities, it’s important to try to schedule relaxation time as well. Whether that is reading a book, playing video games, or whatever else you like, taking time out of the day for yourself can reduce your stress levels.

If the stress in your life is starting to feel uncontrollable, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for anxiety therapy. We can help you find ways to manage it.

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor at Ammirati Counseling
Terri A. Ammirati, LCPC, has 25+ years of clinical experience. She is a Certified Gottman Therapist and presents Gottman's "The Art and Science of Love" couples workshop.

Terri specializes in empowering clients to strengthen their relationships. She works with all aspects of relational distress and provides solution-focused therapy.
Terri A. Ammirati