You might not have realised it, but April is Stress Awareness Month.
Every April since 1992, health care professionals join forces to try and increase public awareness about the causes and cures of stress.
I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t been affected by stress at some point in their life. There are so many reasons why we can feel stressed -whether it be with our jobs, our relationships or our friendships. It happens to all of us, and while sometimes it can serve as a motivating factor - the usual ramifications of stress are negative and destructive, in some cases even leading to depression and anxiety.
But is there a difference between how men deal with stress compared to how women do?
The answer to that is yes. Studies have shown that women differ from men in how they emotionally respond to stress - women are much more likely to report a rise in their stress levels than men are.
And The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) says women are actually twice as likely than men to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders.
I came across an interesting article in Misc magazine when I began looking into this topic. It said that one of the reasons for this is because in their lifetimes, women are more likely to experience traumatic events, such as abuse or harassment, for no other reason than their gender.
Furthermore, women are said to be more likely to make less money than men, be sexually harassed at work, live in poverty, perform child rearing responsibilities while holding down a full-time job, and simultaneously manage the care of both their children and elderly parents.
These pressures undeniably contribute to stress and depression in women, particularly for those who live in cultures with an extreme gender divide. This is not to say that men do not experience traumatic events that trigger high levels of stress and depression as well, the article was careful to point out, but socio-cultural pressures on women apparently tend impact more on their psyches.
A psychological study in 2000 found that women were more likely to deal with stress by nurturing their loved ones and developing social networks of people to help them through their difficult periods, whereas researchers found that men leaned towards the ‘fight or flight’ response when it comes to stress - either bottling it up and escaping, or fighting back.
Neil Shah, director of the Stress Management Society said: “Absolutely men and women deal with stress differently. They have very different mental, physical and emotional perspectives.”
“The truth is men and women’s brains were designed slightly differently. If you go back 200,000 years when men were hunter gathers they had to focus on survival whereas women, according to research, were better at multitasking, looking after children in the caves and watching for dangers.”
And according to Neil, this is how men deal with stress nowadays. “Even though men and women are very different to 200,000 years ago, under the bonnet there’s the same engine that’s running,” he explains.
“A man is more likely to deal with stress head on, to do something about it or, alternatively, ignore it. If a man had a stressful day he can talk about footy with his mates and turn off completely.”
“Women would still be thinking about an issue and the stress would continue to impact on them. They are more likely to want to explore the issue and talk about it with a friend.”