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Why Men and Women Handle Stress Differently

Stress is a universal physiological response experienced by every person in the world. Stress has become a word that we automatically associate with negative connotations, and in today's health-driven society, this word has become a variable boogeyman.

It can seem like every health issue, in some way or another, comes back to high levels of stress and the effects that chronic stress can reap on the body. While stress has no bias to demographics, it is thought to have different effects on the different genders. 

With that being said, a huge first step in managing your stress is educating yourself on what stress is and learning how to identify it. 

Stress Isn’t Always the Bad Guy

While it’s true that stress can be the cause of multiple health issues, it’s not necessarily the case that stress is a bad thing. In fact, stress is a natural response that our bodies produce in order to normally function and stay alive. A good comparison is our pain response; there to protect us from harm.

Regardless of gender, age or ethnicity, stress is a naturally programmed way of preserving your body and promoting your health.

Stress becomes a problem when we experience it out of context or experience it too much. In fact, most people who struggle with stress-related health issues aren’t necessarily having trouble with their stress pathways, but with the fact that these pathways are simply being overworked. 

There are multiple ways of helping you get a handle on your stress, such as getting a counselor or therapist, or talking to your doctor about ways you can get some help calming down. 

Supplements are also a valid way of handling your stress and getting some stress support. Here at R3SET, we’ve designed a high-quality stress support supplement that has powerful botanical ingredients like passion flower and ashwagandha that can help you in your stress support journey. 

We All Have Stress Machinery

The first thing to understand is that we all have basic commonalities as humans. Men and women both have the same general machinery to engage with our bodies' natural stress production and management. 

The main system that affects our stress is our autonomic nervous system. This fundamental aspect of who we are controls what you’ve probably heard referred to as the “fight or flight” response or more scientifically known as the sympathetic nervous system. 

Fight

When placed in a state of alarm or heightened sensitivity to a real or perceived threat, your sympathetic nervous system kicks into play. This can be the “fight” part of our fight or flight tendency. Now, true, this is where our stress and anxiety can skyrocket to unhealthy levels, but it’s a necessary part of survival to have. 

For instance, the last time you were in traffic and it got a little hairy, your sympathetic nervous system likely kicked in. This allowed your brain to get a little more blood flow, your muscles to tune up and respond to your mental commands better, and it was the reason you could make that split-second decision to brake and swerve to avoid a reckless driver. This was all ultimately done through the power of stress pathways. 

However, the problem is that a lot of times, those stress pathways are on when they shouldn’t be. For instance, when you’re trying to fall asleep, or when you’re sitting at your desk with no apparent physical danger. 

There are multiple reasons why this kind of tension can accumulate. The source could be emotional, mental, or physical, like maybe the fact that you have a big deadline coming up or you haven’t had enough water to drink over the past few days. In other words, a “potential threat” detected can include not only an external threat but also “perceived” stress (e.g., worry, fear, concern etc).

Flight

On the other hand, we have our flight responses. These are activated as a response to stress and represent avoidance. These pathways are also vital for survival as they allow you to exit threatening confrontations your body doesn’t think you could win. 

Excessive flight response may look like and/or become unhealthy coping mechanisms, however, and can also be a result of untreated stress levels. 

Stress Affects Men and Women Differently

Regardless of the fact that we all have the ability to produce stress hormones like cortisol and we all engage our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, the truth is that men and women are programmed to handle stress differently. 

Here is what we know so far about it in the scientific community. 

When a person is stressed, a multitude of different things starts to happen within their bodies. Blood vessels that are related to processes like digestion constrict and shunt blood into high-demand areas like our leg and arm muscles. Our eyes adjust to focus, our breathing becomes deeper (and sometimes more rapid) to better supply oxygen to our body, and we use a tremendous amount of short-term energy. 

Cortisol is Common to Everyone

Along with all of these fascinating changes, our bodies also release hormones like cortisol. This hormone is known as the most significant stress hormone and it helps your body maintain functionality during these stressful episodes. Among other things, cortisol increases blood glucose levels, which act as the fuel your body needs as it’s responding to a stressful situation.

In its proper place, cortisol is a wonderful hormone that we should be thankful we produce as it allows our bodies to be fueled during extreme activity and has several other functions that are vital to the body. However, out of the context of a true emergency, stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine) can have negative effects on your body.

Women Are Thought To Have More Oxytocin Production

For the most part, women and men have the same hormonal response to stress and the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and in turn, the endocrine and immune systems. However, it appears that women and men handle and respond to stress differently. If this generalization is true, what would cause this phenomenon? 

A possible answer? Oxytocin.

Oxytocin has multiple nicknames, like the love hormone or the cuddle hormone, and it is produced by both genders. This hormone is produced in response to physical touch and stimuli and fosters feelings of love and attachment. For instance, this hormone is most commonly associated with the developing relationship between a mother and her baby. 

This hormone works to form connections and bonds between people and has even been shown to be active between humans and pets. Studies have shown that simply petting a dog can have a positive effect on cortisol levels, and that forming a strong, owner relationship with a pet can increase oxytocin levels. 

In a way, oxytocin can be thought of as the opposite of a stress hormone. Instead of encouraging fight or flight, it encourages proximity and calmness. 

While men and women both produce this hormone, it has been shown that it has a greater effect on women when it comes to stress response. 

The fact that women produce oxytocin at a much higher level than men has led scientists to believe that this accounts for why women tend to treat “threats” with a more nurturing and understanding approach. 

The evolutionary advantage to this theory has to do with babies being raised by their mothers. While men may tend to have a shorter fuse, women can create more of a bond with a needy infant that doesn’t broach frustration as much as nurturing. 

Stress Management

The American Psychological Association, published a study in 2012 that showed that women and men have vastly different styles and methods of not just dealing with stress, but the sources of where their stress comes from. 

However, there is overwhelming evidence that although men and women handle stress differently, certain aspects of stress management were common between both genders and fairly simple to implement, such as getting physical exercise. 

If you are looking for a way to help reduce stress and gain an upper hand in stress management we’ve compiled a couple of steps anyone can take.

Get Exercise

While men are typically more prone to use the gym to relieve stress than women, both genders respond positively to stress reduction through physical exercise. Part of this is because of the stress hormones we looked at and how they affect our bodies. 

Adrenaline will get your heart pumping faster while cortisol increases the amount of glucose found in your blood. This makes your body naturally want to work off this extra fuel and energy, and physical exercise can do this.

Focus on Getting Plenty of Sleep

Sleep is one of the natural things your body needs in order to properly function. This fundamentally important act allows your body to rest and replenish itself. It allows for all kinds of health benefits that are deeply healing and has a positive impact on hormone balance. 

A lack of sleep has been linked to multiple health problems, including feelings of being overwhelmed, tension, and even whole-body inflammation. 

Over the Counter Supplements

Organic, natural supplements composed of powerful active botanicals provides a nourishing means of helping to manage the stress in your life. This method of tension management and relief has been used for actual millenia, as there are ingredients like ashwagandha, valerian root, L-theanine, and chamomile that have been used globally to help alleviate tension and provide stress support since ancient times. 

Our Calm and Unwind Capsule is made with active natural and botanical ingredients that can help to support you in your daily life by easing your mind and promoting whole-body wellness through stress support. 

 

Sources: 

Chronic stress puts your health at risk

Gender and Stress

How Men and Women Deal With Stress

Relationships The Friend Who Keeps You Young

Stress and sleep

Understanding the stress response |Harvard.edu 

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